Following OSHA Best Practices

It’s important to review the habits that keep workers safe.

By Alexandra Walsh

There is never a bad time to revisit Occupational Safety and Health Administration best practices to be sure workers stay safe and your business does not experience any costly violations.

Here are a few key best practices to maintain straightforward and seamless OSHA compliance.

1. Post OSHA Information for Employees to See

Under OSHA, workers are guaranteed they will be informed of their rights and responsibilities in the workplace. This part of OSHA compliance is met by simply posting OSHA 3165, a free workplace poster. It should be displayed somewhere that it is visible to both current and potential employees, for example in a kitchen or break room.

2. Train Managers, Supervisors, and Employees

Any OSHA best practices guide would be incomplete without a discussion about training. Make sure everyone in the company is performing their jobs correctly if you want to avoid accidents.

Your company’s employees should know about hazards and how to control them. They should clearly understand the tools and materials involved in their jobs.

You can improve your safety and health program by looking for patterns.

Federally recommended strategies to help with OSHA training include these actions:

  • Be certain that management leadership knows how they are responsible for health and safety. These leaders also need to know how to ensure the accountability of the safety team who reports to them.
  • Provide training for supervisors so that they know all the hazards employees face. They should provide fast refreshers that remind personnel of key training principles, and they should take disciplinary action as needed.
  • Confirm that your employee training has covered all possible hazards on your worksite. Check that you have advised everyone in your workforce of protective measures, and make sure your staff has a thorough comprehension of critical training information.
  • Employees taking on new jobs or who are entirely new to the company are the likeliest to suffer injuries or illnesses since they are unfamiliar with their environments. Guide them carefully.
  • Acquire training recommendations from your regional OSHA office. You can also ask them about performing the training themselves.

3. Be Prepared for Inspection

Some states perform workplace inspections through their own agencies (via federally approved safety and health programs). OSHA itself conducts workplace inspections in Florida and many other states. All companies that are not specifically excluded by OSHA can be inspected by these governmental health and safety officers.

4. Self-Inspect

Central to OSHA’s best practices is being proactive yourself. Know your own environment so that you can make improvements. To verify the locations of any hazards and if your controls are working, you need to self-inspect your facility, work practices, and equipment regularly.

Carving out time for self-inspection is simplified greatly using checklists created by OSHA and found on the agency’s website. When you complete the checklists, take the findings and use them in combination with information related to equipment, processes, injuries, and employees to assess problems. These checklists are not meant to be all encompassing, but they can help reveal common issues.

5. Evaluate the Workplace

Beyond regular self-inspection, you can keep your workers safe by carefully evaluating and analyzing your worksite.

You can improve your safety and health program by looking for patterns. Regularly review a few months of records to see if you can identify any. To optimize your approach upfront and make helpful improvements, look back through illness and injury records over the last few years to uncover trends.

  • Understand how to investigate when you have an incident.
  • Try to reveal hazards in processes and tools through regular job reviews and going through each task.
  • Be certain that anyone who works for your company knows that they should notify someone in management whenever they see anything problematic and potentially dangerous.
  • Stay current on the newest hazards in the water well industry. Whenever you make any equipment or process changes, get a professional compliance assessment so you do not create additional hazards.

If you know there are hazards, mitigate and resolve them as soon as you can. You can do so either on your own, through a private occupational health and safety consultant, or by getting a consultation directly through OSHA.

6. Communicate About Any Hazardous Chemicals

It is important to stress that employees have a right to know about any hazards they may encounter on the job. In particular, they have a right to know about any chemical hazards that may be involved with a job.

When a company is aware its workers may be exposed to dangerous chemicals, it needs to provide the necessary information related to the chemical substance and offer guidance on how to handle or guard against it.

Employees have a right to know what methods they can use to stay safe. Providing that information to stay safe allows companies to maintain compliance.

7. Prevent and Control Hazards

You want to both prevent hazards from happening and control them. By implementing these measures, you provide a healthy, safe environment for your employees.

By addressing risks, your goal is to remove them completely. If that is not possible, you want to mitigate them as much as possible. Keep in mind that the more you can minimize hazards, the less likely your workers will suffer work-related illnesses or injuries.

The following are best practices for hazard prevention and control at your workplace:

  • Create non-routine activity and emergency plans that have safeguards to keep your employees safe.
  • Determine what controls you need and how to introduce them through a review of a hazard control plan.
  • Adopt a hierarchy of controls for identification and analysis of hazard controls.
  • Assess current controls. Research possible cost, reliability, and safety benefits of new technologies so you can decide if you want to make a change.
  • Engage your employees in your hazard control process since they will often have ideas about controls and the conditions underlying hazards.

Consider the following six steps to ensure you are preventing and controlling hazards in your workplace by following OSHA best practices for compliance:

  • Determine what your options for controls are.
  • Choose your controls.
  • Create a hazard control plan and maintain it.
  • For emergency and irregular situations, have special controls for safeguarding employees in those unexpected scenarios.
  • Establish your chosen controls on the jobsite.
  • Check back after a while to verify that your controls are working through periodic self-inspections, using regular preventive maintenance to help maintain your controls’ effectiveness.

8. Report and Keep Records of Illnesses and Injuries

Whenever an employer finds out about work-related incidents that result in three or more workers hospitalized as in-patients, they must let OSHA know within eight hours. The same is true if any deaths result from work-related situations. For instance, a heart attack that occurs at work and is fatal must be reported.

You do not need to report deaths from accidents that occur either in commercial vehicles or in private cars on public roads unless the location is a construction zone.

OSHA best practices for record-keeping require you to know if you need to fill out Form 300, Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses. This official federal document keeps records of these grave incidents. While most service businesses are exempt from this requirement, most of the remainder of companies that have at least 11 employees must complete the form.

9. Get Buy-In from Employees and Leadership

Much of the concern with compliance is the day-to-day behavior of individuals—so an OSHA best practices overview should provide guidance to everyone. The men and women in your workplace need to understand and they need to care.

Here are actions that will go beyond training to ensure a healthful, safe workplace:

  • Post a worker safety and health policy. OSHA provides model policy statements.
  • Conduct an all-employee meeting to discuss health and safety. State your company’s goals on the subject.
  • If you are in management or ownership, get personally involved with inspections to clearly demonstrate your concern.
  • Follow the appropriate safety protocol in areas of your workplace, regardless of how long you are in the area.
  • Make employees responsible. Designate health and safety responsibilities just as you do production responsibilities.
  • Provide a sufficient budget and authority for individuals to carry out their assignments.
  • Confirm that all responsibilities are completed.
  • Create an accountability system to ensure all health and safety rules are followed.
  • Review your program annually and consider adjustments.
  • Get your employees interested in and invested in safety by having them help investigate accidents, perform training, and conduct inspections.

Hopefully, an OSHA best practices refresher will remind everyone of the importance of OSHA compliance.

Get Safety Products from NGWA
Go to the NGWA online bookstore and get items to keep you safe. Included are:

Model Environmental Health & Safety Manual, a downloadable complete safety program that can be stored online or in a three-ring binder.

Employee Safety Manual, second edition, a 40-page pocket-size book with details on a variety of safety topics.

Safety Meetings for the Groundwater Industry, which contain details for leading weekly safety meetings printed on two-part carbonless paper with areas for employee and supervisor signatures.

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Alexandra Walsh is the vice president of Association Vision, a Washington, D.C.–area communications company. She has extensive experience in management positions with a range of organizations.