Are Your Safety Documents Working – or Worthless?

December 3, 2018 • Previsor

When it comes to safety, businesses usually don’t document enough. From training to policies to equipment maintenance, documenting your safety-related activities is crucial to their effectiveness. MEM experts Mark Woodward and Terri Sweeten provided their top safety documentation tips for employers.

Listen to this interview on the WorkSAFE Podcast, or read the show notes below.

No doubt you have mounds of policies and procedures that fill stacks of binders in your office – most offices do! How effective are those stacks of papers if no one looks at them? Say goodbye to worthless documents, and hello to safety policies that keep people safe by following three simple steps.

1. Write down a one-page list of safety rules.

When you’re not using and reviewing them, some important documents—like policies and procedures—can become worthless over time. These documents are necessary, but no one can put them into practice when they’re filed away on a shelf collecting dust. Condensing these policies into a list of 10 or 15 best practices makes it much easier for everyone to grasp the primary ways to avoid injury at your workplace.

Try to fit your safety rules on one page, and include expectations such as:

  • Wear seat belts when driving or riding in company vehicles
  • Report for work without any illicit drugs or alcohol in your system
  • Wear eye protection when working near flying object hazards
  • Wear protective toe footwear when working near objects that may fall
  • Wear fall protection gear when there is the potential to fall from heights

2. Hold safety meetings to set expectations and ask your employees to sign off on them.

Regularly scheduled safety meetings are the perfect opportunity to review the safety rules with your entire staff. After every safety meeting, hold your employees accountable for following the rules by asking they sign off on them.

Without enforcement, safety policies alone will not help reduce injuries, protect you against OSHA citations, or help defend against liability when an employee is injured on the job. Enforcing safety rules begins with setting expectations and making sure all employees understand them.

When you document safety rules and enforce them, everyone knows expectations. Need help setting the agenda your next safety meeting? Check out this Tool Box Talk and all of our other free safety resources to get started.

3. Hold employees accountable for breaking rules.

Most business owners don’t want to see anyone get hurt at work. However, weak safety standards increase the potential for injury. Written safety rules can become worthless unless someone is willing and authorized to enforce them. When someone breaks a safety rule at your workplace, what happens? Here are a few repercussions to consider. Tip: more than one of the following tactics leads to better outcomes:

  • Stop the unsafe act or behavior
  • Review safety expectations with the employee
  • Review the safer, proper method for doing the job
  • Provide a copy of your written safety rules
  • Review the reasons for the safety rules
  • Provide training, if needed, or as required by OSHA
  • Document each time you have a corrective action event, or safety discussion with your employee to prevent future violations

Even businesses with robust safety programs can see increased claims costs if they don’t enforce the rules. Especially in small or particularly tenured businesses, many of the employees, including the employer, are close friends or family. While it’s not easy to reprimand a close friend or family member for violating safety rules, it’s far more difficult to deal with the consequences of a severe injury if you don’t consistently enforce the rules. Being proactive and making safety a priority are the two best ways to keep your workplace injury-free.

> Related: Formalizing Policies Improves Workplace Safety [Success Story]

Know Your Rights as an Employer

Missouri’s work comp laws support enforced safety rules because they lead to safer workplaces. Employers must know their rights when enforcing safety policies and procedures.

  • In the event your employee fails to follow written, acknowledged and enforced safety rules and is injured at work, a 50 percent penalty can be assessed against the injured worker’s benefits if it’s determined the employee broke written safety rules that were trained, acknowledged and enforced.
  • Missouri’s work comp law also supports drug-free workplaces. When an employee tests positive for illicit drugs or alcohol in a post-incident drug and alcohol screen, work comp benefits could be reduced or denied. But a written drug-free workplace policy must be in place, acknowledged by employees and enforced by management.

The key to taking these penalties is enforcement. If there is no evidence of enforcement, the penalties on work comp benefits cannot be taken.

The Bottom Line

As a responsible employer, make sure you protect your employees by enforcing safety rules every day. Written safety rules will lead to a safer workplace if employees acknowledge them and management enforces them. Explain often that you expect employees to follow safety rules and that your workplace is drug-free. All management within your company must understand their duty to enforce these rules and protect the employees from unsafe acts and conditions.

December 3, 2018
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