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Cornerstones of a Successful Safety Management System

Monday, October 29, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Hilary Korabik
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Cornerstones of a Successful Safety Management System
by Roger Paveza, Vista Safety Consulting, LLC

A “successful” safety management system can mean several things; however, the first thing I always ask is if your program is truly effective or have you just been lucky?  Consistently follow the below cornerstones of safety and you’ll be on track for a successful safety management program, OSHA compliance, and injury prevention.    One study of small employers found that workers’ compensation claims fell dramatically after adopting programs similar to the one described below.

Having a solid safety management plan in place offers another potential benefit. When an employer is facing an OSHA violation and is looking to shift the blame to an unruly employee—typically referred to as the “unpreventable employee misconduct” defense—it’s essential to have documentation of an effective safety plan to support this defense. In rudimentary explanation, an employer is not relieved of responsibility simply because an employee did not follow the rules.  In order to even attempt to assert this defense effectively, an employer would have to show complete effectiveness (i.e. consistent documentation) with all below cornerstones.

Safety Programming / Health & Safety Manual

As several OSHA regulations require a “written safety program/plan,” ensure that policies and work rules contain clear, specific requirements and prohibitions designed to prevent unsafe conditions and violations of applicable OSHA standards.  It’s also a good practice to have a qualified safety director or other professional review safety policies on an annual basis or whenever there are important safety-related developments in the industry. 

Communication / Safety Training

Many standards promulgated by OSHA explicitly require the employer to train (or instruct, or communicate, or inform...) employees in the safety and health aspects of their jobs.  Other OSHA standards make it the employer's responsibility to limit certain job assignments to employees who are "certified," "competent," or "qualified" - meaning that they have had special previous training, in or out of the workplace.  Also, the term "designated" personnel means selected or assigned by the employer or the employer's representative as being qualified to perform specific duties.   Therefore, ensuring that employees read safety manuals, conducting periodic training for employees, and periodically reviewing work rules (and documenting all of these actions) can help establish adequate communication.

Self-Assessment / Job-Site Evaluations

One of the most overlooked OSHA regulations is under the subpart “General Safety and Health Provisions” where 29 CFR 1926.20(b)(2) states: “Such programs shall provide for frequent and regular inspections of the job sites, materials, and equipment to be made by competent persons designated by the employers.”   As self-assessment may be a painful experience, the failure to identify or recognize hazards that are present is one of the "root causes" of workplace injuries, illnesses, and incidents.  As a critical element of any effective safety and health program is a proactive, ongoing process to identify and assess such hazards.

Accountability / Discipline

Rounding out the aforementioned cornerstones is accountability.  I always say, albeit facetiously, that 99% of my clients have a discipline program and 99.9% don’t effectively enforce the one they have.  Having a working discipline program is a critical component to an effective safety system.  Used in the right way, a discipline program:

  • establishes an organization’s commitment to safety by enforcing the rules and procedures designed to keep people safe.
  •  encourages employees to always be vigilant about following safety protocols, especially when engaging in high-risk tasks such as working at heights, in confined spaces, and in excavations.
  • protects leaders by ensuring follow-through on every rule violation.

For more information, contact Roger Paveza of Vista Safety Consulting, LLC



Chicagoland AGC

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