Kevin Ian Schmidt

Every Organization Needs a Safety Plan

While avoiding workplace incidents is always desirable, in today’s world, “lucky” might not be enough. The reality is, in the United States, lawsuits can arise from seemingly unexpected situations. Someone injured at an event hosted by your company, a slip-and-fall in a building you manage – even unintentional accidents can lead to legal action. This is where a written safety plan comes in. It’s not just a document gathering dust on a shelf; it’s your shield against potential liabilities.

Think of it as proactive risk management:

  • Demonstrates Foresight: Having a plan in place shows you’ve proactively identified potential hazards. It proves you’re not simply hoping for the best, but actively taking steps to prevent the worst.
  • Boosts Confidence: Insurance companies and courts take favorably to organizations with documented safety procedures. It suggests a culture of awareness and responsibility, potentially influencing insurance rates and legal outcomes.
  • Educates and Protects: A clearly defined safety plan ensures everyone involved in your event, activity, or workplace understands potential risks and proper safety protocols. This not only protects your organization, but also your participants or employees.
  • Provides a Roadmap: In the unfortunate event of an incident, a written plan serves as a crucial reference point. It can help guide response efforts, demonstrate due diligence, and potentially mitigate legal complications.

Remember, safety is not about luck; it’s about preparation. Investing in a comprehensive safety plan isn’t just a precautionary measure; it’s a wise investment in your organization’s well-being, both financially and ethically. So, ditch the reliance on luck and empower yourself with the proactive protection of a written safety plan. It’s not just good practice, it’s your best defense in a litigious world.

If you do not have a plan, or if you have one that is poorly written or if nobody in your organization knows a plan exists, you are at greater risk of lawsuit or victims being awarded larger settlements in court. In many situations, such as on building sites, safety plans are mandated by the authorities. In any case, having a written safety plan is always a good idea and knowing the laws that pertain to your work location are a must.

Purpose of a Safety Manual

The objectives of a safety plan revolve around two primary aspects: elucidating the roles and responsibilities of both management and employees, encompassing compliance with all pertinent legal regulations; and delineating safety protocols applicable to the specific site, activity, and audience.

In constructing a safety plan, the initial step involves a comprehensive examination of federal and local statutes to ascertain the legal obligations that must be adhered to.

Subsequently, attention should be directed towards the location where activities or business transactions occur. It is imperative to possess knowledge of the whereabouts of an accurate blueprint or map, should it be required by either yourself or authorities. Consider all routine activities transpiring on the site, along with the potential presence of people, vehicles, and machinery, envisioning conceivable accidents. Unless affiliated with Homeland Security or a specialized security firm, planning for unlikely events such as terrorist attacks or aircraft incidents may not be necessary. Rather, the focus should be on addressing the most common emergency situations relevant to the site. If leasing a space for business or events, collaboration with the building owner or management is advisable to review their existing safety plan.

Within any structure, the potential for fire must always be taken into account. Therefore, each safety plan should outline evacuation procedures, encompass a comprehensive map illustrating all exits, and provide guidance on actions to be taken in the event of a fire. Clarifications should be provided regarding the activation of alarms, deployment of overhead sprinklers, and the protocol for notifying the fire department—whether it’s an automatic process through the alarm system or if someone needs to be specifically assigned to make the call. Additionally, considerations such as closing fire doors and a schematic indicating the locations of fire extinguishers, accompanied by instructions on their proper use, should be incorporated into the plan. If different types of fire extinguishers are maintained for various fire categories, the safety plan should elucidate this distinction. Organizations housing chemicals or pressurized containers susceptible to combustion or emitting harmful gases during a fire should also be explicitly identified in the plan.

Another scenario crucial to address in a building safety plan is power outage. In the event of a sudden loss of power, clear guidance is essential. Questions to be answered include whether emergency lights or backup generators will automatically activate or if someone needs to manually initiate them. Confirming the functionality of phones, smoke alarms, and security systems during a power outage is vital. The safety plan should articulate specific actions to take when faced with an abrupt blackout. Additionally, instructions regarding procedures upon power restoration should be included. Considerations such as the startup process for machinery and computers, or the need for a reset, must be addressed. For organizations with mission-critical equipment, especially in fields like healthcare with essential medical devices, outlining measures to ensure their uninterrupted operation during a power outage becomes imperative.

Are you situated in an earthquake zone? If yes, you need to account for that possibility, instructing people to move outside or get under desks and tables if they can’t safely get to doorways. Often earthquakes will cause electrical failures or water and gas leaks, so you need to include instructions on what to do about all those problems, too.

Check Out: Emergency Response Plan Best Practices

Your type of business or activity will determine other potential dangers that you need to address in a safety plan. Do your personnel work with hazardous chemicals? You need to identify each chemical, state the possible hazards and spell out the appropriate precautions for working with it. (The use of hazardous chemicals generally requires retaining SDS sheets that contain all this information.) To learn more about this requirement, check out my post about Hazardous Communication.

Do your employees or volunteers operate potentially dangerous equipment? Your plan should discuss how to turn each piece of equipment on and off and describe any procedures and warnings needed to work safely with it. These two issues are especially important on any construction site, even if it’s only a small remodel job. Other important issues to address in a safety plan are hazards associated with earthmoving, such as ditch cave-ins or accidentally cutting electrical, gas, or water lines. The way that materials are stored can be hazardous, too – each year workers suffer crush injuries or die after being buried under hundreds of pounds of plasterboard or lumber that slid from a stack.

Is vehicle traffic a safety consideration? For those working on construction sites, it certainly can be. How about pedestrians? You need to consider everything you need to do to keep not only your employees safe, but also any passers-by who may wander through a hazardous area.

Construction sites may encounter challenges related to noise hazards and various types of dust. It is crucial to address these concerns in the safety plan to safeguard the well-being of workers. The plan should outline measures to mitigate noise exposure, such as providing ear protection and implementing engineering controls to minimize noisy activities. Additionally, strategies for controlling and minimizing dust, including the use of proper ventilation systems, dust suppression methods, and personal protective equipment, should be detailed in the safety plan. Regular monitoring and assessment of noise levels and dust concentrations can further contribute to maintaining a safe and healthy work environment on construction sites.

In work environments characterized by extreme climates, comprehensive instructions should be included in the safety plan to address the prevention and management of conditions such as hypothermia or heat exhaustion. For cold climates, guidelines may encompass wearing appropriate insulated clothing, taking regular breaks in heated areas, and recognizing early symptoms of hypothermia. In contrast, for hot climates, emphasis may be placed on maintaining hydration, utilizing shaded areas during breaks, and recognizing signs of heat-related stress. The safety plan should also provide details on any specialized equipment or resources available to mitigate the impact of extreme temperatures and ensure the well-being of employees in such challenging conditions. Regular training and awareness programs can further enhance employees’ preparedness and response to these climate-related challenges.

Security is another area nobody likes to think about, but all managers and organizers should. What should happen if an armed intruder comes into your area? Of course, someone should call the police, but are there also doors that need to be locked or checked? Are there places employees should hide? What do you want an employee to do if she discovers an unlocked door or suspects suspicious activity after normal business hours?

Everyone who is routinely present on your site also needs to know what to do in the case of medical emergency. If you have defibrillators available, make sure everyone knows where they are and how to use them. Do you have first aid kits on hand? Be sure your plan specifies their locations, too.

All staff should know the numbers to call in the case of emergency, as well as what to say. Keep in mind that people often cannot think clearly during an emergency. Make sure the emergency number (even if it’s always 9-1-1) and address of your building or site is posted where it can easily be seen (having a quick reference card in every room can help). If there are supervisors or insurance personnel who must be notified, be sure to list their contact information, too.

Creating a safety plan might sound daunting, but you will find all sorts of safety information available on the internet and more in the hands of authorities; you can plug all the appropriate information into your own plan and customize it to fit your situation.

You do not need to figure out how to assemble a safety plan from scratch, either. I have made it available for you to view and download the policy below; all you need to do is fill in the pertinent information for your actual plan.

After meticulously developing your safety manual, it’s crucial not to relegate it to the confines of a cabinet. Actively engage your employees, members, or volunteers by facilitating periodic training sessions. These sessions serve as invaluable opportunities for everyone involved to gain a comprehensive understanding of the safety plan, fostering a culture of collective responsibility.

During these training sessions, participants can delve into the specifics of the safety regulations outlined in the plan. This interactive approach not only imparts knowledge but also allows for the clarification of any queries or concerns. By promoting engagement and comprehension, you empower your team to work cohesively and safely.

Consider incorporating various training methods, such as presentations, hands-on simulations, or Q&A sessions, to cater to diverse learning styles. Reinforce the importance of each individual’s role in upholding safety standards, emphasizing that safety is not just a set of rules but a shared commitment to creating a secure working environment.

Furthermore, encourage open communication channels where employees can provide feedback or suggest improvements to the safety plan. This collaborative approach fosters a sense of ownership and ensures that the safety measures stay relevant and effective.

In essence, turning your safety plan into an active and ongoing training initiative establishes a robust foundation for a safety-conscious workplace, where everyone plays a vital part in maintaining a secure and healthy environment.

Check out the safety committee books and meeting notes I have available on Amazon


Download the Expanded Employee Safety Manual below:

View the Expanded Employee Safety Manual below:

Expanded Employee Safety Manual - Example

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