OSHA updates workplace safety, health program practice guidance

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.