We have discussed the concept of developing a safety program at your workplace many times. I have provided examples from my own background, and I’ve done my best to impress upon you how and why any time or resources devoted to this effort will provide huge returns in the long run. Some of these benefits are as tangible as increased productivity since healthy employees stay on the job—and avoiding costs for injuries sustained, including increased insurance premiums—while others are less so, having more to do with your company’s reputation as a safe and well-run operation. As always, I want to provide you with resources that will help you to achieve these safety goals, such as a recent white paper published by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) that is titled “Injury and Illness Prevention Programs.”
In providing background information about the agency, the paper states that since OSHA was signed into law and established 40 years ago, workplace deaths and reported occupational injuries have dropped by approximately 60 percent, which is an amazing thing to consider. I think it points to the value of safety programs in general, and the huge difference they can make in keeping workers safe in particular. In defining an injury and illness prevention program, OSHA calls it “a proactive process to help employers find and fix workplace hazards before workers are hurt.” The agency has found that, in addition to experiencing dramatic decreases in workplace injuries, employers who develop and implement these programs “often report a transformed workplace culture that can lead to higher productivity and quality, reduced turnover, reduced costs, and greater employee satisfaction.” Doesn’t that basically describe the type of company that we all want to work for?
One thing that OSHA makes clear up front is how important it is for people to work together on developing these programs, with a healthy mix of involvement from both management and employees who are on the front lines of production. The key elements of this process involve management leadership, worker participation, hazard identification and assessment, hazard prevention and control, education and training and, finally, program evaluation and improvement. Sounds like a fairly straightforward process, although it will be different in every case depending on the type of manufacturing a company is performing and also the complexity of that process. Also keep in mind that you are not only seeking out potential dangers presented by moving parts and sharp edges, but materials that can cause lung disease and other illnesses when workers are exposed to them. One benefit of this process is that it provides the opportunity for everyone involved to take a really close look at every single they do, which can help identify areas of improvement that aren’t even related to safety, such as more-efficient ways of loading and unloading parts.
While huge organizations such as the U.S. Departments of Defense and Energy have adopted the approach outlined in this paper, alongside big companies with thousands of employees, it is easily adaptable for smaller businesses as well. In fact, OSHA’s Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP)—which recognizes small employers that operate exemplary injury and illness prevention programs—studied companies ranging from 15-160 employees in size and found:
• A reduction in the number of injuries and illnesses.
• Improved compliance with regulatory requirements.
• Improved business and cost savings including reduced workers’ compensation premiums, reduced administrative and human resources burden associated with filing injury and illness reports, managing workers’ compensation cases and training new employees. The companies also experienced improved efficiency in operations and material use, and improved productivity. They were able to leverage their limited health and safety resources.
• An improved workplace environment with greater collective responsibility for workplace health and safety.
• Improved reputation and image in the community including relationships and cooperation between employers and OSHA, between employers and employees, and among employers in the business community.
So I would encourage you to visit www.osha.gov and download “Injury and Illness Prevention Programs.” To be honest, you can’t afford not to.