The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), as created by the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act), has the authority to set and enforce workplace health and safety standards and require written safety plans. Accordingly, these standards ensure that employees work in an environment that is free from recognized hazards. As can be seen in a recent Bureau of Labor Statistics report, in one year, 5,333 workers died on the job. Many of the standards contain requirements for written safety plans that employers must provide to prevent injuries or deaths. (However, written safety plan requirements will depend on the actual workplace and the work performed.) In the event that OSHA inspects a facility, and requests to review a safety plan that is not available, employers could face heavy fines and lawsuits. In fact, recent court decisions resulted in fines of millions of dollars levied against OSHA violaters.
What are Written Safety Plans?
In general, a written safety plan is a document that describes:
- processes to identify physical and health hazards that could harm workers,
- procedures to prevent accidents, and
- steps to take when accidents occur.
By and large, the subject matter dictates the overall scope of a written safety plan. For example, written safety plans can be comprehensive, such as an injury and illness prevention program. On the contrary, they can also be specific to a particular activity, hazard, or piece of equipment. In summary, a written safety plan is a company’s roadmap for keeping workers safe. Subsequently, employers should keep completed written safety plans on file for easy access and distribution purposes.
The Importance of Written Safety Plans
OSHA requires written safety plans for more than two dozen specific workplace activities and more than a dozen chemicals on the federal level. Additionally, many states require some or all employers to develop comprehensive written safety plans under state OSHA requirements. However, by comparison, some businesses voluntarily create written safety plans to prevent injuries and illnesses and prepare for possible emergencies.
Mandatory Written Safety Plans
At the present time, OSHA requires 16 written safety plans for general industry workplaces and ten plans for the construction industry. Additionally, there are requirements for written safety plans when certain workplaces use specific hazardous substances. The following are three required written safety plans that affect most general industry businesses. As has been noted, written safety plan requirements will depend on the actual workplace and the work performed
Emergency Action Plans (29 CFR 1910.38)
In short, under OSHA’s Emergency Action Plans standard, an employer must have an emergency action plan whenever it is required. Section 1910.38(b) states that an emergency action plan must be in writing, kept in the workplace, and available to employees for review. However, an employer with ten or fewer employees may communicate the plan orally to employees.
The standard also contains requirements on what the written safety plan must include. For instance, Section 1910.38(c) requires that an emergency action plan must include, at a minimum, any procedures for:
- reporting a fire or other emergency;
- emergency evacuations, including types of evacuation and exit route assignments;
- employees who remain to operate critical plant operations before they evacuate;
- accounting for all employees after evacuation; and
- performing employee rescue or medical duties.
Additionally, the written safety plan must include the contact information of those responsible for maintaining and distributing the emergency action plan.
Fire Prevention Plans (29 CFR 1910.39)
Under 1910.39(b), fire prevention plans must be in writing, kept in the workplace, and made available to employees for review. However, an employer with ten or fewer employees can communicate the plan orally to employees.
Section 1910.38(c) spells out the elements that a fire prevention plan must include:
- A list of all major fire hazards, proper handling and storage procedures for hazardous materials, potential ignition sources and their control, and the type of fire protection equipment necessary to control each hazard;
- Procedures to control accumulations of flammable and combustible waste materials;
- Techniques for regular maintenance of safeguards installed on heat-producing equipment to prevent the accidental ignition of combustible materials;
- The name or job title of employees responsible for maintaining equipment to prevent or control sources of ignition or fires; and
- A list of employees responsible for the control of fuel source hazards.
Hazard Communication Plans (29 CFR 1910.1200)
Generally, the purpose of 1910.1200 is to ensure that the hazards of all chemicals produced or imported are appropriately classified. The standard also requires that employers and employees receive the proper hazard information.
Chiefly, Section 1910.1200(e) requires employers to develop, implement, and maintain a written hazard communication plan at each workplace. Specifically, the written safety plan must describe how employers will meet criteria concerning labels and other forms of warning, safety data sheets, and employee information and training. The written safety plan must also include the following:
- A list of the hazardous chemicals known to be present in the workplace. Note chemicals using a product identifier referenced on the appropriate safety data sheet.
- The methods the employer will use to inform employees of the hazards of non-routine tasks and the hazards associated with chemicals contained in unlabeled containers in their work areas.
Employers must make any written safety plan covered under 1910.1200 available, upon request, to employees, their designated representatives, and any government entity (including OSHA).
Other Examples of Required Written Safety Plans
As noted previously, not all workplaces will need to create and maintain every required written safety plan. Basically, a business’ written safety plan should reflect its circumstances. For example, an office workplace may not ever need a written safety plan for underground, confined spaces. However, that office workplace may have printer ink cartridges that those employers would list within a hazard communication plan. Again, each business is unique.
The following are examples of written safety plans that may not affect all workplaces but are required by some.
Bloodborne Pathogens Exposure Control Plans (29 CFR 1910.1030)
Basically, under 1910.1030(c)(1)(i), any employers who have employees with occupational exposure to bloodborne pathogens must establish a written safety plan regarding exposure control. Employers must design this plan to eliminate or minimize employee exposure. OSHA defines occupational exposure as “reasonably anticipated skin, eye, mucous membrane, or parenteral contact with blood or other potentially infectious materials that may result from the performance of an employee’s duties.”
Personal Protective Equipment Plans (29 CFR 1910.132)
Personal protective equipment (PPE) includes equipment for the eyes, face, head, and extremities. Markedly, PPE could consist of protective clothing, respiratory devices, protective shields, and protective barriers. PPE must be provided, used, and maintained when specific workplace hazards could cause injury or death.
Accordingly, 1910.132(d)(2) requires that employers create written safety plans after performing a safety assessment. Specifically, the employer must verify, through written certification, that they completed the hazard assessment. The evaluation must include:
- the specific workplace evaluated;
- name(s) of the person(s) certifying the evaluation;
- date(s) of the hazard assessment; and,
- documentation certifying the report as the actual hazard assessment.
Hazardous Energy Control (Lockout/Tagout) Plans (29 CFR 1910.147)
Under 1910.147(c), affected employers must establish a written safety plan of energy control procedures. These written safety plans must also include information on employee training and periodic inspections. The Lockout/Tagout standard ensures that the unexpected energizing, startup, or release of stored energy in machinery does not harm employees.
Finally, the six plans included in this blog post do not include all of the written safety plans required by OSHA. OSHA’s Field Operation Manual, Chapter 3, Section VI-C-2(b) states “Other OSHA programs and records will be reviewed, including hazard communication, lockout/tagout, emergency evacuation and personal protective equipment. Additional programs will be reviewed as necessary.” The review of these programs is conducted during the review of a company’s injury & illness records, which takes place after an inspection begins. As an employer, you must determine which written safety plans you must create and keep on file. You can find more information on OSHA safety plans and programs on OSHA’s Sample Programs webpage.
Personnel Concepts’ Compliance Solutions
In conclusion, failure to comply with OSHA regulations can lead to fines and lawsuits. Whether it’s not having the required written safety plans on file, or violating OSHA’s General Duty Clause, employers must do their due diligence to comply with OSHA standards. To assist employers in maintaining compliance, Personnel Concepts offers the following resources:
- Workplace Safety Digital HR Compliance Forms – Under the OSH Act, employers must provide a type or place of employment free from recognized hazards likely to cause severe injury or death. These attorney-reviewed, fill-in-the-blanks forms help employers maintain a safe workplace. In addition, the collection of workplace safety forms includes tools for self-inspections, accident investigations, and assigning proper personal protective equipment (PPE).
- Space Saver-2 OSHA Safety Poster – The Space Saver-2 OSHA Safety Poster provides all the postings, notices, and information that OSHA requires general industry employers to have in their facility. Personnel Concepts’ unique All-On-One format saves wall space and ends bulletin board clutter. It eliminates the need to purchase individual safety posters addressing the most commonly cited OSHA standards.
NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.