10 Overlooked Workplace Safety Best Practices to Implement
Posted in: Commercial Insurance
As a result of mandated time at home due to the COVID-19 quarantine, I am seeing family and friends on social media completing all kinds of projects they never had the time to do before. Let’s apply that time and mentality to workplace safety. As a safety professional, with thousands of safety assessments under my belt, I see the same ten critical things overlooked often because there’s no time to get them done. So, if your business remained open during the pandemic, you are likely working in a slower capacity, which could give you extra time to implement some important workplace safety measures. These best practices span across most industries, but you can skip some of the steps below if they don’t apply to your business.
MUST DO – Plan on about two hours:
- Develop and implement a COVID-19 health and safety plan. OSHA is expecting employers to develop a hazard-specific plan for dealing with COVID-19. The plan should classify workers based on exposure level and describe protection techniques. Download the OSHA’s 35-page Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19. You can also check out OSHA’s COVID-19 guidance and resources.
EASY – Plan on a one to three days for each item:
- Develop or update your PPE Hazard Assessment. Many companies do not realize that even though they issue PPE, provide training, and make employees wear their PPE, they could still be cited by OSHA. Why? Because a little-known section of the standard requires companies to perform a formal PPE hazard assessment in their workplace. This requires you to survey each position to determine what PPE is required. You must evaluate the hazards for each body part and then determine if it can be engineered out first, and if not, what PPE is required to protect the employee. This information should then be certified by a workplace safety professional. PSA can provide our clients a form to ensure you do not miss any exposures as well as the certification.
- Organize chemical Safety Data Sheets and label secondary containers. Many companies who have chemical materials are still not compliant with the Globally Harmonized Standard (formerly known as Hazard Communication); and the old Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) should be replaced with the new standardized Safety Data Sheet (SDS). Review your chemical information list (or build one as required by the standard) and use it to make sure you have updated your SDS library. Simply go to each manufacturer’s website to download the new SDS. If you have a large number of SDSs, PSA can provide you with vendors to handle the work for you. Along with the requirement for updated SDSs, updated labeling is required. Now is the time to update all primary and secondary containers with the new labels. Check out an example of what the updated chemical container label looks like.
- Touch up safety color-coding and equipment labels. Repaint those worn out, barely still yellow guardrails, walkway lines on the floors, changes in elevation markings, no storage lines in front of electrical panels, fire extinguishers, eyewashes, etc. Here is a summary of color codes:
MODERATE – Plan on a week or two per item:
- Organize and update your workplace safety files, paperwork, and documentation. Check your written safety programs and revise them if necessary. Often, the written safety processes clients hand me have revision dates of 10-years ago or more, cut-and-pasted sections that don’t even apply to the client, etc. Take the time now to make your safety program yours and updated. Also, now is the time to develop forms to document your efforts like self-inspections, vehicle inspections, and safety training attendance. Remember, in both OSHA’s and an attorney’s eyes, if it isn’t in writing, it never happened.
- Prepare a safety training matrix. A safety training matrix is simply an electronic document that captures the following: employee’s name, the safety training and/or certification they are required to have by position, completion date, and expiration date. This allows you to determine who is up-to-date or needs training. If you are a PSA client, we can provide you a listing of all the safety training required by OSHA’s General Industry and/or Construction standards. You can then use these as foundations to build your matrix. Now is also a great time to deploy online safety training services for employees that may be idle. Contact PSA for a list of reputable on-line training vendors.
- Update your workplace safety inspections and forms for ladders and guarding. During safety assessments, I constantly see defective ladders and inadequate machine guarding. Take the time to inspect those ladders, especially the ones that might not be used regularly. Look for damage such as cracks, bends, sharp edges, dirt, grease, and missing warning labels. You might find this sample ladder inspection checklist helpful. Also, survey your machinery for adequate guarding and make the appropriate repairs and changes. Is it loose, or has an employee removed guarding, tampered with it, or bypassed it? Field services employees are notorious for removing the guards on angle grinders; check your gang box and see what you find.
ADVANCED – Plan on at least 30-days to complete all the items:
- Write JSAs for your core tasks. A job safety analysis (JSA) is a technique that focuses on identifying hazards in a specific job or task before they occur. Identify those jobs that have caused historical losses, or those that have the most potential for a serious or fatal injury. Then, you simply list each step of the task, identify the hazards and potential at-risk behaviors, and then develop safe steps to complete the task. The goal of the job safety analysis is to take steps to eliminate or reduce the uncontrolled risks to an acceptable level. Then, use the JSA as a training tool for employees. Contact PSA for a template JSA.
- Review and update machine-specific energy control procedure. Many clients have a written program for the Control of Hazardous Energy or Lockout/Tagout (LO/TO). But just like the PPE standard discussed above, there is a section with which many companies are not in compliance. Employers must develop, document, and use procedures to control potentially hazardous energy (there are some exceptions to this rule, and PSA can help you). The procedures explain what employees must know and do to control hazardous energy effectively when they service or maintain machinery. If your business only uses similar machines (those using the same type and magnitude of energy) that have the same or similar types of control measures, then they can be covered by a single procedure. Otherwise, you must develop separate energy-control procedures if you have more variable conditions – such as multiple energy sources, different power connections, or different control sequences that workers must follow to shut down various pieces of machinery. The energy-control procedures must outline the scope, purpose, authorization, rules, and techniques that employees will use to control hazardous energy sources, as well as the means to enforce compliance. Learn more about LO/TO program on OSHA’s resource page.
- Conduct a wall-to-wall workplace safety inspection. When was the last time you went over your facility with a fine-tooth comb? I’m not talking about your one-hour, quick survey. I mean checking every electrical cord for damage, every breaker box for required labels and identification marking, every disconnect switch for identification markings, every electrical outlet to make sure it’s safe, and all chemical container labeling checks. OSHA may do it, so beat them to it. PSA can provide you templates to follow to perform comprehensive wall-to-wall mock OSHA inspections of your workplace. We can also provide you a guide to prepare for a carrier loss control. Most carrier inspections have been put on hold right now, but we anticipate a surge once things return to normal.
My father always told me you have to weather the storm to see the rainbow. Let’s make part of the rainbow an improved and safer workplace for all employees on the other side of this storm. Stay strong, stay safe, and let PSA know how we can help you. If you have any questions about any workplace safety topics, please feel free to contact me at email@example.com.
Also, don’t forget to check out our last post on ways to protect your unoccupied buildings and storage yards from theft to improve safety during the pandemic. For further risk and safety management services and other resources visit our free Coronavirus pandemic information pages.