The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has created guidelines for small business owners to aid them in creating and benefiting from a safety program. Although voluntary, these guidelines represent OSHA’s policy on what every worksite should have in place to protect workers from occupational hazards. The guidelines are based heavily on OSHA’s experience with the Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP). These voluntary programs are designed to recognize and promote effective safety and health management as the best means of ensuring a safe and healthy workplace.

A small business owner (SBO) may have inherent advantages over a larger corporation when it comes to safety. They generally have closer contact with their workers and a reduced worker turnover. They probably have already developed a personal relationship of loyalty and cooperation that can be built upon very easily. These advantages may not only increase the owners’ concern for their workers, but also may make it easier to get their help. This handout is the first of four outlining the creation and implementation of a safety program for a SBO.

The following are suggestions for business owners to help them create a viable small business safety program:

  • Post your own policy on the importance of worker safety and health next to the OSHA workplace poster where all workers can see it.
  • Hold a meeting with all your workers to communicate that policy to them and to discuss your objectives for safety and health for the rest of the year. (These objectives will result from the decisions you make about changes you think are needed.)
  • Make sure that support from the top is visible by taking an active part, personally, in the activities that are part of your safety and health program. For example, personally review all inspection and accident reports to ensure follow-up when needed.
  • Ensure that you, your managers, and supervisors follow all safety requirements that workers must follow, even if you are only in their areas briefly. If, for instance, you require a hard hat, safety glasses, and/or safety shoes in an area, wear them yourself when you are in that area.
  • Use your workers’ special knowledge and help them buy into the program by having them make inspections, put on safety training, or help investigate accidents.
  • Make clear assignments of responsibility for every part of the program that you develop.
  • Make certain all employees understand their responsibilities – the more people involved the better. A good rule of thumb is to assign safety and health responsibilities in the same way you assign production responsibilities.
  • Make it a special part of everyone’s job to operate safely. That way, as you grow and delegate production responsibilities more widely, you will commit safety and health responsibilities with them.
  • Give those with responsibility enough people, on-the-clock time, training, money, and authority to get the job done.
  • Don’t forget about it after you make assignments; make sure, personally, that the job gets done. Recognize and reward those who do well, and correct those who don’t.
  • Take time, at least annually, to review what you have accomplished against what you set as your objectives and decide if you need new objectives or program revisions to get where you want to be.

COPYRIGHT ©2005, ISO Services Properties, Inc.