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Small Companies and the Priority of Job Safety: How On-Site Consultation Makes a Difference

During a recent safety and health consultation visit with an employer, a USF SafetyFlorida consultant asked him to describe his safety-management program. He said, “The Hope Theory.”
“What do you mean by the Hope Theory?” the consultant asked.
“We hope nothing happens.”
Convincing smaller employees of the need for active involvement in job safety is a challenge. Many smaller employers sincerely believe that accidents and fatalities do not occur in small companies, and that those kinds of events happen only in large operations.

The philosophy that in a small business we are all family and friends who take care of one another is good; however, without an active safety-awareness program it is not good enough. The priority of job safety needs to be there as well. Of course, this is more easily accomplished in larger companies because they have greater resources, a safety-knowledgeable staff, and revenue available to address issues specific to that company.

Smaller employers, in most cases, do not have the luxury of safety-knowledgeable staffing that can focus on job-safety requirements and loss-prevention programs. Within smaller companies, the individual responsible for safety assumes this job as an additional responsibility. The smaller company is more focused on being able to make a payroll each week, pay down the expense of their debts and attract new orders or jobs with limited capital. In other words, the priority of job safety takes a back seat to other concerns within the company.

If you properly introduce job-safety management programs into the workforce, in a positive way that allows individual participation with management involvement, then you will have a better chance for cultural change among the employees. If it is introduced in a manner that is resentful, punitive or without a clear vision of why it is necessary, then it will never be successful. Good communication is the key to behavioral change because it allows you to gain the trust and involvement of employees. When employees believe they are working with the company instead of working for the company, then you have created an environment for better cooperation.

One of the least-known programs available to small employers in every state is the OSHA Consultation Program. In Florida, the OSHA Consultation Program is known as USF SafetyFlorida and is administered by the USF College of Public Health. The Consultation Program assists small employers in implementing meaningful and understandable safety and health programs in the workplace as they review all work processes.

This voluntary program provides knowledgeable safety and health consultants who will come to an employer’s workplace upon request. The consultant works with the employer and the safety representative on a one-on-one basis to introduce them to OSHA-based safety management practices and requirements.

Our USF SafetyFlorida consultants use OSHA’s Safety and Health Program Management Guidelines to prevent occupational injuries and illnesses. The guidelines focus on four elements:

  1. Management Commitment and Employee Involvement;
  2. Worksite Analysis;
  3. Hazard Prevention and Control; and
  4. Training for Employees.

To the small employer, these guidelines might sound like catch phrases and buzz words without much meaning. But once you break down these four elements into meaningful application processes, it becomes much easier to understand. If you create a generic written safety program for an employer using these four elements, then the employer has a better visual understanding of what is involved.

For example, you can visualize a complete written safety program for your company by using SafetyWriter, available at www.safetyflorida.usf.edu. After registering, you can quickly click together a written safety program as an ordinary Word document for you to save on your hard drive and customize for your company.

When our consultants work with an employer, they:

  • Explain which safety and health programs are required by OSHA for their particular industry and help them develop the necessary written and educational programs to meet these requirements in understandable language.
  • Provide guidance, direction and material that will be helpful in developing educational programs such as new employee orientation, safety training programs, safety committees, and incentive programs.
  • Introduce Job Hazard Analysis (JHA) in the workplace for all to understand how to identify hazards, corrective measures to take for abatement and prevention programs.
  • Conduct full-service worksite evaluations to identify deficient safety and health conditions in the workplace and suggest abatement methods.
  • Recognize companies with outstanding safety management programs and work practices.

The overall goal for all safety- and health-management programs and practices in the workplace is to reduce injuries and illnesses. The effective implementation of these programs will usually result in greater production, improve moral, safety awareness, reduction of injuries and lowering of workers’ compensation cost — which all contribute to better growth for the company.

In summary, the person responsible for job safety within a company has a large responsibility, even in a small business. Using the Hope Theory places your company in a dangerous situation. By asking for a USF SafetyFlorida on-site safety and health consultant, you can promote the priority of job safety at your company. The USF SafetyFlorida consultation program stands ready to serve you today. Ask us for a free and confidential on-site consultation through our Web site at www.safetyflorida.usf.edu or call us at (866) 273-1105.