Maintaining a safe workplace is part and parcel of running an efficient manufacturing business. No matter the size of your company or the scale of your operations, protecting the well-being of your employees should be a top priority. But safety isn’t just an internal concern — regulatory agencies like the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) require workplace compliance to protect employees and employers from injury and illness at work. While most employers are required to have an OSHA safety plan, all businesses benefit from having documented safety policies.
In this blog, we’ll explore everything you need to know about developing a manufacturing workplace safety plan: safety plan basics, the purpose and benefits of such plans, OSHA safety plan requirements, and a step-by-step procedure for building an airtight policy.
What is a Workplace Safety Plan?
First, let’s explore a central question — what is a workplace safety plan? An effective, thorough safety plan for a manufacturing company has three major components:
- A description of potential hazards and dangers in the workplace
- Company policies and procedures that minimize hazards
- Standardized responses and action plans for safety incidents
Your safety plan should be formalized in writing, and it should be accessible to all employees — not just company leadership.
The most effective plans are:
- Created and maintained by a team of employees from multiple departments
- Regularly audited for further improvements and modifications
- Driven primarily by employee protection
The last point above is an important one — the primary purpose of a workplace management plan is to keep your workers safe. While complying with regulations should also be a priority, protecting your valuable workforce should be your company’s most pressing concern.
While you may have written policies for incident response, workplace safety plans are intended to be proactive. Injury response should be a key component of your plan, but the bulk of your policy should stipulate preventative measures.
Why Build a Workplace Safety Plan?
As noted above, the primary objective of a manufacturing workplace safety plan is to protect employees from harm. In order to do so, plans should accomplish two major goals:
- Address hazards and dangers
- Meet regulatory requirements established by OSHA and other agencies
Let’s explore each of these purposes in more detail.
While some workplace safety plan examples may use the terms interchangeably, “hazards” and “dangers” are two separate elements. Hazards are sources of potential danger — they create safety risks. Some examples of workplace hazards include:
- Continuous loud noises
- Slippery floors
- Open flames
- Noxious fumes
Hazards can be mitigated, but they create the potential for dangerous situations. When employees encounter danger, hazards aren’t being effectively prevented. For example:
- Loud noises could endanger employees’ hearing
- Slippery floors could cause slip-and-fall injuries
- Open flames could cause significant burns
- Noxious fumes could lead to skin, eye, or brain damage
Employers should build a workplace safety plan to prevent both hazards and the dangers that could result.
Manufacturing companies should also comply with all relevant regulatory requirements to prevent disciplinary actions, like:
- Fines, which can cut into the bottom line
- Closures or forfeitures, which can decimate productivity or lead to dissolution
- Third-party audits, which can be expensive and time-consuming
Worker safety should be your top priority, but a comprehensive safety plan accomplishes much more.
What are the Benefits of an Effective Workplace Safety Plan?
According to OSHA’s Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs, safety and health plans provide the following benefits:
- Prevention of illnesses and injuries in the workplace
- Improved regulatory compliance
- Reductions in costs, like workers’ compensation premiums
- Increased employee engagement and workplace satisfaction
- An enhancement of social responsibility and company ethics
- Increased productivity and efficiency
While this list of benefits is quite comprehensive, effective workplace safety plans can provide even more significant advantages for today’s manufacturers:
- Increased Competitiveness in Talent Searches: Workers have more power than ever to choose the ideal employer. In March of 2022, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 11.5 million job openings nationwide. Maintaining a safe work environment, where candidates can be confident that their employer prioritizes worker well-being, can make you a more attractive candidate for new talent.
- Good PR: Consumers care about ethical business practices more than ever. They often make a conscious effort to purchase products from responsible companies with positive reputations. In the internet age, talk of a company’s unethical workplace practices can spread like wildfire — by ensuring that your employees are safe and well-treated, you can improve or maintain a positive public perception of your brand.
- Embracing Innovation: Your manufacturing facility likely encounters or implements new technologies with increased frequency these days. As the culture of innovation continues to develop in the U.S., workplace safety technologies are rapidly improving as well. By researching these improvements and making regular upgrades, you can maximize the ROI of new safety equipment while reaping the rewards of improved technology.
For these reasons, every manufacturing company should prioritize making and enforcing a sound safety plan — and, OSHA’s requirements are a great place to start.
OSHA Site Safety Plan Requirements
OSHA site safety plan requirements are different for every business, but your manufacturing facility’s safety plan most likely needs to include one or more of the following components:
- Hazard Communication Standard: This standard applies to facilities that use hazardous chemicals, requiring that employers inform employees of the risks and how to protect themselves from harm.
- Emergency Action Plan Standard: This standard requires businesses to create and maintain a plan for employee action in the event of a fire or other emergency.
- Fire Safety: While an Emergency Action Plan is reactive, a Fire Safety Plan is proactive, describing a workplace’s fire prevention plan.
- Exit Routes: All employers are subject to OSHA’s exit route requirements, which stipulate the number and type of exits a facility must-have.
- Walking/Working Surfaces: This standard stipulates slip-and-fall prevention policies, including the use of and employee training for personal fall protection systems. The policy also describes OSHA inspection requirements.
- Medical and First Aid: OSHA requires all businesses to provide first-aid supplies and personnel commensurate to workplace hazards.
Beyond these baseline requirements, additional considerations can help assure your safety plan is as nuanced and thorough as possible. For example, consider adding policies for the following:
- Employee training, including onboarding and yearly exercises
- Creation of and appointment to a safety committee
- COVID-19 protocols, especially for enclosed spaces
And, a workplace safety plan isn’t something you “set and forget” – it’s a living document that should be continuously reviewed and revised to address new needs and regulations.
How to Create a Safety Plan
Sample outlines for safety plans, including industry-specific plans, are available on OSHA’s website. However, even with a template in hand, you should still perform the following procedures to develop a comprehensive plan for your manufacturing facility:
1. Create a Safety Committee
First and foremost, form a team of employees from different departments to consult on the creation, implementation, and maintenance of your safety plan. A minimum of three or four employees on the team at smaller companies, but larger teams are preferred.
2. Inspect Your Worksite
Next, analyze all possible workplace hazards that your plan needs to address. This begins with a thorough walkthrough of the manufacturing floor and all equipment used by your employees. A comprehensive Job Hazard Analysis (JHA) should identify:
- Eye protection hazards
- Fall or drop hazards
- Chemical hazards
- Fire hazards
The above is not an exhaustive list, but the JHA your Safety Committee drafts need to be. Any existing or potential hazards need to be documented and addressed systematically.
3. Create Preventative Measures
Develop safety guidelines and controls and formalized in policy documents. Address specific mitigation and response plans that reflect the hazards in your workplace, then disseminate the policies to all personnel to ensure they’re ready when an incident occurs.
4. Build an Employee Safety Training Program
Instill a culture of safety and preparedness at your organization by establishing both onboarding and continuing education. Modules and assessments at regular intervals encourage proactivity from employees — each will leverage their unique perspective to catch safety issues as early as possible.
5. Regularly Audit and Review Your Safety Plan
A safety plan requires regular evaluation and adjustment to remain effective. At regular intervals, your committee can assess the plan and patch any gaps that arise due to new equipment, environmental factors, or other issues. Ideally, rotate your safety committee to ensure that diverse, fresh perspectives are contributing to safety protocols.
6. Hold Regular Safety Committee Meetings
Meet regularly to discuss potential changes to your preventative policies. It’s impossible to overstate the importance of Steps 5 and 6. Even a well-designed plan needs to be reviewed for efficacy to ensure it stays impactful. One of the best ways to ensure long-term effectiveness is to work closely with outside observers for an objective perspective.
How CMTC Helps Manufacturers Create Safer Work Environments
Creating, implementing, and maintaining a workplace safety plan will protect your employees, improve your productivity, and much more. The benefits of an OSHA-compliant safety plan are clear, and there’s no better time to improve your facility’s worker protection standards.
At CMTC, our mission is to serve as your manufacturing company’s trusted advisor. We can help improve your productivity, increase your competitiveness, and build a safety plan that reaps all of the benefits described in this blog.
We’ve been bolstering California manufacturing efforts for three decades, and we’re prepared to help you meet your present industry challenges head-on.
About the Author
Gregg Profozich is a manufacturing, operations and technology executive who believes that manufacturing is the key creator of wealth in the economy and that a strong manufacturing sector is critical to our nation’s prosperity and security now, and for future generations. Across his 20-year plus career in manufacturing, operations and technology consulting, Mr. Profozich helped manufacturing companies from the Fortune 500 to the small, independents significantly improve their productivity and competitiveness.