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Developing an effective health and safety plan

August 17, 2020 -  By
Hardhat and construction plans (Photo: Chris Ryan/OJO Images/Getty Images)

Photo: Chris Ryan/OJO Images/Getty Images

During my tenure as safety adviser for the National Association of Landscape Professionals, the most often-asked questions through the years from our membership have been inquiries about company safety and health policies.

Questions included policy format; where do safety and health policies originate; what is the next step after writing and communicating corporate policies; how do we determine if the policies are being followed; and when do we need updated or new policies?

Over the next several months, I will put together a series of articles on the stages of safety and health policy development that includes a step-by-step process, broken down into three stages: planning, implementing and evaluating. This article deals with the planning stage.

The planning stage targets hazards that could create unsafe working conditions for your employees. Always keep in mind that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that employers maintain a safe and healthy workplace. Determining if the workplace is safe is typically accomplished by:

  • Conducting worksite safety assessments or audits to identify hazardous exposures;
  • Prioritizing the hazards based on their severity to exposed workers; and
  • Writing and communicating policies for mitigating these identified hazards.

In policy statements, companies usually commit to protecting their valuable human resources and develop strategies on potential hazards such as vehicle operations and cellphone use; prohibited use of drugs and alcohol in the workplace; wearing and maintaining personal protective equipment (PPE); severe weather instructions; and infectious disease and illness guidelines.

An individual company’s hazard auditing methods may expand the policy needs to include guarding and shielding policies; workplace respirable silica dust guidelines; fall prevention and ladder safety strategies; and fire prevention and suppression techniques.

Site audits are not the only means by which workplace hazards are identified. Direct employee input through active safety committees or a “close call” reporting system may provide management with clues about hazards. Insurance claims history also provides invaluable information on hazards that may need formal policy development, especially when medical claims involving flying debris are negatively impacting crew members.

A quick glance at the annual OSHA citations issued for violations of safety and health regulations shows that three out of the top 10 consistently ignored standards involving PPE include eye, head and respiratory protection. Other often-violated regulations are missing or damaged machine guarding and falls from ladders.

As you can see, policy development is a crucial stage of the safety and health management planning process. Next month, we’ll discuss tools that can be used to implement and sustain policies.

Sam Steel, Ed.D., is the safety adviser of the National Association of Landscape Professionals.

Sarah Webb

About the Author:

Sarah Webb is Landscape Management's associate editor. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Wittenberg University, where she studied journalism and Spanish. Prior to her role at LM, Sarah was an intern for Cleveland Magazine and a writing tutor.

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