GDP Blog

66,550 Reasons to Implement a Workplace Safety Program

Posted by John Powter

Feb 25, 2014 8:00:00 AM

workplace_safety_programsBarrette Outdoor Living is a company based in Pendergrass, Georgia that manufacturers vinyl, wood, and aluminum fencing, railing, garden accents and sheds. You may have one of their products on your property. They employee more than 1,000 people, and are a large and well respected firm. This notwithstanding, OSHA just hit them with $66,550 in fines. 

That's a hard lesson in the need for a workplace safety program

Very specifically, OSHA listed serious* safety and health violations including failure to:

  1. Provide training on hearing protection standards.
  2. Develop a noise monitoring program.
  3. Require workers to use personal protective equipment when handling corrosive chemicals.
  4. Develop a written hazard communication program for employees in areas with chemicals.
  5. Inspect storage tracks to prevent collapse.
  6. Develop an energy control program for maintaining equipment with multiple energy sources.
  7. Reduce pressure in cleaning air hoses to less than 30 pounds/square inch. 
  8. Provide emergency eye wash stations where corrosive chemicals are used.
  9. Develop educational program for use of fire extinguishers.
  10. Provide machine guards to prevent amputation hazards.

*In OSHA language, a "serious" violation occurs "when there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known." (The employer has a right to appeal.)

But, this is not about this OSHA incident

It is about the need for businesses of all sizes to have safety programs - written, published, and shared. Among the things that OSHA looks into when there has been a workplace injury or fatality is the accountability of Managers, Supervisors, and Hourly Employees.

  • Safety auditors will audit documentation, interviews, and cite conditions among other things.
  • Performance evaluations of line managers and supervisors must reflect specific criteria relating to safety and health protection. 
  • There must be documented evidence of employees at all levels being held accountable for health and safety at all levels. 
  • Performance evaluations regarding safety should be linked to discipline or promotion.
  • Interviews with workers should indicate whether supervisors or managers show genuine care for safety and health responsibilities. 
  • Rule-breakers must be held accountable. 
In addition to conducting interviews and auditing documents, auditors will conduct a physical inspection that should reveal any hazards - corrected and uncorrected. 

The solution lies in a safety program

The first buffer against charges such as the ones levied against Barrette Outdoor Living lies in fixes to the hazards and related problems. But, fixes are not always lasting. What a company needs is a well-prepared, published, and shared safety program. There are multiple support services available that can help employers develop safety programs:

  • Identify the Workplace Health and Safety Requirements that apply to your business at OSHA.gov or SBA.gov.
  • Request an inspection of your business location by qualified professionals with your risk adviser or commercial insurance broker.
  • Determine the health and safety requirements specific to operations in your state. Some states have rules more stringent than OSHA's.
  • Maximize training with internal resources and by using the educational programs and materials available through your Worker's Comp, Commercial Insurance, and Risk Manager.

Don't leave it on the shelf

It is not enough to put a safety program in a three-ring binder in the Human Resources office. A safety program is more than a handbook or manual. It takes a top to bottom management commitment to promote safety throughout the enterprise. It starts at the desk of the owner, stockholders, and chief executives, and then rolls down and across the organizational chart. 

Successful safety programs are effective ones. And, effective safety programs bear the expertise and professional stamp of their creators. You can find the safety program you need at GDP Advisors, or call us toll-free at 800-473-8697.  

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Topics: Risk Management

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