When it comes to worker health and safety, an employer has two liabilities: the liability that a worker will get hurt on the job and the liability of an OSHA inspection. It is our professional opinion that an injury to an employee, especially a key employee, is a much greater liability. It is also our opinion that if you have a comprehensive health and safety program, you will comply with the majority of OSHA’s regulations.
Who is OSHA and Why Are They Important?
OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) is the regulatory division of the US Department of Labor. They’re responsible for enforcing worker health and safety regulations and levying penalties for violations of their standards that are found during inspections. Just like any other regulatory body, OSHA standards should be considered a minimum of what you need to do to keep your workers safe. The majority of the inspections they perform are the result of employee based complaints, the result of a significant injury that you are required to notify OSHA about, or from a report submitted by a hospital or emergency responder.
Some companies will never see an OSHA inspector and others, generally those with poor safety records and/or serious injuries, may see OSHA numerous times. Given the fact that OSHA has been in business since 1969, they have an “expectation” that most companies have had plenty of time to become compliant. Since many companies have not, lots of them end up with citations for violations of OSHA standards and incur the associated penalties.
Are Your Workers “Safe” Just Because You are “OSHA Compliant”?
The majority of workplace accidents are the result of “unsafe acts” or “unsafe work practices.” In other words, they are usually the result of employees making poor decisions about how to do their jobs and/or protect themselves. A significant number of OSHA’s regulations specifically address unsafe conditions such as floor openings, unguarded equipment, badly maintained forklifts, etc. This is the “forever” health and safety “conundrum.” Since the majority of workplace injuries (we think it is more than 95%) are the result of unsafe acts and work practices, and the majority of OSHA’s standards address unsafe conditions, you can be extraordinarily compliant with OSHA’s standards and still have workplace injuries. We are of the opinion that “just” complying with OSHA standards does not make your workplace “safe.”
To be both OSHA compliant and have a safe workplace, we feel you need a modicum of compliance effort coupled with a much stronger Health and Safety Management Program. The two together foster much better results. In fact, OSHA published an “updated” document in 2015 called “OSHA Safety and Health Program Management Guidelines” which describes in great detail the parts of a “comprehensive” health and safety program that go beyond the basic aspect of “compliance” with standards. We believe it is a good foundation for the development of a solid health and safety program that promotes both compliance and better overall loss performance.
About The Lawson Group
Since 1978, The Lawson Group has been in the “White Horse” business. That is to say, we help companies do things that are ultimately beneficial for them that they are sometimes unaware of. Our first endeavor was worker health and safety, mostly related to OSHA compliance issues, focusing on the industrial hygiene side of that equation regarding chemicals and noise, indoor air quality, and lead and asbestos management. Since becoming a third-party administrator in 1994, we now manage the workers’ compensation programs for over 300 New Hampshire employers. In 2000, we entered the employee wellness business. Our primary goal is to work with employers and their employees to make better use of their health insurance dollars by helping them to become both healthier AND better consumers of healthcare. We welcome your inquiries regarding our services. Contact us to learn more.