OSHA Updates Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs

Safety News, Safety Tips

OSHA has recently updated the Guidelines for Safety and Health Programs it first released 30 years ago. The new Recommended Practices are designed to be used in a wide variety of small and medium-sized business settings. The 40-page document presents a step-by-step approach to implementing a safety and health program.

These new recommended practices reflect workforce changes including:

  • Shifts from manufacturing to services
  • Automation
  • Worker diversity
  • Aging workforce
  • Hazards in healthcare, retail and other “safe” industries
  • Increased use of temporary workers

They also reflect what can be learned from best-in-class programs and what makes them effective. In particular, the recommended practices place greater emphasis on involving workers and include a more robust program evaluations to help drive continuous improvement. The recommended practices also stress the need for communication and coordination on worksites involving more than one employer. These practices also align with national and international consensus standards.

Seven Core Elements of OSHA Recommended Practices

Finding and fixing hazards before they cause injury or illness is a far more effective approach. Doing so avoids the direct and indirect costs of worker injuries and illnesses, and promotes a positive work environment.The concept of continuous improvement is central to the recommended practices.

The practices are built around seven core elements that are interrelated and best viewed as part of an integrated system:

  • Management Leadership
  • Worker Participation
  • Hazard identification and Assessment
  • Hazard Prevention and Control
  • Education and Training
  • Program Evaluation and Improvement
  • Communication and Coordination for host employers, contractors and staffing agencies

The document provides specific action items under each core element, but the process can, and should, be tailored to the needs of each workplace. Your safety and health program can and should evolve. Experimentation, evaluation and program modification are all part of the process. OSHA has also developed an interactive website to help guide employers and managers through the guidelines. In addition, all of the information is also provided in Spanish.

Benefits of Safety and Health Programs

Employers may find that implementing the recommended practices brings a variety of benefits beyond preventing workplace injuries, illnesses and deaths. A renewed commitment to safety and health and a cooperative atmosphere between employers and workers have been linked to:

  • Reduced worker’s compensation claims
  • Improvements in product, process and service quality
  • Better workplace morale
  • Improved employee recruiting and retention
  • A more favorable company image and reputation among customers, suppliers, and the community
  • To address the unique issues of the construction industry, OSHA developed a separate, specific guidelines document for construction companies.

OSHA Safety and Health Program Resources: