In 1970, Congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act, also known as the Williams-Stieger Act. Under the OSH Act, a new organization was formed to consolidate existing federal safety standards, and develop new ones to reduce workplace injuries. Since inception compliance has been expected for existing standards and new standards and revisions.
Many of the OSHA standards give “thou shall” instructions but do not prescribe how to comply with the “thou shall”. Simply put, there are not set procedures to ensure that an employer is in compliance with the federal standards. Each employer has the freedom to tailor a Safety and Health Management System that best fits their needs. However, being in compliance alone will not keep a workplace injury free.
Common sense is implied from OSHA to bring your company into compliance. Creating, maintaining, and communicating detailed policies, procedures, in house audits, 3rd party audits, and training specific to whatever your company does or produces will get you on the road to compliance.
While compliance provides guide lines for safety, compliance alone will not keep a workplace injury free. For instance, one of our colleagues recently shared an example of a problem that one of their clients were having with slips, trips and falls. Even though the client believed that they were in compliance with the OSHA standards, specifically 29 CFR subpart D, they were still having employee injuries due to slips, trips and falls. They had procedures, audits and employee training. What was missing? Why were there still injuries?
This client has over 80,000 employees in just about every state in the US. Some of the injuries were from cold weather, some from bad habits, but all of the injuries were preventable. Our colleague explained that she developed an employee awareness program. Once the employee awareness program was put into motion, the client found that some employees were not aware that there was a problem. One employee boasted that they had been with the company over 40 years and never had an injury. That’s great. What is their secret? There really wasn’t any secret. This person pays attention to the details.
Our colleague went on to explain that she worked with the client to focus on communication with each employee on ways to prevent these injuries. They found they were most successful when they would set up informal gatherings and just have conversations. As the conversations progressed, more and more people would join in or listen. Using this method the client identified simple “common sense” solutions such as:
o Don’t be in a hurry
o Don’t walk and text or talk on the phone
o Use the hand rail when walking up and down stairs
o Look at and correct the condition of your shoes (untied, old, no longer protective or supportive)
o Clean up the small spill on the floor that you walked around
o Communicate hazards to others
By having conversations with small groups of employees, they are starting to see a reversal in their slip and trip injuries. Communicating safety and hazards has become routine. Fliers and posters remind employees of their safety tips and rules. They have found a way, through an awareness program that they can reach their employees and make a difference. They did fix a few “compliance” issues, but that alone would not have reversed their injury trend.
It all comes down to protecting your greatest assets, your employees.