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What Does Your Safety Manual Look Like?

Your employees complete a huge number of tasks. Looking at the whole Pool, these range from office work to laying pipes to fighting wildfires.

This means that you are not just serving your communities, but you are also putting your employees in potentially dangerous situations on a regular basis. The danger could be inherent to a confined space, an excavation, working from heights, driving a vehicle, or using hand tools.

One way to ensure that every employee goes home safely at the end of their shift is to ensure they have guidelines that can help them work safely while completing their operations. Having a safety manual on hand to provide the basic information an employee needs to complete the job safely.

A safety manual does not just provide safety steps and good bedtime reading material. First, they set expectations to work safely no matter what situation an employee might find themselves, regardless of their role in the organization. It is your responsibility, as an employer, to provide a safe working environment for your employees. A safety manual can help you arrive at that next step.

A good safety manual will go beyond its surface goal of communicating safety, by also saving you money. Every time an employee gets hurt there are costs that you may not have considered.

These include the potential for your workers’ compensation coverage to increase.

There are also costs associated with any time loss injury, where someone might need to step in and fill that role, or temporarily hiring someone new to fill the gap, which could require unbudgeted overtime from others.

If you have a manual, when was the last time you updated it? Unless the answer is within the last one or two years, then it is time to take a moment and make sure it is updated.

A good best practice is to review your manual every couple of years to make sure it is taking into account any new standards, policies, equipment, or tasks put in place since then.

If you are planning to update your manual in the near future, or you are putting one together soon, consider these things during the process.

General Questions

  • Have you set your safety expectations?
  • How can employees voice safety concerns?
  • Do you have a safety committee?
  • Do you have a box where an employee can voice a concern confidentially?
  • Do they talk with their supervisor?
  • What types of operations are your employees doing? (e.g., tools, confined spaces, heavy equipment, maintenance, lifting, clerical, ladders, working at heights, driving, material handling, working near roadways, etc.)
  • Have you identified everything and put a policy around each type of major operation?
  • Do you have forms in your manual that you expect everyone to fill out?
  • Are you addressing documentation? (Training, confined spaces, excavations, employee accountability, etc.)

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

  • Have you identified the PPE required for each task?
  • Is there training needed before a piece of PPE is used? For example, if an employee is going to use a respirator they need a medical evaluation, proper training, and a fit test.

Hazardous Communications

  • Do you have updated Safety Data Sheets (SDS) around your facilities and have you updated your policy to the new Hazardous communications standard?
  • Have you addressed housekeeping expectations?

Fall Protection

  • When do your employees need to use fall protection?

General Safety

  • Do you have an established Drug and Alcohol Policy?
  • Do you have a Hearing Conservation Policy?
  • Have you set safety expectations for every employee at your district including the Board of Directors?
  • Do you have an adequate emergency response plan that documents what a given employee’s role is in the case of an emergency?

Safety Administration

  • Have you addressed incident reporting and the expectations you have for your employees?
  • Do you have a modified duty policy to help get employees back to work or to keep them at work so there are no time loss days?
  • To whom do employees report their injuries?
  • What doctors’ offices are your designated providers?
  • Do you have a Job Hazardous Analysis (JHA) or Job Safety Analysis (JSA) process for your employees before they start their tasks? Having a JHA or JSA process helps employee’s identify potentials risks or hazards before they start their tasks.

This list can get you thinking about where to start. If you already have a manual, it will help you evaluate whether you need to expand it. Your manual should have just enough information so that your employees know what to do, but be just short enough so that it is easy to read.

When you are in the development stage do not worry about making it perfect. Treat your manual as a work in progress. By reviewing it periodically, you can address anything that you missed and make your needed updates.

If you would like some assistance working through your safety manual process, please contact Adam Johnsen, the CSD Pool’s Safety Management Consultant, at ajohnsen@mcgriff.com.

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