Written by Steve Hudgik February 6th 2013
An accident prevention plan is a proactive approach to finding and eliminating workplace hazards before someone is injured. Many workplaces have created an accident prevention plan as a part of OSHA's VPP and SHARP cooperative programs. The results have not only been a dramatic decrease in workplace injuries, but in many cases there is also a transformed workplace culture that results in higher productivity, improved quality, reduced turnover, lower costs, and greater employee job satisfaction.
A workplace accident prevention plan is required or encouraged by 34 states. OSHA recommends that every workplace have an accident prevention plan.
OSHA believes that an accident prevention plan is the foundation for changing the workplace culture in ways that result in proactive identification and control of hazards, and that this leads to a significantly improved workplace health and safety environment. The creation of an accident prevention program will result in employees having fewer injuries, illnesses and fatalities resulting from workplace causes. In addition, compliance with OSHA standards and other regulations will improve.
Successful accident prevention plans include common sense elements that focus on finding all hazards in the workplace and developing a plan for preventing and controlling those hazards.
An accident prevention plan should be all inclusive, covering anything that negatively impacts safety or health in the workplace. That means that all physical, biological, environmental and mental hazards should be addressed. For example, there may be noise in the workplace that is not of sufficient intensity to cause hearing damage, but it is causing stress. That is a hazard that needs to be covered in the accident prevention plan.
The common factors among successful accident prevention plans include:
Management leadership and active worker participation in identifying hazards are essential to ensuring all hazards are identified and addressed. Management provides the resources and sets the example that creates a safety culture. The people who are doing the work will be the ones most familiar with potential hazards and they are the ones who can report near miss accidents – an important source of information needed for addressing workplace hazards. In addition, people are much more likely to embrace an accident prevention plan they helped to create, rather than one that is imposed on them.
A Job Hazard Assessment (JHA) is a common approach to hazard identification and assessment. It involves going through every job, step-by-step, and identifying potential safety and health hazards at each step.
Hazard prevention and control involves:
Once hazards are identified, those that are not eliminated through engineering controls need to have control or protective measures used. Employees need to be trained so that the know about the hazards and how they are protected from those hazards. In addition, training about the accident prevention plan should be included so that employees will know how the plan works and what they can do to contribute to the success of the accident prevention plan.
The final step is to evaluate the accident prevention plan and look for ways to improve it. This may involve going back to the beginning and re-evaluating each job for hazards and then addressing those hazards. An accident prevention plan should include ongoing and active re-evaluation. In particular, conduct a job hazard analysis any time there has been a major change in the workplace, including both the addition or removal of equipment.
For a small business establishing an accident prevention plan may seem like an overwhelming task. For example, limited funds and manpower can make it difficult to dedicate resources to creating an accident prevention plan. However, there are simple, low-cost approaches that have been effective in small businesses. Because accident prevention plan design is flexible, the core elements can be implemented at a basic level suitable for the smallest business.
OSHA has established a program for small business called the Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP). It recognizes small employers who have outstanding injury and illness prevention programs. Information from SHARP shows that accident prevention plans do work for small businesses. For example, OSHA provides the following example:
"The Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation (2011) analyzed the policies of 16 SHARP employers over a 12-year period from 1999 to 2010. The study compared the employers' experience prior to and after achieving entry into the SHARP program. The preliminary results of the study show that the average number of claims for these employers decreased by 52 percent, the average claim cost decreased by 80 percent, the average lost time per claim decreased by 87 percent, and claims (per million dollars of payroll) decreased by 88 percent."
Labels and signs made with DuraLabel printers are an integral part of accident prevention. They not only provide warnings about hazards, they provide important information that helps ensure the proper operation, maintenance and storage of equipment, tools and materials. For example, when all cables and wires are identified with labels, no only does maintenance become easier, but electrical accidents are prevented. Fatalities have resulted when a maintenance worker cut into a wrong pipe. Pipe marker labels help prevent this type of accident.
A workforce that is informed is a safer workforce. Labels and signs made using DuraLabel printers provide the information needed, right at the location and time when it is needed.
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