OSHA Handbook for Small Businesses

Start Gathering Specific Facts About Your Situation

Start Gathering Specific Facts About Your Situation

Before you make any changes in your safety and health operations, you will want to gather as much information as possible about the current conditions at your workplace and about business practices that are already part of your safety and health program. This information can help you identify any workplace problems and see what's involved in solving them.

The assessment of your workplace should be conducted by the person responsible for the safety and health program and/or a professional safety and health consultant. It consists of two major activities.

The first is a comprehensive safety and health survey of your entire facility, designed to identify any existing or potential safety and health hazards. This initial survey should focus on evaluating workplace conditions with respect to safety and health regulations and generally recognized safe and healthful work practices. It should include checking on the use of any hazardous materials, observing employee work habits and practices, and discussing safety and health problems with employees. See Section IV, Self-Inspection Check Lists, to help you get a good start on creating this initial survey.

The second major activity is an assessment of your existing safety and health program to identify areas that may be working well and those that may need improvement. You will want to gather together as much information as you can that relates to the safety and health management of your workplace. You should include the following in this review:

  • Safety and health activities — Examine current ongoing activities as well as those tried previously, company policy statements, rules (both work and safety), guidelines for proper work practices and procedures and records of training programs.
  • Equipment — Make a list of your major equipment, principal operations and the locations of each. Special attention should be given to inspection schedules, maintenance activities and plant and office layouts.
  • Employees' capabilities — Make an alphabetical list of all employees, showing the date they were hired, what their jobs are and what experience and training they have had. Special attention should be given to new employees and to employees with handicaps.
  • Accident and injury/illness history — Take a look at your first-aid cases, workers' compensation insurance payments, and workers' compensation awards, if any. Review any losses. Determine how your insurance rate compares with others in your group. Special attention should be given to recurring accidents, types of injuries, etc.

With whatever facts you have been able to assemble, take a quick look to see if any major problem areas can be identified. You would be looking for such things as interruptions in your normal operations, too many employees taking too much time off, or too many damaged products. General assistance in this kind of problem identification can often be obtained from compensation carriers, local safety councils, state agencies, your major suppliers and even, perhaps, a competitor.

If there is a major problem, see what can be done to solve it. Once a problem is identified, you can work on the corrective action or a plan for controlling the problem. Take immediate action at this point and make a record of what you have done. Don't become overly involved in looking for major problem areas during this fact-finding stage. Remember that no one hazardous situation causes all of your safety and health problems, and therefore, it is likely that no single action will greatly improve your safety and health program.

If you have found no major problem at this point, don't stop here. Now it is time to develop a comprehensive safety and health program that meets your needs and those of your employees. This will make it more difficult for major problems to crop up in the future.

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