What is a Safety Plan, and How Do You Create One?

There comes a time when success depends upon a professional safety plan.

August 09, 2019

This week is OSHA Safe + Sound week, so it’s a perfect time to create a safety plan for your organization if you haven’t already. I’ve been with Clean Fuels National, a coast-to-coast, family-run fuel storage tank cleaning company, for 10 years. A father and his sons launched this Inc. 5000 company in 2000 with little to no experience in the gas and oil industry. They made up for what they lacked in experience with focus, sacrifice and tenacity. CFN slowly grew for several years, despite bouts of heavy financial strain, and against all odds reached recognition and profitability. During this period of immense growth, safety standards continued to evolve as well.

There comes a time when success depends upon  a professional safety plan. To stay ahead of the curve, you need both a safety plan and someone to institute it who understands the business and the safety requirements. That person didn’t exist yet, so I volunteered. Through my successes and failures, I can share the basics of instituting a successful safety program: creating a safety manual and risk assessment, writing standards of procedure (SOP) and establishing a safety management program.

The safety manual is a collection of OSHA and other relevant requirements to be used as a reference in creating other steps of a safety program. While this is the most "boring” document of them all, without reading and understanding it, you will not know where to begin. You will base all safety decisions off of it. Creating the document is not a difficult process, but it may involve  consultation with a safety specialist, walk-throughs of your business and detailed information on how you accomplish the plethora of tasks you perform. After all is said and done, you will have all the required standards bound in one place for you and others to reference.

Job hazard analysis and risk assessment, like many things in safety, may sound difficult but are very straightforward. Begin by walking around and making a list of every task your company performs. Then, watch as each task is completed and document every step of the process. Be sure to take the time to note how it is done and what hazards may be involved. An example of this could be tripping or smashing your hand – any potential accident counts. After each hazard, note potential severity of injury – 1 being trivial and 5 being fatal. Also note how likely it is to happen – 1 being remote and 5 being very likely. Get input from the manager or employees for tasks you are unfamiliar with.

By multiplying the hazard level by the frequency, you get the risk factor. If the risk is greater than your company tolerance, then implement a control to lower it. I halt all activities that are 15 or above, evaluate 9-12 for change, and consider those below 8 to be relatively safe. Implementing controls will have a dramatic effect on lowering the risk. After this step is complete, you may move onto writing the SOPs, which detail how you want each task to be completed, step by step, using the new controls to accomplish the task in a manner that is both safe and effective.

The safety management plan outlines what you and others will use to ensure the new SOPs are being followed. This should become your guide to the entire safety program and can include a statement from the CEO, requirements for meetings, chain of command, training, disciplinary action or any other pertinent information to best implement the program. Leadership support is essential to do this well.

It’s easy to get lost during your first go-round but remain focused on your end goal. You are going to encounter resistance to change, revisions and new hazards. However, with these pieces in place, it will be easy to see how and where changes must be made. Lastly, remember to utilize the  free advice and resources OSHA and the National Safety Council provide. If a small and growing business like ours can do it, so can you.

Addam Vanover

Addam Vanover, ASP, is safety manager at Clean Fuels National and a 2019 Rising Star of Safety.

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