The ‘Common Sense’ of Workplace Safety

| OSHA, USF Safety Florida

Written by Keith Brown USF SafetyFlorida Safety Supervisor

When evaluating the effectiveness of an employer’s workplace safety and health management system, I’ll occasionally ask, “What’s your approach to managing safety in your establishment?” Often the response is something along the line of, “We take the common sense approach to managing workplace safety.”

Over time, I’ve found this alludes to not having any formal safety management plan in place, and solely relying on employees to stay safe, productive, and profitable. Common sense should tell you, that in workplaces across Florida, that’s just not common.

A closer look at the “Common Sense” approach reveals two major deficiencies:

  1. Knowledge Gaps – Naturally, the knowledge and understanding of the operating environment will vary throughout your workforce. Without properly and fully evaluating and training employees to recognize the hazards present in the operating environment from both safety and health perspectives, serious hazards may be overlooked. This can be overcome by having a trained and experienced industrial safety and health professional conduct a baseline hazard survey at least every five years or during major changes in equipment and/or processes. While it’s fine to have baseline hazard surveys conducted by qualified in-house personnel, it’s more advantageous to have them performed by an independent third party such as a loss control representative from the workers’ compensation insurance provider, private industrial safety and health consultant, or even the USF SafetyFlorida Consultation Program. These “outside sets of eyes” will often identify issues that may be inadvertently and routinely overlooked by in-house personnel, thus increasing the knowledge of the establishment’s staff and management.
  2. Increased Risk Exposure – Under this approach, preventable hazards can easily slip under the radar and expose employees to risk of significant injury and/or death. Utilizing a preemptive approach affords them the time to take more practical measures to eliminate potential hazards, and it pays off! Companies that have been recognized for maintaining exemplary safety and health management systems all experience similar benefits, lower incident rates, and workers’ compensation premiums below that of their industry peers.

While I recognize common sense is important, it really should not be the foundation of an effective safety and health management system. Workplace safety and health is best managed with the development and implementation of a plan, where safety and health have been placed among the top of the company’s priorities for success. The plan should focus on a proactive approach to the prevention and control of hazards, as well as work-related injuries and illnesses through management commitment, employee participation, workplace hazard analysis, and training of managers and employees in their respective responsibilities.

For additional information about safety and health programs and recommended practices, tools to help you implement them, and related topics, visit the “OSHA Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs” web page at https://www.osha.gov/shpguidelines/.This web page includes links to many tools and resources developed by OSHA and others that can help employers and workers implement effective safety and health programs using these recommended practices.

If your company currently is operating without a plan, the USF SafetyFlorida Consultation Program can help. In a few simple steps, you can create and download an OSHA-compliant safety and health management plan for your business using our SafetyWriter tool. The plan can be easily modified to reflect your company’s specific needs and serves as a great starting point for the implementation of an effective safety and health management system that can grow with your company. For more information on establishing a safety and health management system or to create a customized safety and health plan for your business using our free SafetyWriter tool, please visit  www.usfsafetyflorida.com or call toll-free (866) 273-1105.

Keith Brown
Safety Supervisor
USF SafetyFlorida Consultation Program