Safety Guidelines

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has published a draft revised Safety and Health Program Management Guidelines document for public comment. The voluntary guidelines document updates and replaces the guidelines document that was first published in 1989.

These guidelines provide employers, workers, and worker representatives with a sound, flexible framework for addressing safety and health issues in diverse workplaces. They are intended for use in any workplace, but will be particularly helpful in small and medium-sized workplaces.

The guidelines use a proactive approach to managing workplace safety and health. Traditional approaches are often reactive-that is, problems are addressed only after a worker is injured or becomes sick, a new standard or regulation is published, or an outside inspection finds a problem that must be fixed. These guidelines recognize that finding and fixing hazards before they cause injury or illness is a far more effective approach.

The concept of continuous improvement is key to the guidelines. The stated idea is to begin with a basic program and simple goals and grow from there. If you focus on achieving goals, monitoring performance, and evaluating outcomes, your workplace can progress along the path to higher levels of safety and health achievement.

OSHA’s guidelines identify seven core elements of a safety and health management program:

Management leadership

Management demonstrates its commitment to continuous improvement in safety and health, communicates that commitment to workers, and sets program expectations and responsibilities.

Managers at all levels make safety and health a core organizational value, establish safety and health goals and objectives, provide adequate resources and support for the program, and set a good example.

Worker participation

Workers and their representatives are involved in all aspects of the program-including setting goals, identifying and reporting hazards, investigating incidents, and tracking progress. All workers, including contractors and temporary workers, understand their roles and responsibilities under the program and what they need to do to effectively carry them out.

Workers are encouraged and have means to communicate openly with management and to report safety and health concerns without fear of retaliation. Any potential barriers or obstacles to worker participation in the program (for example, language, lack of information, or disincentives) are removed or addressed.

Hazard identification and assessment

Procedures are put in place to continually identify workplace hazards and evaluate risks. An initial assessment of existing hazards and control measures is followed by periodic inspections and reassessments to identify new hazards.

Hazard prevention and control

Employers and workers cooperate to identify and select options for eliminating, preventing, or controlling workplace hazards. A plan is developed that ensures controls are implemented, interim protection is provided, progress is tracked, and the effectiveness of controls is verified.

Education and training

All workers are trained to understand how the program works and how to carry out the responsibilities assigned to them under the program. All workers are trained to recognize workplace hazards and to understand the control measures that have been implemented.

Program evaluation and improvement

Control measures are periodically evaluated for effectiveness. Processes are established to monitor program performance, verify program implementation, identify program deficiencies and opportunities for improvement, and take actions necessary to improve the program and overall safety and health performance.

Coordination and communication on multi-employer worksites

The host employer and all contract employers coordinate on work planning and scheduling to identify and resolve any conflicts that could impact safety or health. Workers from both the host and contract employer are informed about the hazards present at the worksite and the hazards that work of the contract employer may create on site.

The guidelines document can be viewed and downloaded at this OSHA web page. Members of the public have until February 15, 2016, to submit comments on the proposed guidelines.