Identifying and eliminating hazards before employees are hurt is the number one goal of safety officers at any facility. Unfortunately, workplace injuries still occur. Adopting a preventive approach will help you greatly reduce injury rates. But how can you as the safety officer get that done? By developing a solid proactive position of protecting your employees from workplace hazards and adding a logical and concise accident response plan.
UNDERSTANDING YOUR HAZARD PREVENTION NEEDS
The key to any worthwhile health and safety program encompasses recognizing potential hazards and evaluating the risks associated with those hazards. It also extends to eliminating or controlling those hazards. Remember that with any proactive hazard recognition program, you must continually analyze, evaluate and adjust for risk prevention all the elements, including:
- the physical environment
- the employees who work in that environment
- the equipment and materials used in the work process
- the processes and practices themselves
Even with a comprehensive injury and illness prevention program, accidents still happen. You need to be prepared to deal with unexpected situations and try your best to eliminate, or at the very least minimize, harm and injury. This is where the accident response plan will improve your position so much.
During emergencies, hazards appear that normally are not found in the workplace. These hazards may be the result of natural causes such as earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, floods or ice storms. Events caused by humans and beyond your control may also create hazards, for example, train or plane accidents, terrorist activities or occurrences at nearby worksites that affect your site. Finally, emergencies may occur within your own systems due to unforeseen combinations of events or the failure of one or more hazard control systems.
Emergencies, by their nature, are not part of the expected, everyday routine. They may never occur. But if they do, their cost in terms of both dollar losses and human suffering can be enormous. Your job is to become aware of possible emergencies — not merely probable events — and to plan the best way to control or prevent the hazards they present.
ROLLING OUT YOUR HAZARD PREVENTION AND RESPONSE PLAN
Implementation of the hazard prevention program must include training and educating employees on quick and efficient responses. The response plan and reporting policy should be kept in writing and reviewed regularly for accuracy. You should introduce it to new employees at orientation and review it with staff regularly, in addition to any time a notable change has been made or adopted. Before you can hold your employees accountable for their actions, you first need to establish your safety and health policy and disciplinary rules. Then you need to develop safe operating procedures, train your employees on these procedures, supervise their actions and impose disciplinary action when necessary.
You might not associate preventive maintenance with your safety and health program, but nonetheless, good preventive maintenance plays a key role in ensuring that hazard controls continue to function effectively. Periodic workplace monitoring, for example, to check for chemical exposures or noise exposures, will help assure that installed controls are still working as designed. Preventive maintenance also keeps new hazards from arising due to equipment malfunction.
REPORTING WHEN HAZARDS OCCUR
Another important aspect of your accident and injury prevention and response plan deals with reporting and investigation. The response plan should include a detailed protocol for accident and injury reporting and should include follow-up investigation actions to determine causes, corrective actions and prevention for the future. Report all incidents through internal channels as clearly defined in your written plan.
Regulatory agencies, in addition to local, state and federal agencies, may also mandate reporting requirements that must be followed. Consideration should be given for reporting on close calls and accidents that were prevented for follow-up and training purposes. Whether your facility is research or production, private or governmental, academic or institutional, it must meet OSHA standards. Reporting noncompliance may have serious ramifications, including financial penalties and fines, and could potentially threaten the discontinuance of operations.
MOVING FORWARD WITH YOUR PLAN
These are the basic components of a hazard prevention and control program. With these measures, you can provide your employees with comprehensive protection from occupational hazards.