The premise of this article assumes that you already have an Employee Health and Safety Plan in place. If you do not, you may want to evaluate your need for such a plan to first protect your employees and second hedge your bets against an OSHA job-site inspection. Having a Health and Safety Plan that covers the operations of your business is not a guarantee that OSHA will not inspect your job-sites, but it is an invaluable tool in determining the outcome of an OSHA investigation.
One of the most common issues we see with Employee Health and Safety Plans is the presumption that "bigger is better". Often times the analysis of a plan's efficacy begins with how "thick" the bound copy is or how many pages it contains. Of course a 300 page safety plan is better than a 50 page safety plan, right? Not exactly. In fact, having a 300 page safety plan can in some cases be detrimental to your ability to defend against an OSHA inspection and/or citation. This is due in large part to the safety plan lacking specificity in relation to the work your employees are performing, and instead covering large conceptual topics that have little if any relation to what your employees are facing. If you do have a safety plan in place and it isn't being implemented or utilized to its fullest potential, this too can be harmful in the event of an OSHA inspection.
It is important to keep in mind the reason for having an Employee Health and Safety Plan in the first place-employee safety. Therefore, in our experience a narrowly tailored, "customized" Employee Health and Safety Plan that is easy to use and which your employees are familiar with will always be more effective than a general, overly broad plan that is so large your employees have no desire to acquaint themselves with its contents. Instead, ask the following of your safety plan:
- Does your safety plan train your employees on identifying hazards?
- Does the plan recommend employee action once hazards are identified?
- Will the plan adequately and effectively communicate your work rules?
- Whether or not the plan takes steps to discover employee violations?
- Does it address employee discipline, education and training?
- How often is the plan itself is reviewed and revised?
The foregoing items are not an exhaustive list, but merely considerations for a well-crafted Employee Health and Safety Plan.
Remember, "bigger is not always better" when dealing with Employee Health and Safety Plans. However, a specific, narrowly tailored and effective safety plan can provide enormous benefits to the safety of your employees and your ability to present a strong defense when OSHA stops by your job-sites. We have significant experience in working with employers to create more effective Employee Health and Safety Plans along with utilizing those plans in defense of OSHA citations. Should you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact Hendershot, Cannon & Hisey, P.C. today.