In conducting OSHA training, I’ve found a common misconception about what a safety program policy is. When asked, attendees have repeated company mission or value statements. Some don’t know what it is, or if their company even has one.

A policy statement by definition is an expectation with a consequence attached; in other words, a “work safe or else” message. A policy needs to be all inclusive and relate to a company’s safety program which has specific job processes in place and identified personal protective equipment (PPE) required.

All employees will follow all safety and health procedures, including the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) when required. Failure to do so will result in disciplinary action up to and including verbal warning, written warning and suspension.

What needs to come after this is the “how”

An effective safety program includes four elements: management leadership and employee involvement; worksite analysis; hazard prevention and controls; and training.

  • Focus on employees’ behavior, encouraging them to do the right thing;
  • Establish a safety committee and having safety meetings;
  • Identify how the organization will provide a safe environment by using a variety of methods to find and fix hazards (on-site inspections, job hazard analysis, preventive maintenance, accident investigation); and
  • Initial and ongoing safety training.

Without the foundational policy, a company lacks a key element needed to build and maintain a strong safety program.