This article was updated on Sept. 7, 2018.
Workplace safety should be a top priority for your business. Workplace injuries can result in various outcomes for employers including potential Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) violations, business reputation concerns, poor employee morale and possible complaints by the injured party. To help avoid these scenarios, perform safety assessments on a regular basis and comply with any applicable OSHA and other regulatory standards. You can follow the steps below to start the process.
There is no one-size-fits-all way to perform safety assessments, as many organizations are subject to industry-specific requirements and guidelines and may also have unique safety concerns. Instead, you should evaluate your worksite and identify all existing and potential hazards. In this scenario, a hazard is anything that could cause harm to employees or customers. Before going through this process, you may want to refer to OSHA's list of the Top 10 Most Frequently Cited Standards. This list can serve as a useful tool to help you figure out which types of hazards you need to watch out for in your business.
When going through your assessment, you should note each possible hazard, its likelihood of happening and the potential consequences of its occurrence. For example, you may notice that your employees are exposed to potentially harmful debris when they use a drill. This debris could potentially hurt your employees' eyes and cause them to experience respiratory problems. If and when you notice such a hazard, you should write down the specific procedures that you think could prevent an incident from taking place down the line. In the provided example, you could require all employees to wear goggles and a dust mask while operating machinery or tools that give off debris.
Work With Employees
Part of your safety assessment should involve watching your employees complete their day-to-day tasks. By doing so, you can see the kinds of potential hazards each person is exposed to on a daily basis. During this review, you should ask your team members if they have any safety concerns, as well. After all, it's possible that your employees are exposed to things you don't notice. You should also teach all of your new employees your safety protocols as part of their onboarding training.
Review Your System
You need to regularly review your safety assessments. However, it's important to note that the time frame for this review is dependent upon your industry. According to the OSHA Small Business Handbook, certain industries, such as retail and finance, are classified as "low-hazard." If you work in a more dangerous industry, you will be required to have more regular safety reviews.
If and when a workplace safety incident does take place on your premises, you should follow the necessary regulations as outlined by OSHA. Furthermore, you should also conduct an assessment to see what happened, how the incident could have been prevented and if there are any other problems in your system.
Get Professional Help
When it comes time to perform your health and safety inspections, you may want to reach out to your local fire department, your insurance company or a professional consultant for expert advice and information. OSHA also offers a free safety consultation for small and medium-sized businesses. This anonymous review of your workplace will not result in fines. Instead, after evaluating your workplace, the consultant will review their findings with you, discuss any problems that were identified, talk through possible solutions and then set abatement periods to help ensure that you eliminate any hazards in a timely way. Following this discussion, the consultant will send you a detailed report in writing that should confirm his or her findings and the agreed upon abatement periods. At that point, you will need to eliminate or control each of the identified hazards within the specified timeframes.
By following this advice, you can help your business stay in compliance and create a safe and healthy working environment for your employees and customers.
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