So, yes this is Occupational Safety and Health Week. I got on a bit of a roll with this topic. It really grabbed my attention folks! Probably because it is one of those things I’m sure the majority of employers don’t know they need and those issues concern me.
My goals when we had our business was to 1) cover the bills; 2) do an exemplary job for our clients; 3) keep our people employed and 4) stay out of trouble with any governmental entity that had initials they were better known by … i.e. the IRS (*shudder*) and OSHA. Those of you who regularly read here or at our social media sites know I am an early adopter of … well, everything. So, back in the day, when having Safety Plans and Hazard Materials Communication Programs were *the topic*; I was all over them. I wanted to make sure we were in-line with the rules and what I discovered is that many of our peers and contemporaries as small business owners not only were not creating plans but had no idea they needed them or that they could get in huge trouble if an incident occurred.
When I was creating yesterday’s blog post about resources for small businesses I had a sense of deja vú to those days and wondered how many of our Chamber members, 75% of whom are small employers, know that they must have a safety plan in place. I’ve been trying to think of how to make this as simple as possible, so I’ve been doing some research. It probably won’t surprise you that it isn’t simple! Go figure, right?
This post will NOT REPLACE A SPECIFIC PLAN FOR YOUR SPECIFIC BUSINESS. With that said … away we go …
If I wasn’t a Chamber Exec and I was going to pick a business I’d want to operate again, I’d own a Bed & Breakfast that was a coffee & treat shop all day with an antique shop attached and serving wine & appetizers in early evening. Maybe with books. Attached to my vineyard. I know, I know. Keep dreamin’, right?
Anyway, my business would have 9 employees because family doesn’t count and, of course, this post isn’t about liquor, food or B&B licensing so I won’t be addressing those aspects. Since I have less than 10 employees, I won’t have to maintain injury and illness records. My business wouldn’t qualify under “the low hazard retail, service, finance, insurance or real estate industry” standard since part of the business is a B&B (nope, I don’t understand how a B&B is high hazard either), but I do make it under the size exemption. *whew* That doesn’t mean that I don’t need a written safety and health program though, because I (and you) do; the question is though: what must it include?
From OSHA’s site for small employers: Each safety and health program should be tailored to fit the company, to blend with its unique operations and culture, and to help employers maintain a system that continually addresses workplace hazards. There are five elements that every effective program should have: management leadership and employee participation, workplace analysis, hazard prevention and control, safety and health training and education, and program evaluation.
What do you mean by management leadership and employee participation?
Employers and employees work together to make safety and health a priority. Employer and employee involvement communication on workplace and safety and health issues are essential. For example, this partnership can be achieved when you
- Post the company’s written safety and health policy for all to see
- Involve employees in policymaking on safety and health issues
- Take an active part in safety activities
- Hold meetings that focus on employee safety and health
- Abide by all safety and health rules
- Show your commitment by investing time, effort, and money in your safety and health program.
What is workplace analysis?
Put simply, it means to look at your worksite to see what your hazards are that you can see and identify. Then you work to either eliminate the hazard or train your employees to explain how to avoid being hurt. You are probably asking, but what is a hazard? Well, there are, of course, a lot of definitions, but at its most basic, it is anything that can cause injury or illness. Like:
- Have a cord running across a walkway? Tripping hazard! Relocate the cord or cover it with a cord cover.
- Have supplies or inventory stacked up high that employees need to use a ladder or step stool to reach? Potential fall hazard! Make sure the ladder or step stool is tall enough to reach the items without overreaching and if it is a ladder, make sure it is either well-secured or you have a plan for keeping them safe while using it.
- Using extension cords to expand your electrical capacity for computer, printer, adding machine, phone charger and lamp? Make sure they are commercial grade, have a surge protector and don’t overload the original circuit. (hint: you probably are overloading the circuit!!)
So in short, for hazard prevention and control, walk around your business and “safety proof” it, just like you childproof your house. Use a very critical eye. Invite someone else in to take a look around for you. Fix anything you find or create a realistic training to avoid the hazard. Then re-tour on a regular basis, but don’t wait for your scheduled tour-time to fix hazards and make sure your employees are empowered to fix them as well.
My plan must include (remember, your mileage may vary … this is my dream business after all!):
- a formal written policy statement regarding safety and health at my business;
- a fire prevention plan
- including things like those cords & surge protectors mentioned above as well as working smoke detectors and fire extinguishers;
- housekeeping practices; i.e.; monitoring and limiting areas where the storage of combustible or flammable materials are be kept.
- Limiting the amount of flammable and combustible materials
- Assuring that portable fire extinguishers are available, accessible and properly maintained
- an evacuation plan (how are my staff & customers going to get out in case of an emergency? are all exits WELL marked and lit? are they accessible and unblocked?
- a hazard communication program including new SDS sheets for any chemicals used at my business. This is most likely to be cleaning products for us, but could be others. If I buy in bulk size and put in smaller containers, I must make sure the smaller containers are very clearly marked as to contents and use warnings and that I have MSDS information sheets readily available. I’m going to put mine in a tabbed section of my safety plan binder. I’ve also got to be careful, and clear, about what products can be used together, which should *never* be used together and how they will be safely stored.
- a training plan for how my employees initially will be trained to learn our safety plan and how to do their job safely. In addition, since I’m going to have a small staff, it is important they understand the safety hazards/procedures for other roles as well. After all, we are all in this together.
- an ongoing evaluation plan of how I’m going to revisit these areas and not only give training but get feedback. We aren’t large enough to have a Safety Committee, but during our regular staff meetings we will make safety & hazard recognition and prevention a regular topic of discussion.
I found a great site with lots of information, AllAboutOSHA.com. From that site, I got the following that I want to make sure to share. It seems scary, but when you really read it, it is pretty much common sense:
What must we do to comply?
Employers have specific responsibilities under OSHA they must perform to ensure the safety and health of their workers. The following list is a summary of the most important ones:
- Comply with OSHA Regulations – keep your workplace free from serious recognized hazards.
- Monitor your workplace conditions to make sure they conform to OSHA standards.
- Make sure tools and equipment are properly maintained prior to employee use.
- Identify hazards for your employees by using color codes, posters, labels and signs.
- Develop/maintain safe operating procedures and train employees follow the requirements.
- Provide medical examinations and training when required by OSHA standards.
- Post the OSHA Poster (or the state-plan equivalent) informing employees of their rights and responsibilities at a prominent location within the workplace. This is available for FREE on the OSHA webpage.
- Report any fatal accident or one that results in the hospitalization of three or more employees to the nearest OSHA office within 8 hours.
- Provide employee medical & exposure records to employees or their authorized representatives upon their request.
- Identify authorized employee representatives who may be asked to accompany the OSHA compliance officer during an inspection.
- Do not discriminate against employees who exercise their rights under the Act.
- Post OSHA citations at or near the work area involved until the violation has been corrected, or for three working days, whichever is longer.
- Correct violations by the deadline set in the OSHA citation and submit required verification documentation.
Finally, don’t be afraid to call OSHA (or if like my dream business, you are a small employer in the State of Wisconsin, call WISCON). Yes, I’m serious. It is free and they will HELP you, not come in and close you down. They will tell you what you need to do and then give you time to get it done. For small employers this will likely be pretty simple and be covered by what is above. They will review what you’ve already done and help you with filling in the gaps (if any). Plus? It is free! Yes, free.
Contact for WisCon is: http://www.slh.wisc.edu/wiscon/ Phone: 800-947-0553 or (608) 226-5240. They have a number of Safety Consultants around the state. In the Green Bay area, contact Janeen Eisenman at 920-434-1866 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact for OSHA (or if not reading this in Wisconsin) http://www.osha.gov/html/RAmap.html 1-800-321-OSHA (6742) or 1-877-889-5627 (TTY)
*whew* I hope this post helped you without freaking you out. The health and safety of our worksites and workers is vitally important and not as difficult as we might think. Check out the resources in today’s post and yesterday’s too to get you started. Don’t be afraid to ask the experts at WISCON or OSHA to help you.
Please let me know if you have questions, comments or a great plan you’d like to share!