Keeping Your Workers Safe: How to Successfully Implement an Effective Safety Program
Effective safety training for workers keeps organizations protected from legal issues, encourages employee “buy in” and protects a company’s reputation. When you invest in employee safety, you’re investing in the future of your business.
Read on to understand your legal responsibilities for worker safety, as well as how to establish a long-term safety program.
What Are You Liable for With Independent Contractors?
While independent contractors aren’t eligible for workers’ comp, this doesn’t mean you’re exempt from legal issues if a worker is injured on the job. This also means they are not confined to this option, as many full-time employees are. It is within an independent contractor’s rights to sue your business if they can prove a causal connection between your actions or omissions, and that these actions or omissions resulted in negligence.
In addition, you may unknowingly be misclassifying your workers, leaving you open to a lawsuit based on classification. Misclassification refers to any worker who is considered an employee by law, but is classified as an independent contractor or other non-employee.
- United States Department of Labor Resource: What is “Misclassification”?
Keeping your employees safe helps you avoid situations like these.
What Safety Laws and Regulations Surround Worker Safety?
The Occupational Health and Safety Act of 1970 states that employers are responsible for providing healthy and safe work environments, and many Occupational Health and Safety Association (OHSA) standards require health and safety training. Employers are responsible for adhering to many of these requirements, as well.
For a full list of responsibilities for contract and full-time employers, explore OHSA training requirements.
Whether you’re compelled by law, finances or moral obligation to create / recreate your safety policies and procedures, your model should follow the basic structure below, recommended by the OHSA.
Develop a Safety Policy
A safety policy is a written statement of attitudes, values and beliefs regarding safety. This document highlights a company’s commitment to employee safety and establishes a safety culture.
As you build your workplace rules, ensure that each follows OHSA minimum standards. Additionally, be aware that some states have additional policies for workplace safety, which you can find on your state government site. Once you’ve made sure you have covered all your legal bases, include industry- and job-specific rules that take any unique safety hazards into account.
Note: Even if state or OHSA regulations do not apply to your industry or to non-employees, they are best practices to ensure the safety of your workers, and may also help you avoid hefty lawsuits.
Training: Initial and Ongoing
Training programs should include:
- Formal training, such as seminars, consistent safety sessions and mandatory programs.
- Informal training, like videos, tutorials or weekly foremen trainings.
- On-site training, such as on-site inspections or huddles.
Recordkeeping should be required for all training opportunities listed above. Depending on the type of training, this may be in the form of a timesheet, copies of any documents involved or any certifications needed to complete training.
The timing of each training program must be specified. This means outlining when each training requirement must be completed, how often it should be completed or how long it should take.
Safety enforcement responsibilities should be stated in writing and made clear to each worker. In particular, foremen, managers, safety directors, supervisors and others who oversee projects should be made aware of their specific duties to safety.
Discipline and Incentive Procedures
Consequences for each safety violation must be laid out in writing and made clear to each worker. These can differ based on violation severity or frequency of violations. For example, upon first violation, this could involve a verbal or written warning. Upon second violation, a suspension may be suitable.
Incentives can be doled out at your discretion. Think about what motivates your workers and what they would appreciate. Incentives should be short-term, as employees can lose sight of long-term rewards.
Establish a review system and frequency for review. Continuously monitor and modify your safety protocols and procedures to keep up with your employees’ safety needs.
Additional Safety Resources
Want more information on safety regulations and requirements? Visit OHSA’s Safety and Health Training Resources library for more information or explore more safety articles for employers.
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