In 2009, 4,340 fatal work injuries were reported in the U.S. Although that number is lower than in previous years, the importance of providing a safe work environment is still a very big issue for many employers.
OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) mandates that business owners must provide safety training to all employees. However, owners are given the option of deciding what kind of training will be done and what topics will be covered as it relates to their business.
This flexibility provides business owners with the leeway they need to tailor the training to the environment in which their employees work and the day-to-day activities their employees perform. For example, if your company works with large cranes then an owner would want to provide a solid safety course in relation to that piece of equipment. On the other hand, if your company does not work with this type of machinery, then training for it would be a waste of time.
In general, OSHA provides each business owner with the ability to dictate the training that aligns most with their company as long as that training is OSHA approved.
In Section 5 of the OSH Act of 19701 it states:
A. Each employer —
- shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees;
- shall comply with occupational safety and health standards promulgated under this Act.
It also states that…
B. Each employee shall comply with occupational safety and health standards and all rules, regulations, and orders issued pursuant to this Act which are applicable to his own actions and conduct.
So, there are responsibilities on both sides; however, there are also positives for both sides. As it also states in the OSH Act of 19701, “safe workers are productive workers,” and productive workers are more beneficial to their companies. More work can be done when employees are not facing hazardous or unsafe conditions, which means more productivity and profit for employers.
Here are some thoughts to consider if you’re looking to improve workplace safety for your employees:
1. If your company is big enough, hire a trainer internally. With a corporate safety trainer, you can do the majority of your training within the company and not have to pay fees for a third party to come in and do it for you. It also gives you the flexibility to tailor your training to your business instead of going through safety courses in which only half of the content pertains to your employees and their job functions. Most OSHA training can be tailored to your business, thus providing a higher quality of training.
2. YOU (the owner) evaluate the hazards, equipment, and environments your employees will come into contact with and use your technical experts to assist you with this. OSHA states, “OSHA training rules for the most part are performance-based standards. The workplace must remain free of hazards but the employer determines exactly how that will be achieved. An employer can use a variety of methods and technologies for training as long as the safety goal is met. Compliance with a performance standard means that training must be effective all the time.”2
As an owner, you will need to fully understand the conditions in which your employees work so that you can provide the most effective training. To do this, talk with your managers or employees who would understand these conditions best. This also includes identifying any required PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) that your employees need in order to be safe.
3. YOU set the training requirements as they pertain to your business and its daily functions. As a business owner, this doesn’t mean you have to come up with all the training on your own. As mentioned above, it’s a good idea to involve your managers and employees who might better understand what safety training would be most effective. However, regardless of whether you (as a business owner) or the experts within your company come up with training requirements, do know that as an owner you are responsible for approving/signing off on it and responsible for making sure the training will be effective. If it is not, then it will be you who will face repercussions from OSHA if preventable accidents occur. Also keep in mind that any costs from providing effective safety training will come back to you in the form of less injuries/deaths, better employee morale, and increased profitability for your company.
4. YOU must ensure that any training is fully documented for each employee, so that when or if something does happen you can show you have done your part to keep your employees safe. This step is imperative if you want to prove you have provided the necessary safety training to each of your employees.
For OSHA, the most important goal of occupational safety and health training is the long-term reduction of injury and illness among workers. The immediate effectiveness of training is measured through inspections, test scores, surveys, and observing how workers demonstrate the task they have learned.
Long-term effectiveness is measured by evaluating worker attitudes toward risk reduction and hazard control, changes in work practices over time among workers who have received training, and changes in reported health and injury rates.
With the onset of Lean processes and everyone trying to do more with less, most companies cannot afford to lose an employee. Rising medical costs, loss of production, workman’s comp, and insurance costs never lead to a profitable or productive year. Providing effective safety training for all of your employees will increase your company’s productivity and profits across the board.
How does your company ensure all employees receive effective safety training? Please leave your comments below.
1. “OSH Act of 1970.” Occupational Safety and Health Administration – Home. U.S. Department of Labor. Web. 03 May 2011. <http://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owasrch.search_form?p_doc_type=oshact>.
2. Occupational Safety and Health Administration – Home. U.S. Department of Labor. Web. 03 May 2011. <http://www.osha.gov/>.