With the aim of helping employers establish a ‘methodical approach to improving safety and health in their workplaces’, the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration has recently released a set of Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs at the National Safety Council Congress in Anaheim, Calif.
The updated recommendations usurp the previous 1989 guidelines and reflect changes in the economy, workplaces, and evolving safety and health issues. Featuring an easier-to-use format, the updated guidelines are intended to be of particular use to SME’s. There is also a new section on ‘multi-employer workplaces’, while a greater emphasis is placed on continuous improvement and supporting tools and resources are also included.
Built around a core set of business processes that can be implemented to suit a particular workplace (in any industry sector), the programmes are not prescriptive, however, OSHA has seen them successfully implemented across manufacturing, construction, health care, technology, retail, services, higher education, and government.
While the recommendations are advisory only and do not create any new legal obligations (or indeed alter existing obligations) created by OSHA standards or regulations; they include key principles of:
- Leadership from the top
- Send a message that safety and health is critical to business operations
- Encourage worker participation in finding solutions
- Support a systematic approach to find and fix hazards
Brenig Moore, Technical Director at Astutis commented:
“When you consider that I sent my first email little over 25 years ago, it is possible to benchmark the pace of change in the modern workplace! Updated standards that encompass modern safety measures relevant to a rapidly changing workplace are essential to employee safety and wellbeing. The industries we work in are evolving at such a rapid pace and safety obligations need to keep up. While both employers and employees have gained a lot of experience in how to use health and safety programsme to systematically prevent injuries and illnesses in the workplace, it is important that modern standards are addressed – the new guidelines do just that.”
Assistant Secretary of Labour for Occupational Safety and Health, Dr. David Michaels said:
"We know that working together to implement these programs will help prevent injuries and illnesses, and also make businesses more sustainable."
Employers will find that implementing these recommended practices also brings other benefits. Safety and health programs help businesses:
- Prevent workplace injuries and illnesses
- Improve compliance with laws and regulations
- Reduce costs, including significant reductions in workers' compensation premiums
- Engage workers
- Enhance their social responsibility goals
- Increase productivity and enhance overall business operations
The OSHA recommendations include seven core elements for a safety and health program: management leadership; worker participation; hazard identification and assessment; hazard prevention and control; education and training; program evaluation and improvement; and communication and coordination for host employers, contractors and staffing agencies.
Read more on the OSHA website. https://www.osha.gov/shpguidelines/index.html