Creating and Maintaining a Safety Policy

A well-crafted safety policy is essential to any business, and this includes an annual review with updates, if necessary. As technology, workflow, and processes evolve, your workplace safety policy must be adapted to meet changing needs. However, having a safety policy isn’t enough – once yours has been drafted, reviewed, and approved, it also must be shared with and accessible to every employee at any time.


Every person has a different view of what constitutes a hazard and how it should be managed. It can be tricky to teach your employees what a hazard is, because what seems hazardous to one person might not seem so to another, unless it’s a particularly obvious or egregious danger. Therefore, because people respond to incidents differently, the only way to manage safety for your employees is to have actual policies that specify (1) how to evaluate a hazard; (2) implement controls; and (3) how they will be held accountable for following the proscribed controls. This way, you set the standard for what is a hazard and how employees must respond. The less you can leave up to interpretation, the more you can control hazards and mitigate the results.


OSHA offers a workplace program that sets forth how you can begin to create a safety policy and how it can be effectively implemented.


1. Perform a worksite analysis. The Cove Risk safety team is available to help you evaluate your worksite and to survey hazards that exist or could develop. The team can also visit your site when you change procedures or equipment in order to determine whether new hazards are present.


2. Establish a plan. Before you begin to craft policies, these are points to consider:

  • Hazard prevention and control: Even after you’ve had the Cove Risk safety team in to evaluate and make recommendations, it can be helpful to consult with your own employees to determine where the risks lie. Sometimes, it’s the individuals with “boots on the ground” who are most in tune with the hazards that you might not realize exist.
  • Documentation: OSHA requires strict recordkeeping and recording of work-related injuries or illnesses. Your safety policy must include procedures for incident reports. The policy should include what injuries are included (which would be anything other than basic first aid), who writes the reports, where they are stored, where they are posted, and who is in charge of maintaining those records.
  • Training for employees, supervisors, and management: Training is crucial so that employees understand the hazards, but also so that they know the policies for handling them. Again, this isn’t about whether the individual believes that something is hazardous – it’s a set of hazards identified by management, procedures in place to avoid them, and how to control an issue if one arises.

The second aspect to training is enforcement. Employees must understand that policies are to be followed and that there are consequences if they are not. By the same token, your supervisors and managers must understand the hierarchy of enforcement; they need to know when and how to hold an employee accountable (in addition to their own accountability) for safety and health responsibilities.


3. Designate responsibility. If you’re the owner of a small business, you might be the most appropriate person to manage safety and health. However, if your business has multiple sites, shifts, or other circumstances that make it hard for you to be personally able to successfully take on this very important role, you need to delegate to trusted staff. If you have site managers, shift managers, or others in supervisory roles, those would be the most logical individuals for this task. Make sure those people know the policies inside and out, are prepared to enforce them, and are comfortable with assigning accountability when necessary.


4. Do your “housekeeping”. Most people work best in an uncluttered workspace; less physical clutter can help keep the mind uncluttered, as well. Set a cleanup schedule; at specific times, give employees (or certain employees) these tasks:

  • Get rid of unnecessary items.
  • Make sure waste containers are appropriate and regularly emptied.
  • Make sure flammables are stored appropriately.
  • Check exits to be sure they are not blocked or unsafe.
  • Make sure aisles and passageways are clearly marked and free of debris.
  • Make sure lighting is adequate and that stairs, parking areas, etc. meet OSHA requirements.

Make this part of the safety plan. A monthly, bi-monthly, semi-annual, or other scheduled cleanup can be efficient and effective for keeping the premises safe.


5. Impress upon your employees the importance of following safety policy. You can have the most comprehensive safety plan on the planet, but it will do no good unless you create a culture of safety for your employees.


Every workplace is different; you must adapt your specific safety plan to the needs of your business. Regardless of what situations are present in your industry, a transparent safety policy and frequent training is crucial for reducing risk.