The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has tailored its new set of Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs to help employers establish a methodical approach to improving their workplaces. The document updates agency guidelines from 1989 to better reflect changes in the economy, workplaces, and evolving safety and health issues. It features an easier-to-use format, and should be particularly helpful to small and medium-sized businesses, agency officials note. Also new to the document is a section on multi-employer workplaces as well as a greater emphasis on continuous improvement.
|The new document is posted at www.osha.gov/shpguidelines.
The programs are not prescriptive; they are built around a core set of business processes that can be implemented to suit a particular workplace in construction, manufacturing or other industry. Key principles include leadership from the top to send a message that safety and health is critical to the business operations; worker participation in finding solutions; and, a systematic approach to find and fix hazards.
“Since OSHA’s original guidelines were published more than 25 years ago, employers and employees have gained a lot of experience in how to use safety and health programs to systematically prevent injuries and illnesses in the workplace,” says Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. “We know that working together to implement these programs will help prevent injuries and illnesses, and also make businesses more sustainable.”
The OSHA recommendations include seven core elements for a safety and health program: management leadership; worker participation; hazard identification and assessment; hazard prevention and control; education and training; program evaluation and improvement; and, communication and coordination for host employers, contractors and staffing agencies.
The recommendations are advisory only and do not create or alter existing obligations created by OSHA standards or regulations.
INJURY, ILLNESS RATES HEAD SOUTH
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics occupational injury and illness data reflect a significant drop in the rate of recordable workplace injuries and illnesses for 2015, continuing a 13-year pattern of decline, notwithstanding 2012 figures. Private industry employers reported about 2.9 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses in 2015, representing a decline of about 48,000 from 2014, despite an increase in total hours worked. The rate of cases recorded was 3.0 per 100 full-time workers—down from 3.2 in 2014—and is the lowest recorded since at least 2002, when Occupational Safety and Health Administration recordkeeping requirements were modified.
Six of 19 Bureau-designated private industry sectors reported a year-over-year injury and illness rate decline in 2015: mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction; manufacturing; transportation and warehousing; finance and insurance; health care and social assistance; plus, accommodation and food services. Manufacturing continued an 18-year trend as the only private sector in which the job transfer or restriction case rate exceeded that of days away from work cases. The 2015 rates for these two case types were unchanged from a year earlier at 1.2 cases and 1.0 case per 100 full-time workers, respectively.
“The significant decline in worker injury and illness rates is the result of the relentless efforts of employers, unions, worker advocates, occupational safety and health professionals, and federal and state government agencies ensuring that worker safety and health remains a top priority every day,” says Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. “Despite the decline, approximately 2.9 million private sector workers suffered nonfatal injuries and illnesses last year. That is still far too many. At OSHA, we will continue to do all that we can to continue driving the rate down.”
Dr. Michaels was set to lead off the early-December OSHA Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health (ACCSH) meeting in Washington, D.C., whose agenda also called for updates from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, OSHA Directorate of Technical Support and Emergency Management, and National Safety Stand-Down campaign staff. As terms expire with this month’s meeting, the agency is accepting nominations for eight new ACCSH members.
Nominations will be accepted from those interested in representing employee (three positions), employer (three), public (one), and state safety and health agency (one) groups. Nominations can be submitted through the www.regulations.gov portal, or by mail or facsimile; deadline is January 27. ACCSH, established under the Contract Work Hours and Safety Standards Act and the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, advises the secretary of labor and assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health on construction standards and policy matters.