A health and safety program is a plan developed by the company to encourage workplace safety and improve working conditions.
Why do companies institute Health and Safety Programs?
The simple answer is that employers are obligated to ensure safe working conditions for their employees. A comprehensive workplace health and safety program formalizes this process, so that nothing falls through the cracks.
Under OSHA law employers MUST provide their employees with a workplace that does not have serious hazards and follow all relevant OSHA safety and health standards.
This means not just providing personal protective equipment. The employer has the responsibility to look for unsafe working conditions and correct them.
A health and safety program holds the employer accountable to a documented process, outlining specific actions and responsibilities. Like a maintenance program for a piece of machinery, a health and safety program will describe the frequency of checks and audits, like how often to check fire extinguishers or change HEPA filters.
Scheduling regular training for employees is a key part of any program, including hazardous material handling, spill control, forklift training, ladder safety and many more specific safety training sessions.
Any health and safety testing would be governed by the health and safety program. This would include any air or water quality testing or noise decibel readings. In many cases this is required by law.
Many health and safety programs incorporate an ergonomics aspect, with a focus on improving operator motion to reduce repetitive motion, awkward positions and worker fatigue.
The employer is also required by OSHA to track all workplace incidents, post injury and illness data where employees can see it.
Is it the law to have a Health and Safety Program?
OSHA doesn’t require a specific health and safety program in general, but some specific states and industries do require an outlined procedure.
Considering the responsibility of the employer to provide a safe working environment and the many specific items that OSHA requires to meet health ad safety standards, it just makes sense to create a defined plan. A health and safety program drives the company to meet and exceed requirements.
Larger companies will have the resources to hire more specialized individuals to manage a health and safety program. In addition to general health and safety professionals, they may have requirements for trainers, testing experts, hazardous waste workers, ergonomics analysts etc. Each of these highly skilled roles have specific certification requirements and there’s definitely a market for individuals with specific training and certifications.
Well-managed health and safety programs are good for the workers and good for companies. Trained health and safety individuals will always be in high demand.