How are OSHA Regulations Impacting Company Culture?
Regulations and standards aren’t just designed to tell you what to do. They’re guidelines for shaping the way your organization as a whole operates, thus shaping your company culture. The latest standards from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) put practical measures in place to improve safety, but also engrain safety as a priority within company culture.
Latest OSHA Regulation Updates
On January 1, 2017, OSHA issued its final rule to improve tracking of workplace injuries and illnesses. Certain employers—companies with 250+ employees in regulated industries or with 20-249 employees in high-risk industries—are now required to document and electronically submit injury and illness data. The required information varies depending on company size and industry, but it is the same information required on their onsite OSHA forms, but now submitted electronically for analysis and public disclosure.
The update also includes advanced anti-retaliation protections. This rule stops employers from discouraging their employees from reporting incidents. Additionally, employers must inform their employees of their right to report without retaliation, which is a task as simple as posting the already-required OSHA poster. There are also further clarifications about the reporting process: it must be simple enough as to not deter or discourage employees from reporting.
This rule is important because making injury and illness information public will urge employers to focus on safety. Paying more attention to safety saves lives and reduces bottom line costs associated with incidents. It also improves the accuracy of data by ensuring workers will not fear retaliation for reporting injuries or illnesses.
Another recent update from OSHA was the final rule on slip, trip and fall hazard protection. At the end of 2016, the final rule on walking-working surfaces, personal protective equipment and fall protective systems. Now, employers select the fall protection system that works best for them, following these specific changes:
- Workers are permitted to use a rope decent system up to 300ft above a lower level.
- Body belts are prohibited as part of a personal fall protection system.
- Requirements are stricter for training on personal fall protection and equipment.
OSHA estimates that these changes can prevent up to 29 fatalities and more than 5,800 injuries annually.
Impact on Company Culture
Aside from preventing injuries and saving lives, these OSHA updates have a strong impact on re-shaping company culture:
1. Increased emphasis on safety
With OSHA putting more emphasis on safety, company cultures are beginning to reflect that. Making injury and illness data public holds employers accountable on a global scale. Employees also have less fear about reporting unsafe conditions, which gives a more accurate picture of what is going on in the company and what improvements can be made.
2. Proactive approach to safety
Increasing the emphasis on safety allows employers to adopt a proactive approach to safety and incident management. Organizations see best results when they invest time and effort in the following:
- Risk Tools. Managing risk is essential for preventing incidents. Risk tools help quantify risk so they can be measured against each other and evaluated for improvement. The risk matrix, bowtie model and decision tree are commonly used among EHS professionals.
- Job Safety Analysis (JSA). JSA identifies potential hazards throughout each step of a job procedure. Using risk to evaluate each step, you can implement controls or train employees to reduce the risk of incident.
- Other Leading Indicators. Other important metrics include near-miss reports, non-compliances and organizational hazards. Combining these with new approaches such as behavior-based safety and other predictive analysis, you can use trends and data from previous incidents to prevent new ones.
- Employee Training. Keeping employees safe starts with keeping them informed. Automatically distributing, tracking and enforcing employee training will make sure everyone receives the same training that meets your standards and regulations.
This approach emphasizes incidents before they happen, creating a safer and more productive workplace.
3. Leadership mindset change
The shift in company culture results in true safety leadership, where safety is a priority over production or profit. This is an environment that encourages openness—rather than rewarding zero incidents (which may deter employees from reporting or employers from documenting incidents), they reward the accurate reporting and correcting of unsafe conditions or incidents. These types of environments see safety as a strategic investment rather than a burdensome cost.
The latest updates to OSHA regulations aren’t so much requirements for action as guidelines for shifts in mindset. Once leaders adopt these changes, they can see changes in overall company culture. The newest OSHA guidelines promote safety as an investment and a priority, and once that is adopted company-wide, the workplace will be safer and more productive.