Safety is more than just compliance with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations and other government rules. It’s a state of mind that must permeate the entire company, including office and field personnel, management and hourly employees. OSHA is a government agency consisting of inspectors responsible for the health and safety of over 130 million workers. It’s impossible to inspect every job site, which is why it’s imperative that employers take the steps necessary to ensure the safety of their workers. Safety Manuals are a must have for every industrial site – not only does it provide workers with a comprehensive guide to protecting themselves against potential hazards on site, but also can be used by employers to challenge possible OSHA Penalties.
If OSHA shows up to your jobsite to conduct an inspection, the inspector will ask for the written safety policy and all documentation of training, inspections and discipline. The reason they are asking for this documentation is to determine if you have the proper safety protocols in place, and you have proof that employees are properly trained. This documentation becomes important after the inspection when a company can challenge or attempt to mitigate any possible penalties.
Having a credible safety manual for your jobsite can be used to prevent or contest safety citations from OSHA. In legal terms you have “negating defenses” and “employee misconduct defense” to argue any possible OSHA citations. The law defines a negating defense as, “A defendant’s outright denial of the plaintiff’s allegations without there being any additional facts pleaded by way of avoidance. A defense is a denial, or answer, or plea in opposition to the truth or validity of a claim by a plaintiff”.
The “employee misconduct” defense is the most important of all substantive defenses. Its basic premise is that it would be unfair to penalize an employer for conditions caused by an employee that were unpreventable and not likely to recur. In order for this defense to work, the employer needs to prove that the violation occurred. Also, the employer must be able to prove that he has a specific program for instructing employees in safe work practices. This is where having a Safety Manual in place can really benefit the employer. The burden is upon the employer to establish that the safety program exists and is enforced.
So, if an employee is spotted performing an unsafe action and a violation has been assessed, the inspector can look at the safety manual and training documents and ask:
● Is there is a system in place?
● Are employees trained in it?
● Do you inspect the worksite and enforce the policy?
If the inspector cites an employer for a worker not wearing proper fall protection, the company can challenge it with a policy stating that all employees must wear fall protection when working at heights over 6 feet, evidence that employees are trained to know it’s a requirement, and evidence of inspections to enforce the policy with discipline when an employee doesn’t follow it. In the end it’s all about keeping the worker safe, and the most consistent method in achieving this goal is to hire a dedicated safety supervisor for your jobsite. They have the ability to enforce the safety standards outlined in the safety manuals, and minimize the chances of your jobsite receiving a violation because of employee misconduct.