Where do I get assistance for writing an effective safety program?
First of all, I would like to say how important it is to have an effective, written safety program specific to your company. All too often, businesses go on the Internet and purchase a safety plan that claims to be "plug-and-play" where someone plugs in some names, clicks a few buttons and "poof," an effective safety plan appears on-screen ready to print out. If you have ever heard the saying it's too good to be true, then that's probably the case.
Yes, there is good information contained within some of those safety plans, with regard to OSHA regulations and their requirements, but it does not negate the company's responsibility to have an effective safety program, which includes a safety plan specific to their company and the employee's job tasks, not to mention the plan must be enforced. I would consider the "plug-and-play" plans a starting point, but just having a safety plan is not enough.
When setting up your safety plan, feel free to call OSHA. Though they may not be as effective as a reputable private safety consulting firm, which holds your hand from beginning to end, OSHA offers a great deal of assistance for those that ask. They may even be able to help arrange a business-to-business mentorship for smaller companies.
Mary Lynn, OSHA consultation project officer for Region 8 is not new to companies that are looking for assistance. She knows that many businesses may not be aware that OSHA doesn't only exist as an enforcement presence. "OSHA's website has quite a bit of information to assist employers," Lynn said. "Businesses can schedule meetings with compliance officers at their local office for more in depth questions or they can call if they just need a quick answer. Just ask for the duty officer. OSHA also offers a free onsite consultation service for small employers in higher hazard industries, which includes construction."
The onsite consultation service is a great resource for businesses that may just be starting and not have the money to invest in a private consulting firm but need direction as to what OSHA requires. It is often a confusing time with so much going on. This free service helps ease the pain. "An OSHA compliance officer would not actually come out to the jobsite, so there is no risk of citation for the business. Usually, it is a safety consultant from a local university acting as a representative of OSHA," said Lynn. "They are thorough and very good at what they do."
The visit includes help with any aspect of safety the employer would like. If they want a jobsite inspection, they can also ask for a review of the safety manual along with recommendations. The only requirement for these inspections is that the employer must fix any hazards the consultant notes, or it could result in a visit from OSHA, along with a citation. "I don't remember a case of that happening, however. Employers are asking for our help because they want to do things the right way and because they care."
Construction Business Owner, April 2008