Thank you to my colleague, Tavo True-Alcala, for his contributions to this post. Tavo is an analyst in our Environmental & Utilities Group.

In October, OSHA released its new Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs, which were issued to incorporate the experience and advances gained since the previous set of recommendations was released in 1989. Rather than being prescriptive, the recommendations provide guidance on key health and safety strategies that can be implemented in any workplace.

The recommended practices are focused on seven core areas and provide tools and resources to support implementation. The core areas and action items include the following:

  • Management Leadership. Owners, managers, and supervisors should make health and safety a core organizational value and to demonstrate this priority through action items like:
    • Communicating their commitment to health and safety programs;
    • Defining program goals;
    • Allocating resources; and
    • Expecting performance.
  • Worker Participation. Workers have the most to gain or lose from safety and health programs, and have the most knowledge of the potential hazards. For a program to be successful, workers should be:
    • Encouraged to participate in all aspects of the program;
    • Encouraged to report safety and health concerns; and
    • Provided access to safety and health information.
  • Hazard Identification and Assessment. All employers should proactively work to identify and assess all potential workplace hazards and prevent accidents by:
    • Collecting existing information about workplace hazards;
    • Inspecting the workplace for safety hazards;
    • Identifying health hazards;
    • Conducting incident investigations;
    • Identifying hazards from emergency and nonroutine situations; and
    • Characterizing identified hazards, developing control measures, and prioritizing hazards for control.
  • Hazard Prevention and Control. In order to minimize the risk presented by workplace hazards, employers should:
    • Identify control options;
    • Select appropriate controls;
    • Develop and update a hazard control plan;
    • Select controls for nonroutine operations and emergencies; and
    • Follow up to ensure selected controls are effective.
  • Education and Training. All employers should provide proper training to make sure that employees are aware of workplace hazards and can work productively and safely. A good health and safety program should:
    • Provide program awareness training;
    • Train employers, managers, and supervisors on their role in the program;
    • Train workers on their specific roles in the program; and
    • Train workers on hazard identification and controls.
  • Program Evaluation and Improvement. Once a program is established it is wise to:
    • Monitor performance and progress;
    • Verify that the program is implemented and operating; and
    • Correct any shortcomings and identify opportunities for improvement.
  • Communication and Coordination on Joint Employer/Multiemployer Worksites. Communication is increasingly important as more workplaces are shared by regular employees of a host company as well as workers employed by contractors or assigned by staffing agencies. In these situations all parties involved must work together to ensure worker safety, which can be accomplished by:
    • Establishing procedures to communicate safety and health policies and potential hazards before contractors or staffing agencies come on site,
    • Ensuring that contractors and staffing agency workers have a communications plan to provide information to the employer;
    • Including safety specifications in bid documents; and
    • Coordinating with contractors to ensure consistency in safety and health expectations.

OSHA provides a self-evaluation tool for employers to track the progress they make in implementing the recommended action items. OSHA encourages employers to follow these recommendations not only as a way to prevent workplace illnesses and injuries, but also because of the indirect benefits like improved products and service, better employee recruitment and retention, and better morale that such efforts can have in the workplace.