The United States Department of Labor – Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has just released new Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs. Employers are not required to comply with these recommended practices for health and safety; however they do represent best practices for employers. The construction industry is exempt from these recommended practices, as the construction industry has their own set of recommended practices for safety and health.
Why the Safety and Health Program Was Updated
This is the first time these recommended practices have been updated since 1989. The updates were necessary due to changes in the work environment. These changes include the following:
- An evolving economy, which has shifted from a manufacturing base to a service base. Additionally, the fixed workforce of the 1980’s has evolved to a largely mobile workforce today.
- The automation of many tasks has changed the workplace. Robotics, technology, even computers introduce new and different hazards.
- The shift in the nature of work in the workplace has led to more sedentary work. Our workforce is also aging. This means that some workers are at a greater risk for musculoskeletal disorders from work related activities.
- Our workplace continues to become more and more diverse. In addition to introducing different cultures and different backgrounds, workers often speak different languages.
- OSHA, and the population at large, is far more cognizant of the fact that industries such as healthcare, retail, transportation, and lodging come with significant potential hazards.
- Employment is changing. What was once an economy filled with full time permanent workers, there is an increased reliance on contract and temporary workers. The traditional employer employee relationship is shifting.
For all these reasons, OSHA felt that changes in the safety policies and safety programs will better reflect the realities of today’s workforce. The new practices recommend put greater emphasis on involving employees in safety programs, and a more robust method of evaluating the program with an eye towards continued improvement.
Benefits to Implementing a Safety and Health Program
Both employers and employees benefit from a robust safety and health program. Benefits to employers include to following:
- Prevention of workplace injuries;
- Prevention of illness related to work related activities;
- Prevention of work related deaths;
- Avoidance of financial hardship for the employer;
- Avoidance of financial hardship for the employee; and
- Avoidance of suffering of workers and their families.
But there are other benefits to a robust safety and health program. The cooperative nature of employers and employees working together to establish and maintain such a program has been proven to enhance the work place in the following ways:
- Improvements in process;
- Improvements in service quality;
- Improvements in products created;
- Enhanced workplace morale;
- Improved employee recruiting;
- Enhanced employee retention;
- A more favorable reputation in the industry;
- A more favorable reputation amongst customers;
- A more favorable reputation amongst suppliers.
A study done in the state of Ohio found that small employers working with OSHA to develop health and safety programs found a dramatic reduction in workers’ compensation claims. The average number of claims was reduced by 52 percent. Dollars per claim decreased by 80 percent. There was an 87 percent decrease in the average lost time per claim. Finally, claims per million dollars of payroll decreased by 88 percent.
Indirect Costs of Workplace Incidents
The costs associated with workplace incidents are not limited to the out of pocket costs to compensate the injured worker and repair the faulty work space. Indirect costs include time lost due to work stoppages and investigations. Additionally, the employer must either train and replace the injured worker, or suffer the consequences of a reduced work staff. On average, indirect costs are estimated to be 2.7 times the amount of the direct costs.
OSHA’s 10 Ways to Jump Start a Health and Safety Program at Work
- Set safety and health as a top priority. Both employers and employees benefit from a robust health and safety program. As such, employers and employees should work together to build a program that works to keep everyone safe.
- Lead by example. Managers and supervisors set the tone for the workplace. As such, they should be mindful to model behavior consistent with the health and safety program. They should also avoid complaining about the requirements of the program.
- Implement a reporting system. There should be a single, simple procedure for reporting injuries; incidents, including near misses; safety concerns and hazards. Anonymous reporting should be an option.
- Provide training. This should be done in the native language of the employee.
- Conduct inspections. Using a predetermined checklist, employers and employees should conduct inspections together.
- Collect hazard control ideas. Everyone can and should contribute to workplace health and safety.
- Implement hazard controls. Empower workers to implement the hazard control ideas brainstormed by the workforce.
- Address emergencies. Have round table discussions about how to handle foreseeable emergencies before they happen. Put these plans in writing and post them where they will be seen in an emergency.
- Seek input to workplace changes. Employees are naturally change resistant. However, sometimes change benefits everyone. Before implementing major change, seek input. The workers who actually do the job may be able to identify potential health or safety issues that management hadn’t thought about.
- Make improvements. The one thing there is always room for is improvement. By having regular meetings to discuss time and safety issues, your health and safety program will continue to improve.
What to Do If You Have Been Injured in the Workplace
If you have been injured in the workplace, either due to a lack of an adequate health and safety plan, or because the health and safety plan was not followed, you may have a claim. If you have a loved one that was killed at the workplace, you may also have a claim. Contact the determined Atlanta workers’ compensation attorneys at the Bader Law Firm, LLC to discuss the specifics of your case. Do not delay. There are time constraints on when and whether you can file your claim.