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Establishing a Safe and Healthful Working Environment


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Establishing a safe and healthful working environment requires every employer -- large and small -- and every worker to make safety and health a top priority. The entire work force -- from the CEO to the most recent hire -- must recognize that worker safety and health is central to the mission and key to the profitability of the American company.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) job is to provide leadership and encouragement to workers and employers to take that responsibility seriously. We continue to help employers and employees focus on reducing injuries, illnesses, and fatalities and to increase their commitment to improved safety and health.

OSHA can help small businesses and others through a variety of tools, including partnership, consultation, compliance assistance, education and training, outreach, and plain language regulations.

Why is safety and health important for a small business owner like me?

Safety is good business. An effective safety and health program can save $4 to $6 for every $1 invested. It's the right thing to do, and doing it right pays off in lower costs, increased productivity, and higher employee morale.

As an employer, you have a duty to protect your workers from injury and illness on the job. Protecting workers also makes good business sense. Accidents and injuries are more expensive than many realize. Costs mount up quickly. But substantial savings in workers' compensation and lost workdays are possible when injuries and illnesses decline. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) can help you.

How can I reduce employee injuries and illnesses?

Compliance with OSHA rules is essential. Compliance along with an effective voluntary safety and health program can help reduce your costs and injuries and illnesses. An organized, carefully crafted plan that systematically focuses on workplace hazards and employee training is critical. Buy-in from every manager and employee is essential. Everyone has to work at safety and health.

How do I develop this program?

Each safety and health program should be tailored to fit the company, to blend with its unique operations and culture, and to help employers maintain a system that continually addresses workplace hazards. There are five elements that every effective program should have: management leadership and employee participation, workplace analysis, hazard prevention and control, safety and health training and education, and program evaluation.

What do you mean by management leadership and employee participation?

Employers and employees work together to make safety and health a priority. Employer and employee involvement communication on workplace and safety and health issues are essential. For example, this partnership can be achieved when you

  • Post the company's written safety and health policy for all to see
  • Involve employees in policymaking on safety and health issues
  • Take an active part in safety activities
  • Hold meetings that focus on employee safety and health
  • Abide by all safety and health rules
  • Show your commitment by investing time, effort, and money in your safety and health program.

What's a worksite analysis and how often do I have to do it?

A worksite analysis means that you and your employees analyze all worksite conditions to identify and eliminate existing or potential hazards. This should be done on a regular and timely basis. There should be a current hazard analysis for all jobs and processes that all employees know and understand. To do this, it is helpful to

  • Request a free OSHA Consultation visit
  • Become aware of hazards in your industry
  • Create safety teams
  • Encourage employees to report workplace hazards
  • Examine history of worksite conditions
  • Have an adequate system for reporting hazards
  • Have trained personnel conduct inspections of the worksite and correct hazards
  • Ensure that any changes in process or new high-hazard facilities are reviewed by a competent person
  • Seek assistance from safety and health experts. (See also OSHA publication 3071 – Job Hazard Analysis for steps in identifying and protecting against workplace hazards.)

After I identify hazards at my worksite, how can I prevent or control them?

The next part of a good safety and health program is your continual review of your work environment and work practices to control or prevent workplace hazards. This can be done when you

  • Regularly and thoroughly maintain equipment
  • Ensure that hazard correction procedures are in place
  • Ensure that employees know how to use and maintain personal protective equipment
  • Ensure that all employees understand and follow safe work procedures
  • Make sure that, where necessary, you have a medical program tailored to your facility to help prevent workplace hazards and exposures.

What else can I do to minimize potential accidents and injuries?

It is important that everyone in the workplace be properly trained, from the floor worker to the supervisors, managers, contractors, and part-time and temporary employees. This can be done when you

  • Allow only properly authorized and instructed employees to do any job
  • Make sure no employees do any job that appears unsafe
  • Hold emergency preparedness drills for employees
  • Pay particular attention to employees learning new operations to make sure they have the proper job skills and awareness of hazards
  • Train supervisors and managers to recognize hazards and understand their responsibilities
  • Encourage all employees to report any hazardous conditions to their supervisors.

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