Does Your Employee Safety Handbook Cover all the Bases?

employee safety handbook

Does your business use your Employee Safety Handbook as an on-boarding tool for new hires?  Do you refer to the Safety Handbook whenever an employee violates one of the company safety rules?  Have you ever used your Safety Handbook as proof to OSHA that your company does indeed train the employees to work safely?

See also: Employee Safety Handbook vs. Safety Culture

There is an old saying among OSHA Field Compliance Officers that goes, “If it isn’t in writing, it didn’t happen.”  The saying means that no matter how much hands-on safety training your company provides employees, if the training is not properly documented then you have no proof that it actually occurred.

In today’s society – where the smiling faces of plaintiffs’ attorneys adorn every bus bench – it pays to have all your safety rules and policies in writing.  This ensures consistency in training all your employees, and it can prove helpful should an employee violate a safety rule and get injured – then take you to court.

If EVERY trainer uses the same handbook to train EVERY new hire, you have a reasonable expectation that your training goals are being consistently met. If your trainer suddenly takes a new position with the circus, another can step in and – using the same safety handbook – continue the training of new hires with the consistency that is vital to the success of your safety program.

Whether your company has 5 or 500 employees, a written safety policy is a must. The content of an employee safety handbook varies greatly with the types of exposure inherent in individual businesses, but in their root form they should contain the following:

  1. A safety policy statement signed by the owner or general manager of the business that details the company’s commitment to providing a safe workplace for employees.  The policy statement should detail the responsibilities of employees, front-line supervisors, managers, and administrators toward achieving the safe workplace goal.
  2. A Code of Safe Work Practices which is a general listing of safety rules that apply to ALL employees regardless of whether they work in the office, shop, or in the field.  For example, if your company requires anyone entering the shop to wear safety glasses, such a statement should appear in the Code.
  3. Job-specific safety rules for every position in the company.  Welders, for example, must wear ANSI and OSHA-approved eye protection specific to the type of welding being done.  The best way to ensure that you have all the job-specific rules noted in the handbook is to complete a Job Hazard Analysis (JHA) of each position.  Review the tasks assigned to each specific position, identify the potential hazards associated with each task, and then state the rules required to perform the tasks safely.  There’s a great format for JHA’s at www.OSHA.gov.
  4. A section that details the chain of command to be followed whenever an employee is faced with a hazardous task.  The employee can consult this section when they have questions or if they discover a hazard associated with a task that is not addressed in the rules specific to their position.
  5. A detailed description of how to report a work-related injury and what to do when one occurs in the workplace.  Some of the items to be listed here are: caring for the injured worker, securing the accident scene, calling 9-1-1 if necessary, and completing the accident investigation and reporting forms.
  6. An Acknowledgement Form that is to be signed by every employee when they receive a copy of the Safety Handbook.  The signed Acknowledgement certifies that the employee received the handbook and that they agree to follow the policies and procedures detailed inside.

Some Employee Safety Handbooks contain all of the above.  Others contain the policy statements and Code of Safe Work Practices to be followed by all employees with additional, separate handouts specific to individual work stations.  The additional materials are printed and included in the employee’s copy as necessary.

Preparing an Employee Safety Handbook can be a daunting task – especially if your business is “lean and mean” and there’s no staff assigned to the task of overseeing employee safety.  Employers Resource assists our clients in the preparation of Employee Safety Handbooks by doing all the “grunt work” associated with creating the Code of Safe Work Practices and the job-specific safety rules.  Give us a call!  We’ll be glad to show you how the Safety Team at Employers Resource can make the task of creating an Employee Safety Handbook much easier.

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