By Patti Maluchnik, CIC, CBIA, Account Executive
Georgetown Insurance Service, Inc.
Even in today’s world, many companies still don’t have a workplace safety manual. And if they do, it’s usually outdated or too long and confusing. In the construction industry, a job can be completely shut down if OSHA requirements aren’t closely followed. Not only can this bring the project to a halt, it also opens the company up to penalties and other liabilities. To maintain a safe work environment, it’s critical that employees know their rights and what to do should they see safety violations occur.
Topics to include
OSHA doesn’t provide an employee manual—it simply tells you what needs to be included. So, it’s up to you as the employer to build a manual that includes this critical OSHA information and other safety procedures so that workers easily know their rights. Here’s what yours should include:
- Company rules
These are more generalized rules that apply to all employees. Examples include wearing appropriate personal protection equipment (PPE) when and where required, in addition to who is responsible for purchasing specific pieces of PPE. What does the company provide and what must be purchased by the employee? This section should also include general safe work practices and safe job procedures in the workplace, maintaining good housekeeping, zero tolerance for vandalism or theft, etc.
- Cell phone usage
Cell phones are a valuable tool for the construction industry. However, they can also be more of a threat than a benefit by distracting workers from potential hazards and safety procedures. While there is no official OSHA regulation against the use of cell phones (other than when operating cranes and derricks), it’s important to include information about appropriate and inappropriate uses for cell phones on the jobsite.
- Driver safety
Your employees are your most valuable assets. Crashes on and off the job have long-lasting financial and psychological effects on employees and their families, coworkers and employers. Your safety manual must outline work-related safe driving practices and what to do in the event of an accident. It should also define driver eligibility requirements and list both minor and major driving violations.
- Violation and accident reporting
Your employees need to know what to do if they spot a safety violation or other dangerous situation on the job, and how they can go about reporting it. Who should they inform—the foreman, safety, superintendent, etc.? It’s also critical that your employees know that the company maintains their anonymity when reporting a violation. If they have a fear of retaliation, they won’t be forthcoming when reporting hazardous situations.
Also, if an accident does occur, how can your employee report it? Just like reporting a safety violation, employees need to know the exact process and chain of command for reporting an injury or accident that occurred on the job.
- Drug policy
A drug policy is essential to your employee safety manual. OSHA is a federal agency. So even while many states have legalized medical marijuana, it remains illegal at the federal level. Construction workers operate dangerous equipment daily and being under the influence of a substance (even medical marijuana) is not an option—your employees must always be in the right state of mind.
- Workplace violence and conflict resolution
Workplace violence is a major concern for many employers. Even though employee manuals can’t necessarily prevent workplace violence, they should outline the avenues employees have for reporting such incidents and provide guidance on how to respond when violence is suspected, or someone feels threatened.
Other safety resources
Employers are required to display a poster prepared by OSHA that informs workers of the protections afforded them under the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act. The poster must be displayed in a conspicuous place where all employees can see it. Since construction employees are often working at various locations and jobsites, it’s important to have these posters hung in job trailers and other central locations.
Weekly and monthly safety meetings or “toolbox talks” are essential to keeping a safe work environment. These can be done in the main office and on jobsites to ensure all employees are able to participate. Safety meetings and “toolbox talks” need to be mandatory for employees. In these meetings, you can address a variety of safety topics such as fire safety, electrical safety, workplace injuries, cell phone best practices, proper PPE usage, etc.
OSHA also offers numerous training resources for employees. Within your company’s safety manual, you can link directly to OSHA resources, giving your employees direct access to the rules and regulations. Employers should also take advantage of OSHA training courses that keep employees up to date on the latest guidelines.
Lastly, OSHA releases new regulations often so it’s crucial to continuously update your company’s employee safety manual. Insurance companies communicate with business owners frequently and will ask for a copy of your most recent employee safety manual. It’s imperative to have this in place to ensure proper safety on the job and help keep your insurance rates down.
If you have any questions about what to include in your company’s employee safety manual, be sure to reach out to your insurance agent for assistance.
Have questions about your personal or commercial insurance? Contact us to speak with a licensed insurance professional.