We all seem to take safety at work for granted. As an employer, it is your ethical responsibility to take care of employees working for you, failing which, there just might be a disaster waiting to happen. Besides causing injury, work place accidents cost time and money. On a more practical note, you could also be held accountable and made to pay a penalty that could wipe out profits. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rules punish violation of safety standards that could result in death or serious physical harm to an employee. Therefore, developing a work place safety policy and abiding by it is an absolute necessity.
Remember the following while putting a work place safety policy in place:
~ Even as an entrepreneur with few employees, you will have to abide by OSHA requirements. However, in American states where a federally certified plan has been adopted, the state plan governs. If you have hired non employee workers, such as independent contractors or volunteers, then you are not subject to the OSHA rules.
~ The first step to complying with the OSHA regime is to understand the published safety standards. Naturally, these will change depending on the industry you're in.
~ Also, just because you comply with the standards that specifically apply to your business or industry doesn't mean that your job is done. Standards are updated frequently, and new dispensations come into the picture from time to time - be sure to keep in touch with the latest developments.
To begin with, get in touch with your insurance company. Ask their safety specialist to visit your premises and make necessary recommendations. Insurance companies will be more than willing to help you devise an appropriate work place safety policy, as the safer your business, the fewer accident claims you will file. Some government organizations, generally supervised by the Labor Department or Department of Commerce, could also help you set up a safety program.
Industry trade associations and other business groups might offer seminars on safety at work and also provide training literature for a small fee. Also, there are private consultants who help businesses set up safety programs that meet OSHA regulatory standards. Your lawyer might be able to recommend a good consultant in your area.
Once you have the program in place, put it in writing and create the safety manual. The safety manual should explain what to do in the event of a fire, explosion, natural disaster or any other catastrophe your business might face. Ensure that you have well-stocked fire extinguishers and first-aid kits at all convenient locations throughout the work place. Check an organization which makes products such as fire extinguishers and medical supplies. Added to that, make sure your employees know where these are located and how to use them. The safety manual should also explain the proper procedure for performing a routine task that could have some inherent danger if not done the right way. Seeking employees' opinion as an input in this regard will be most helpful as they are closest to the jobs and know best about potential dangers which might not be obvious to you.
Finally, get an insurance professional, a government representative and your attorney to review the finished manual. This is a reflection of your company's commitment to safety, so make sure you get it right.
Conduct regular meetings and inspection, and even introduce an incentive program if need be, to increase awareness about safety measures at work. Try establishing a "Safe Employee of the Month" award, or run a contest inviting suggestions for improving safety.