Georgia-Pacific is currently fighting a proposed $84,000 in penalties following an Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspection which found violations of federal safety regulations in the wake of the death of employee Robert C. Dameron. Dameron died after he drowned at the company’s mill in Big Island, Virginia. The inspection faulted the company for failing to provide safety training and equipment and for removing a guard rail from a floor opening less than week before Dameron’s death. Georgia-Pacific is contesting the finding.
While it’s possible for a company to win a dispute with OSHA, the legal process is an unnecessary and expensive hassle. The best way to avoid paying this type of penalty is to make sure you have an OSHA-compliant, robust workplace safety strategy in place. Here are three steps human resource department leaders can take to promote stronger workplace safety policies and protect their companies from unnecessary legal and financial risks.
Appoint a Designated Safety Manager and Safety Team
To coordinate your company’s safety policy, it’s vital to delegate this responsibility to specific employees who can oversee the process. To supervise your entire program, the recommended approach is to appoint a designated safety manager, which is an OSHA requirement in some instances. To support your designated safety manager, you should also appoint a team of competent assistant safety managers.
To be effective, assistant safety managers must possess knowledge of applicable safety procedures. To qualify, designated individuals should have enough experience to identify potential safety hazards. They should also be endowed with the authority to recommend and implement safety improvements. One individual may be competent in multiple areas of your company’s safety procedures, or for more complicated situations, you can delegate multiple individuals to specialize in specific areas.
Schedule Periodic Safety Reviews
To maintain a safe workplace, it’s essential to hold safety checks on a regular basis. OSHA advises that your designated safety manager should direct a full health and safety review of your facility in order to find and fix any issues. To assist in the review process, your manager should be supported by professional consultants with the requisite expertise.
Your review should encompass both your physical locations and your company’s safety programs. Items to cover include a review of past accidents and illnesses at your company, health and safety activities, equipment policies and procedures and employee capabilities. OSHA’s site includes an inspection checklist to guide your inspections.
To supplement your general inspections, your situation may also warrant review for specific safety issues. For example, OSHA has strict requirements for maintaining safe levels of asbestos to prevent employee exposure. Failing to follow these standards can place your company at risk of costly lawsuits; for more information, contact a mesothelioma lawyer. The specifics of your industry, location, procedures and equipment may necessitate other types of safety inspections in addition to those covered in standard checklists.
Empower Safety Managers with Training
To implement safety policies and reviews, safety managers should be equipped with adequate training. This should include training to improve their own safety knowledge along with training to teach workers safety principles. For example, holding a seminar on how to use a specific type of safety equipment can help ensure that workers know the correct way to implement your safety policies and procedures.
An effective training program should aim to fill in safety gaps that your inspections have identified. For best results, work toward achieving specific, measurable improvements. For instance, you might set a goal of reducing the number of annual overexertion injuries at your facility. Select training programs that help you achieve such goals.
For managers and workers to get the most out of training, teaching sessions should include hands-on learning that demonstrates how to actually apply safety skills to routine tasks. Following safety training, solicit feedback from supervisors and employees so you can make adjustments to improve the quality of your program.