Division of Labor and Industry


Eight Steps to the Development of an Effective Safety and Health Program - Maryland Occupational Safety and Health (MOSH)


Step 1: Develop a plan of action that includes both management and employee involvement.

It is important to develop a program that will meet the needs of both management and employees. An elegant safety and health program manual that describes protective measures that are seldom put into practice serves no useful function. This is why MOSH encourages management to involve employee representatives in the development of the safety and health program and to encourage their continued participation in company safety and health efforts.

Step 2: Designate a person to be responsible for safety and health.

In an effective safety and health program, the person responsible for the safety and health program will have both the authority to do the job and the respect of management and employees. The choice of the safety and health director must be based on his or her knowledge of the facility and of safety and health requirements. The person or persons designated to do training must be credible, respected, and knowledgeable about the operations and must be given the time, authority and resources to develop an effective program.

Step 3: Determine the safety and health requirements for the specific workplace and operations.

It is important to become familiar with the safety and health requirements associated with the company’s physical location, operations, and equipment. This information will be used to:

  • Develop a hazard assessment strategy
  • Pinpoint areas and procedures that historically have caused significant injury or illness, and identify potential causes
  • Provide a background for correction and control strategy planning

Resources that will aid in the determination of your workplace safety and health requirements include:

MOSH laws, regulations, and standards. Determine which requirements apply to the specific workplace. It is not necessary to become familiar with every law, regulation, and standard that MOSH enforces, because not all standards apply to every industry.

Equipment manuals. Make a list of all the equipment used in workplace operations and obtain the manufacturer's operating manuals for each piece of equipment. Examine the manuals for:

  •  Recommended safety controls, such as guarding
  • Potential hazards, such as noise or vibration
  • Recommended maintenance schedules

Other sources of information about equipment hazards include the National Electrical Code (NEC), the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) codes for various industries and equipment, and publications by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH).

Chemical Inventory. Develop an inventory of chemicals used in the workplace. include:

  • Chemical substances used
  • Processes employed
  • Quantities involved
  • Potential hazards
  • Safety controls

Knowledge of the chemicals used or stored in a company facility is necessary for hazard assessment and program planning. It should be initiated as part of assessment activities. Much of this information also is required by the Maryland Access to Information about Hazardous and Toxic Substances Act, also known as the "Right to Know Law".

Employee capabilities: Make a list of all employees. Include each employee's date of hire, job title, experience and training, special skills (first aid trained, CPR trained, training abilities, etc.) and special needs (people who have physical disabilities, people who have visual impairments, etc.). This list can be used to involve employees in the program, to use their capabilities and talents most effectively, and to provide appropriate protection where special needs require it.

Accident and injury/illness history: MOSH law requires most employers to maintain records of occupational accidents, injuries, illness, and lost workdays on a OSHA/MOSH log (OSHA Form No. 300). Review these records to determine if there is a concentration of injuries or illnesses related to a particular department, operation, piece of equipment, process, or area. Also determine if there is a consistency or pattern in the type of injury, illness, or personnel involved. This information may point to specific safety and health issues that should be addressed.

Existing safety and health materials: Review any existing company safety and health materials and determine their usefulness.

Step 4: Conduct a hazard assessment of the workplace.

An effective safety and health program will systematically identify and prevent hazards. An ineffective or non-existent program will not identify hazards or potential hazards, and preventive controls will not be implemented, leaving the possibility of injury or illness.

Develop an initial plan for assessing the workplace that addresses:

  • The completion of a comprehensive safety and health survey of the workplace
  • Approaches to problem areas noted during Step 3.

Conduct a safety and health self-inspection/survey of the workplace according to the plan developed above.

A comprehensive baseline survey of the work and working conditions at a site permits a systematic record of the hazards and potential hazards that can be recognized without intensive analysis. During the initial comprehensive survey:

Identify any situations that present hazards or are in violation of law, regulations or standards.

Pay particular attention to areas which prior research indicated were potential problems, and determine if a problem exists.

Assess the effectiveness of the survey plan, and revise, if necessary.

Although the person assigned responsibility for the safety and health program may have extensive knowledge of the facility's operations, additional knowledge is required to perform an effective safety and health survey. The initial research performed as part of Step 3 will assist in developing this expertise. The employer also may wish to solicit assistance for the initial survey from MOSH, an insurance carrier, or a private consultant.

There are many approaches to workplace assessments. Factors influencing the most effective approach include:

  • Whether the operation is consistent throughout the day or cyclical, or whether no obvious work pattern exists
  • Whether the operation is a fixed site, mobile operation or combination. If it is a mobile worksite, refer to the Construction section of this document.
  • The complexity of operations
  • The size of the worksite

Effective strategies for an initial workplace survey include:

Floor Plans: Prepare a floor plan of each department or work area. Mark on the plan all pertinent machinery, processes, and facilities. Also note the standards or requirements applicable to the machinery or process which must be assessed; for example, guarding of machinery, noise level checks, housekeeping, and chemical exposure levels. As you proceed through the initial assessment, make additional notes on hazards observed, training needed, and monitoring required.

Checklists: Many employers use checklists that summarize the items to be included as part of a facility survey. The checklists should be site specific and should include each item to be checked in every area of the workplace. Generic checklists available from various trade associations can be used as a basis for the company checklist. It also may be necessary to revise the checklist as the initial hazard assessment is conducted.

Process Flow: The simplest method of proceeding with the hazard assessment may be to follow each process from receiving area to shipping. This approach is effective when the company's processes are fairly consistent and simple. It can be coupled with the floor plan system or the checklist system.

Job Hazard Analysis: This method examines each job classification, rather than areas or processes, for associated hazards. As a job classification is examined, associated machinery, equipment, and chemical and other processes are reviewed.

Committee Survey: Frequently in large establishments, a safety committee will conduct hazard assessment surveys. This approach permits several people with diverse interests, perspectives and expertise to provide input. The committee may consist of employee representatives, management representatives, and persons knowledgeable in production, processes or machinery.

As the hazard survey proceeds, note areas where additional investigation and expert consultation may be necessary. For example, monitoring levels of airborne chemical substances or noise, or additional research on equipment or chemical substances, may be required. Also note conditions that might be alleviated through employee training and education. Remember to pay particular attention to those areas identified in Step 3 as having significant incident occurrences. Also note areas where required personal protective equipment (PPE) is lacking.

This initial survey may take several sessions, and repeated visits to certain areas may be required. Take the time to be thorough. Following the survey, review your results. Start planning for future action.

  • Provide for regular safety and health inspections.

During periodic inspections, identify new or previously missed hazards and failures in hazard control. Question whether the changes made to eliminate the original hazard may have created new hazards. When initially identified hazards are under control, attention can be given to the intensive analysis required to recognize less obvious hazards. Subsequent comprehensive surveys provide an opportunity to step back from the routine check on control of previously recognized hazards and look for new hazards.

Step 5: Correct identified hazards.

Hazards, once recognized, should be promptly abated or controlled.

Hazard abatement is an essential activity. Management action at this point will determine the credibility of the company’s safety and health policy, as well as the usefulness and effectiveness of the entire workplace safety and health program.

All available resources should be devoted to this objective. Keep in mind that recognized hazards might constitute violations of MOSH laws, regulations, and standards. Should an enforcement inspection occur, the company could be cited and monetary penalties issued. More importantly, these conditions present hazards to employees that could result in injury, illness, property or production loss, or even loss of life.

  • Develop a plan of action and a method of tracking the correction of all hazards.
  • Correct all identified hazards.
  • Implement interim protective measures while taking corrective action.
  • Provide all required personal protective equipment.
  • Comply with all requirements specified in equipment manuals.

Financial resources may be required to correct some hazards. This is a part of doing business in a safe and healthful manner. Court decisions have emphasized that economic feasibility is not a valid excuse for violating an adopted standard.

Every reasonable effort must be made to provide adequate funding to protect the workplace safety and health of employees. It may be necessary to prepare documentation to justify expenses associated with hazard abatement. In addition, long term planning and expert advice may be required. Costs can be minimized with proper planning and research. Remember that financial commitment to safety and health is a strong indicator of management's overall commitment.

Employee involvement can help. When there are alternative ways to address a hazard, effective managers have found that involving employees in discussions of methods can identify useful prevention and control measures, serve as a means for communicating the rationale for decisions made, and encourage employee acceptance of the decisions.

Correction of some hazards may take a long time. To eliminate hazards, workstations, work methods and tools may have to be designed or modified. Research into substitute materials may be necessary. New equipment may have to be purchased or existing equipment may have to be repaired or redesigned.

Interim measures may be necessary. For those items that cannot be corrected immediately, an effective program provides interim measures for the protection of the employees. These can vary greatly, but should include advising employees of the existing hazards and how to minimize the danger while corrective measures are being taken.

Interim measures may include requiring the use of personal protective equipment, installing temporary guarding, posting signs to remind employees of particular hazards, and taking certain pieces of equipment out of service. Remember, if personal protective equipment is issued, training must be provided to assure effective usage. The employer must also take steps to maintain the equipment in sanitary and operational condition.

Address other program elements while completing hazard abatement. Other safety and health program elements are integral to correction of hazards. As hazard correction progresses, an effectively managed program will continue to work on:

Safety work rules

Training programs for employees

Medical surveillance programs

Program documentation

For example, an employer may initiate the training that is part of the five essential elements of a safety and health program. This training also may be a required step for correction of a violation of MOSH requirements, such as the training required under the Maryland Access to Information About Hazardous and Toxic Substances law.

Step 6: Keep the workplace hazard-free.

Once recognized hazards are corrected, take steps to ensure that the workplace remains hazard-free.

  • Develop work practices, administrative controls, work rules and emergency procedures.
  • Provide for facility and equipment maintenance  to prevent hazardous breakdowns.

Work rules and emergency procedures. Work rules, practices, and emergency procedures must be specific to each workplace. For some locations it may be appropriate to have generalized rules and procedures. For other locations, very detailed procedures may be necessary. The formality and complexity of work rules and emergency procedures are influenced by a number of factors including:

  • The size and stability of the workforce
  • The types of processes involved and the level of hazard the processes pose

Whether the workplace is fixed, mobile, dispersed or a combination

Rules and procedures should be clearly stated and understandable. Although it is not always required that work rules and emergency procedures be in writing, it is recommended. The written material provides an historical record that can be reviewed and revised periodically, and also can serve as documentation of site specific requirements.

Additionally, a number of MOSH standards require work rules, work practices, and emergency procedures. For example, almost all workplaces must have provisions for emergencies, basic first aid, and a plan to address fire hazards.

If administrative controls are used to reduce employee exposures, it is important to formalize the system and document the procedures. For example, administrative controls may involve rotating employees or altering work hours to reduce exposure to acceptable levels.

This is also an appropriate time to review operations that occur infrequently. It is particularly important to develop written procedures for these operations since the procedures are not often used and may be forgotten.

Enforcement. Once the procedures are established, it is important to develop a means for enforcing them. Enforcement is particularly important initially, when management will experience the most resistance to the changes the rules and procedures will require. Rules without enforcement frequently are violated.

Workplace discipline reinforces a safety and health program in two ways. It removes the employee and his or her coworkers from the danger of the unsafe work practice, and it reinforces the message to all employees that management is committed to safety and health.

It is important to work with employee representatives to develop enforcement procedures. It may be worthwhile to involve employees in the development of both the rules and enforcement measures through safety committees.

Equipment maintenance and status checks. Equipment maintenance and status check programs should be considered at this time. Maintenance of equipment and facilities is an especially important means of anticipating potential hazards and preventing their development. Planning, scheduling, and tracking preventive maintenance activities provides a systematic way of ensuring that equipment and facilities are not neglected. It may also prolong the usefulness of expensive equipment.

Step 7: Train Employees in Safety and Health.

Most employers must provide some training for employees. For example, MOSH standards require that most employers provide training concerning:

  • Employee emergency plans and fire protection plans
  • Personal protective equipment
  • Maryland’s "Right to Know" Law

An employer also must inform and train employees about the company safety and health program, how it is intended to benefit employees, and what is expected of employees in order to make the program work.

OSHA publication. Training Requirements in OSHA Standards and Training Guidelines (OSHA publication 2254) lists OSHA standards that require employee training. MOSH also has adopted several State-specific standards that may require training for employees. Additionally, new standards adopted by OSHA and MOSH may affect your workplace and require additional training.

Requirements are results-oriented. Although many standards require that particular topics be covered during training, the approach to providing the training is left to the employer. Generally, MOSH expects training to result in the employee being able to explain how to perform his or her assignments safely, and to be able to identify the hazards associated with the job.

An employer should ensure that all employees understand the hazards to which they may be exposed and how to prevent harm to themselves and others from exposure to these hazards. A thorough understanding of the hazards and their prevention will affect employee acceptance and use of established safety and health protections. Training for this purpose is reinforced by encouraging attempts to work safely and by positive recognition of safe behavior.

General suggestions.

Ensure that training is conducted by someone knowledgeable about the subject and familiar with the workplace.

Consider employees’ ability to read, speak, and understand English.

Schedule short training sessions. It is better to divide training into several sessions rather than to conduct one long session.

Use audio-visual presentations, actual experiences, and workplace conditions to illustrate points.

Incorporate drills, demonstrations and hands-on practice to ensure that training is understood. Drills should include emergency action drills.

Provide a period for questions.

Verify the effectiveness of training through paper and pencil tests, oral questioning, employee skill demonstrations, and observation of employee work habits after training.

Retraining required. Employee training is a long-term commitment and must be repeated periodically. Re-training should be scheduled on an annual basis. Additional training should be provided when employee actions indicate a need for earlier or more frequent retraining.

New employees. New employees need training prior to starting work that would expose them to hazards. Transfer employees will also require training whenever they are exposed to new hazards. This need is reflected by the disproportionately high injury rates among workers newly assigned to work tasks. Although some of these injuries may be attributable to other causes, a substantial number are directly related to inadequate knowledge of job hazards and safe work practices.

Step 8: Keep the program up-to-date and effective.

At this point, much of what an employer must do to implement an effective program has been accomplished. The employer can now attend to program maintenance: coordination of the program, documentation of program details, addition of new work practices and hazard controls, and continuation of enforcement. Each of these components may vary in detail and formality, depending on the size and complexity of the workplace. Many of these items may have been completed during development of other steps of the program.

Documentation: An important part of any safety and health program, documentation provides:

An historical reference that can be reviewed to determine program effectiveness

An accessible document to which management and employees can refer when unsure of proper procedures

Evidence of the employer's efforts to provide a safe and healthful work environment

All employers must maintain:

  • The MOSH poster (posted)
  • The OSHA 300 Log and Summary of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (except employers who have ten or less employees in the course of a year, and employers in exempt SIC codes)
  • OSHA 101 Supplementary Record of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses or workers’ compensation reporting forms
  • A written hazard communication program
  • Emergency procedures
  • Administrative control programs where used in place of engineering controls

Many MOSH standards require some form of documentation for sampling results, medical surveillance, equipment inspection, personal protective equipment programs, and other activities.

Employers also must maintain documentation if required by applicable standards for the following procedures:

  • environmental monitoring, including noise and chemical sampling
  • exposure control programs required under many of the air contaminant standards
  • employee medical records as part of any medical surveillance program
  • records of employee testing for personal protective equipment programs when respirators or hearing protection is required
  • certifications for inspection programs for cranes and forklifts

It is strongly recommended that the employer provide some level of documentation for the following:

  • all employee training
  • safety rules and procedures for employees
  • workplace self-inspections
  • accident investigations
  • accident investigations

Refer to the applicable standard to determine what the documentation must include, who must have access to the documentation, and how long the records must be maintained.

MOSH can help. Development of an occupational safety and health program may not be an easy task, but the benefits far outweigh the effort. Identifying potential hazards may be one of the most difficult tasks in the process. MOSH can serve as a resource in obtaining information and acquiring answers to compliance questions. MOSH has a free consultation program to assist small businesses with on-site problems. All of the MOSH professional staff stands ready to assist you with your questions.

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