Let’s face it: most companies don’t look at safety as an ongoing operation. They purchase a manual and place it on the shelf to collect dust. Or a company may take a step forward and enter data in a software program like the NECA Safety Expert System. Unfortunately, that is not enough. Safety must be maintained and keeping the program fresh and “in sync” with OSHA requires a great deal of effort. Even the conscientious safety director with good intentions may fall behind. A practical approach and credible resources are needed to maintain an effective, ongoing safety program.

Obviously, the most important component is a proper base. A good foundation includes management commitment and employee involvement, work-site analysis, hazard control and training. Commitment from management can be demonstrated through written policies, a safety budget and involvement in activities such as the review of accident investigations. Employees can be part of administering training, site inspections and accident reporting. Work-site analysis is accomplished through review of accident records, job-site inspections, and job-hazard analyses. Hazard controls include all steps taken to avoid injury including employee incentives and disciplinary measures. In order to complete the base program, all employees need to be trained.

A company can develop these tools or purchase materials that provide the various templates needed. An excellent resource is the NECA Safety Expert System. This software provides “Compliance Guides” for management, programs and polices, employee-training materials and record-keeping capabilities to track actions taken. An alarm system triggers required follow-up activity. The program even offers updates.

The problem is that, even with a complete program such as the NECA Safety Expert System, addressing updates can be overwhelming. You need a plan and credible and current resources that allow you to evaluate the updates in relation to your safety program and OSHA activity. The following is a suggested update strategy and references two excellent Internet sources to assist you:

o Establish a review schedule

To avoid being overwhelmed, select a topic to review each month. Pay particular attention to hazards OSHA has selected as a focus.

o Review the status of current regulations and determine actions needed

Each month, check out OSHA regulations and enforcement activity related to your scheduled topic. Develop and/or edit materials to address actions needed. If you are using the NECA Safety Expert System, make sure you have the latest download from the Web site. Edit materials as needed per OSHA enforcement.

o Perform required actions and establish a record

After identifying the required procedures and updating the written safety program, “take action.” For example, if employees were using respirators when the new regulations went into place, you would need to complete and record an annual fit test. If the NECA Safety Expert System is used, use it to enter the data.

o Check related equipment

Many hazards are associated with equipment or personal-protective equipment. Make sure proper maintenance has been performed. Schedule future inspections or maintenance. The NECA Safety Expert System can track inspection activity and allows you to set an alarm for the next set of inspections.

o Conduct refresher training

Update and administer employee training. Include basic information on hazards and any new information. Previously trained employees can always benefit from a refresher.

Two resources that can be of great assistance in keeping your program in tune are www.osha.gov and www.esafetyline.com. The OSHA Web site is free and provides regulations and technical assistance documents. A topic search can be performed each month to access links to applicable regulations, compliance directives, technical manuals, etc. When applicable regulations have been identified, it is possible to perform a statistics search to reveal the level of enforcement within your industry. The eSafetyLine.com is a site operated by a nonprofit group for a small fee, but it does much of the work for you. It performs the OSHA site searches and compiles the necessary updates for your safety program documents (written programs, safety talks, etc.) as a monthly focus. An e-mail reminder alerts you to the current topic.

With a solid foundation, a plan and the resource options given to keep your program up-to-date you are on your way to maintaining an effective, ongoing safety program. Select the resources that best fit your schedule and budget. You will still need to apply yourself to the plan, but the choices made, of course, will affect the amount of effort it takes and the quality of your program. The most important choice is to take a path that can be sustained. EC

O’CONNOR is with Intec, a safety consulting, training and publishing firm that offers on-site assistance and produces manuals, training videos and software for contractors. Based in Waverly, Pa., he can be reached at 607.624.7159 or joconnor@intecweb.com.