A health and safety program is a definite plan of action designed to prevent accidents and occupational diseases. Some form of a program is required under occupational health and safety legislation in most Canadian jurisdictions. A health and safety program must include the elements required by the health and safety legislation as a minimum.
Because organizations differ, a program developed for one organization cannot necessarily be expected to meet the needs of another. This document summarizes the general elements of a health and safety program. This should help smaller organizations to develop programs to deal with their specific needs. Because many small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) lack the resources of larger organizations, it is even more vital that SMEs involve all employees in health and safety activities. The more comprehensive the program is, the more employee involvement can be expected.
An organization's occupational health and safety policy is a statement of principles and general rules that serve as guides for action. Senior management must be committed to ensuring that the policy is carried out with no exceptions. The health and safety policy should have the same importance as the other policies of the organization.
The policy statement can be brief, but it should mention:
The policy should be:
The following is an example of an occupational health and safety policy statement:
To all employees January 1, 1998
At ABC Transport the safety and health of our employees comes first. Management is committed to doing everything possible to prevent injuries and to maintain a healthy environment.
To this end:
1) all supervisors are responsible for ensuring that their employees are trained in approved work procedures to obtain optimal output without accidents and injuries and to ensure that employees follow safe work methods and all related regulations;
2) all personnel are required to support the OSH program and make safety and health a part of their daily routine and to ensure that they are following safe work methods and relevant regulations;
3) all personnel will be held accountable for implementing this program; and
4) all relevant laws and regulations are incorporated in our program as minimum standards
Bud Hall, President
Source: An OSH Program in Your Work Place. Ottawa: Human Resources Development Canada, 1994.
While organizations will have different needs and scope for specific elements required in their health and safety program, the following basic items should be considered in each case:
Health and safety is the joint responsibility of management and workers. Management is accountable for non-compliance to health and safety legislation. All health and safety activities are based on specific individual responsibilities, most of which can be found in the pertinent legislation. However, often these duties are not well known. This situation can be improved by including details of specific individual responsibilities in the safety program.
Responsibility may be defined as an individual's obligation to carry out assigned duties. Authority implies the right to make decisions and the power to direct others. Responsibility and authority can be delegated to subordinates, giving them the right to act for superiors. It is important to note that, while some responsibilities can be delegated, the superior remains accountable for seeing that they are carried out.
Individual responsibilities apply to every employee in the workplace, including the Chief Executive Officer. When a safety coordinator has been appointed, it is best to spell out his/her responsibilities as well. All employees will then know exactly what is expected of each individual in health and safety terms.
To fulfil their individual responsibilities, the people must:
Once all these criteria have been met, safety performance can be assessed by each individual's supervisor on an equal basis with other key job elements. Health and safety is not just an extra part of an employee's job: it is an integral, full-time component of each individual's responsibilities.
Examples of responsibilities of workers include:
Examples of responsibilities of first-line supervisors include:
Examples of responsibilities of management include:
Examples of responsibilities of safety coordinators include:
An effective safety program needs the cooperative involvement of all employees. An occupational health and safety committee is a forum for cooperative involvement of employees representing both labour and management. Such committees are statutory requirements for organizations of a specified minimum size in most Canadian jurisdictions. The responsibilities of members are generally spelled out in the health and safety legislation across Canada.
A joint health and safety committee brings together labour's in-depth, practical knowledge of specific jobs and management's larger overview of job interrelationships, general company policies and procedures. This team can be more effective in solving health and safety problems than a single individual.
To function properly, the committee needs an appropriate structure, a clear statement of purpose and duties, and standard procedures for meetings. An employer does this by establishing terms of reference for the committee and by allocating adequate resources.
Essentially, any documentation that helps establish a joint health and safety committee and its role in an organization can be considered a "terms of reference". The employer must establish a committee is organized and operates in compliance with the law, is effective, involves the widest range of employees, and provides resources (e.g., time, money, meeting rooms) so the committee can do it's work. These requirements are known as "terms of reference". Common terms of reference include:
Each organization should set up their own terms of reference. More information is available in the Health and Safety Committee documents listed below:
Once the committee members have been chosen, the committee should participate in decisions on the details of its structure, duties, and procedures. An early key decision that should be made is the question of reporting structure responsibility.
In a general sense, each committee member is responsible to the chairperson(s), and the committee as a whole to all employees for fulfilling their duties. However, if prompt follow-up to recommendations is to be expected, one individual should be named as a person in authority. The best choice is usually a member of senior management in the line organization. This individual will have sufficient authority to be able to take or expedite direct action as required.
The joint occupational health and safety committee members should be active participants in the development, implementation, and monitoring of all phases of the health and safety program.
Governmental health and safety regulations represent minimum requirements. In almost all cases, organizations will have to augment these regulations with specific rules. These rules must be followed to achieve a healthful and safe workplace.
We need rules--to protect the health and safety of workers--but there are dangers in having either too few or too many rules. Too few rules may be interpreted as a sign that health and safety are not important, or that common sense is all that is required to achieve them. Too many rules may be seen as not treating employees as thinking adults and makes enforcement of all rules less likely. Following are some guidelines for establishing rules:
Compliance with health and safety rules should be considered a condition of employment. Rules must be explained to new employees when they start work or if they are transferred or retrained. After a suitable interval, these employees should be briefed to ensure they understand the rules applicable to their work.
The employer must establish procedures for dealing with repeat rule violators. Supervisors are responsible for correcting unsafe acts, such as a breach of rules, and they must be supported in this duty. Points that should be considered in establishing procedures on this issue are:
Correct work procedures are the safest way of doing a job, job instruction, monitoring performance, and accident investigation.
Job safety analysis (JSA), also known as "job hazard analysis", is the first step in developing the correct procedure. In this analysis, each task of a specific job is examined to identify hazards and to determine the safest way to do the job. Job safety analysis involves the following steps:
1. select the job
2. break down the job into a sequence of steps
3. identify the hazards
4. define preventive measures
The analysis should be conducted on all critical tasks or jobs as a first priority. Critical jobs include:
Job safety analysis is generally carried out by observing a worker doing the job. Members of the joint health and safety committee should participate in this process. The reason for the exercise must be clearly explained to the worker, emphasizing that the job, not the individual, is being studied. Another approach, useful in the analysis of infrequently-performed or new jobs, is group discussion.
A work procedure may consist of more than one specific task. In such cases, each separate task should be analyzed to complete a job safety analysis for that procedure. The final version of the correct work procedure should be presented in a narrative style format that outlines the correct way to do the job in a step-by-step outline. The steps are described in positive terms, pointing out the reasons why they are to be done in this way. Reference may be made to applicable rules and regulations and to the personal protective equipment required, if any. Employees who carry out the tasks should be consulted in developing the procedure.
Job Safety Analysis (JSA) Worksheet
Operation: Road repair
Job: Pavement repair
|Task||Who does it||Hazards||How to prevent injury/accident|
|Operating jack-hammer||Joe Doe||- noise |
|- ear protectors |
- vibration absorbing gloves
OH&S Act and Regulations ___________________________
(refer to the act and regulations in your jurisdiction)
Developed by: _____________________________________
Health and safety education should start with employee orientation when an employee joins the organization or is transferred to a new job. It has been found that inexperienced workers, in general, are involved in accidents at a higher rate than others. While experience can only be gained through time, both health and safety education and job skills training can be used to improve this record. Orientation sessions normally cover such items as explanation of the function of the work unit, organizational relationships, administrative arrangements, and miscellaneous policies and rules.
Items related to health and safety that should be included are:
A new employee can be expected to absorb only a certain amount of information in the first few days. A brochure outlining the points covered in the orientation sessions is useful as a handout to employees. It also serves as a checklist for the person conducting the orientation. A buddy system is a useful follow-up to the initial orientation. This allows for on-the-job reinforcement of the information presented to the new employee. This process promotes the safety awareness of the experienced workers who are the "buddies".
New, inexperienced or transferred employees should be encouraged to ask questions at any time when doubt exists as to correct procedures. The new employee orientation may include a set of questions, such as the following:
Soon after the orientation sessions, employees should be assessed on their understanding of the items discussed. In this way, both the quality of training and the level of understanding can be evaluated.
The objective of training is to ease the implementation of health and safety policies into specific job practices and to raise awareness and skill levels to an acceptable standard. While all employees can benefit from health and safety training, special attention should be given to the training of supervisors, trainers, and workers. Circumstances in Canadian jurisdictions are changing: in some places, employees and supervisors directly responsible for health and safety matters need to have certification, as required by the law.
Occasions when employee training may be required are:
The National Safety Council in the United States suggests that the following topics be included in supervisory safety training:
The supervisor is generally responsible for much of the training of workers. This duty, however, is often delegated to an experienced worker. To be an effective instructor, an instructor should:
All instructors should be taught how to proceed when training a new or inexperienced employee:
Documented correct work procedures are an invaluable aid in job skills training. External sources for training assistance are industry associations, unions, government agencies, and professional consultants.
Workplace inspections help to identify existing hazards so that appropriate corrective action can be taken. Health and safety legislation requires workplace inspections as a proactive action to ensure workplace health and safety. Some jurisdictions provide guidelines for doing regular workplace inspections.
Supervisors and workers are responsible for reporting and taking action on unsafe conditions and acts as they are encountered. The frequency of planned formal inspections may be set out in legislation. Records of previous accidents and the potential for serious accidents and injuries are factors to be included when determining if more frequent inspections are needed.
Joint health and safety committee members are obvious choices of personnel to carry out formal inspections, especially if they have received training or certification. Other criteria for selecting the inspection team are:
Pre-planning any inspection is always worthwhile. Documents, such as previous inspections, accident investigations, maintenance reports, and safety committee minutes, should be consulted. If a checklist is to be used, it should be reviewed and changed to meet specific needs of the workplace.
Checklists are useful aids in that they help ensure that no items are overlooked in an inspection. One type of checklist is the "critical parts inventory". This inventory itemizes parts and items that may result in a serious accident if they fail. While many ready-made checklists are available in safety literature, it is best to adapt these to local conditions. The joint health and safety committee should participate in the preparation of these tailor-made checklists.
Sample Inspection List
|Yes = Satisfactory |
No = Unsatisfactory, needs attention
|Yes||No||Safe Work Practices||Yes||No||Fire Protection|
|Use of machine guards |
Proper manual lifting
Smoking only in safe, designated areas
Proper use of air hoses
|Fire extinguishers |
Storage of flammable materials
|Use of Personal Protective Equipment||Tools and Machinery|
|Eye/face protection |
|Lawn mowers |
Belts, pulleys, gears, shafts
Oiling, cleaning, adjusting
Maintenance, oil leakage
|Proper storage areas |
Proper storage of flammable material
(oily/greasy rags, etc.)
Proper disposal of waste
Floors (clean, dry, uncluttered)
Maintenance of yards, parking lots
|First aid kits in rooms/vehicles |
Trained first aid providers
Emergency numbers posted
All injuries reported
During the actual inspection, both work conditions and procedures should be observed. If a hazard that poses an immediate threat is discovered, preventive action must be taken right away, not after the inspection. Notes are made, specifying details of the hazard, including its exact location. When completing the inspection report, it is a good idea to classify each hazard by degree of possible consequences (for example: A = major, B = serious, C = minor). In this way, priorities for remedial action are established.
Workplace Inspection Report
Department/Areas covered _________________________________
Date of Inspection ________________________________________
Time of Inspection ________________________________________
|Analysis and comments:|
Priority Codes: A - do immediately; B - do within 3 days; C - do within 2 weeks; D - other
Inspections serve a useful purpose only if remedial action is taken to correct shortcomings. Causes, not symptoms alone, must be rectified. Corrective action should be taken immediately, with the emphasis on engineering controls, management failures, or need for worker education, whatever applies.
Occupational health and safety legislation in all Canadian jurisdictions requires that injuries and certain categories of accidents must be reported. There may be minimum legal requirements for their investigation. Realizing the value in so doing, many organizations investigate lesser accidents (where damage did not involve injuries) and "near misses." The health and safety program should specify:
Accidents and incidents are investigated so that measures can be taken to prevent a recurrence of similar events. Investigation represents an "after-the-fact" response for any particular mishap. However, a thorough investigation may uncover hazards or problems that can be eliminated "before-the-fact" for the future. After causes have been determined, prompt follow-up action is required to achieve the purpose of the investigation.
Emergency procedures are plans for dealing with emergencies such as fires, explosions, major releases of hazardous materials, violent occurrences, or natural hazards. When such events occur, the urgent need for rapid decisions, shortage of time, lack of resources, and trained personnel can lead to chaos.
The objective of the plan is to prevent or minimize fatalities, injuries, and damage. The organization and procedures for handling these sudden and unexpected situations must be clearly defined.
The development of the plan follows a logical sequence.
Communication, training, and periodic drills are required to ensure adequate performance when the plan must be implemented.
First aid facilities and the provision of medical aid is generally prescribed under health and safety legislation or workers' compensation legislation. The OSH program must include the following information:
A policy on return to work after a lost-time accident might appropriately be included in this section of the program. The fact that "light duties" or "modified work" is a controversial issue is all the more reason for the organization to agree on a clear policy that is known by all employees. In some jurisdictions, modified work rules are covered by legislation.
In general, if injured workers are offered alternative employment:
Under no circumstances should the reduction of severity ratings be a reason for initiating a "modified work" program.
Once the health and safety program has been set in place and the program appears to be running smoothly, effort is still required to maintain enthusiasm and interest. Studies have shown that the effectiveness of health and safety educational techniques depends largely on how much importance management is seen to place on health and safety. Where management, by its actions, has shown that they are sincerely concerned, interest in the program can be maintained at a high level. Accountability for individual performance is a key motivator.
Safety awareness can be enhanced by:
The safety incentive program is probably the most controversial. Most incentive programs are based on the rationale that anything that raises safety awareness is worthwhile. However, there are those who do not share this viewpoint. They maintain that these programs lead to under-reporting of accidents and promoting of the "walking wounded" syndrome. Programs must not encourage workers to remain at work when doing so is unsafe for them due to their physical condition. Therefore, when an incentive program is launched, strict controls must be maintained to prevent this from happening. The joint health and safety committee can play a leading role in activities designed to promote the program and participation of all employees.
The elements of OH&S programs discussed so far apply to all basic health and safety programs. In addition, specific items may be needed to address workplace specific activities. Examples of such items are:
A good health and safety program provides a clear set of guidelines for activities that, if followed rigorously, will reduce accidents and cases of occupational disease. The key to success is the manner in which the program is implemented and maintained.
Senior management must demonstrate commitment and support the program by:
The program must be communicated to all employees. Special emphasis should be given to new workers, newly appointed supervisors, and new members of the joint health and safety committee. Revisions to policies and procedures should be publicized. The program should be available in a single written document. However, if separate manuals have been developed for various elements, such as accident investigation procedures, their use should be referred to in the main document.
Accident frequency and severity rates are an inadequate measures for evaluating the effectiveness of a health and safety program. Cases of occupational disease are under-reported in these statistics. The emphasis is usually on injury-producing accidents alone, not all accidents. Since accidents are rare events, in small organizations the basis for comparison may be limited, especially in small organizations. Chance is a factor both in frequency and severity.
Rather than relying solely on injury rates, or after-the-event measures, it is desirable to use an audit as a before-the-fact measure of the effectiveness of an OH&S program. An audit uses a checklist in which each element is subdivided into a series of questions. Each question is given a weighting factor depending on its importance. Records, observations, interviews, and questionnaires are used to evaluate performance for each sub-element.
A number of audit systems are available. The number of elements considered range from ten (Labour Program, HRDC) to thirty (British Safety Council). In many of these ready-made audit systems, the standards are based on what leading organizations have determined to be the acceptable levels of performance.
Annual audits appear to be the norm, but reviewing critical elements in the program more frequently may be advisable. The audit team, which should include representation from the joint health and safety committee, must receive appropriate training in audit procedures.
The audit identifies weaknesses in the health and safety program. Little is achieved unless a procedure is established to ensure prompt follow-up on deficiencies. This procedure should include provision for target dates for remedial action and checks to confirm completion.
Document last updated on January 3, 2007