Are Your Safety Documents Working – or Worthless? | The WorkSAFE Podcast

When it comes to safety, businesses usually don’t document enough. From training to policies to equipment maintenance, documenting your safety-related activities is crucial to their effectiveness. Documentation can add structure to your programs, as well as protect your business from OSHA citations and litigation. MEM’s Mark Woodward and Terri Sweeten discuss.

Show Notes

Say goodbye to worthless safety documents, and hello to policies that keep people safe by following these three steps:

1. Write down a one-page list of safety rules.

It’s easy to see why some important safety documents – like policies and procedures – can become worthless over time when they’re not actively being used or reviewed. While having these documents is necessary, no one can access or them or put them into practice when they’re filed away on a shelf collecting dust. By condensing these policies into a list of 10 or 15 best practices, it becomes much easier for everyone to grasp the primary ways to avoid injury at your workplace.

It’s best if the safety rules can be printed on one page, and may include expectations, such as:

  • Wear seat belts when driving or riding in company vehicles
  • Report for work without any illicit drugs or alcohol in your system
  • Wear eye protection when working near flying object hazards
  • Wear protective toe footwear when working near objects that may fall
  • Wear fall protection gear when there is the potential to fall from heights
Manufacturing employee works on a computer

    2. Hold safety meetings to set expectations and ask your employees to sign off on them.

Regularly scheduled safety meetings are the perfect opportunity to review the safety rules with your entire staff. After every safety meeting, hold your employees accountable for following the rules by asking they sign off on them.

Without enforcement, safety policies alone will not help reduce injuries, protect you against OSHA citations, or help defend against liability when an employee is injured on the job. Enforcing safety rules begins with setting expectations and making sure all employees understand them.

When safety rules are written down and enforced, everyone knows what’s expected. Need help setting the agenda your next safety meeting? Check out this and many other Toolbox Talks available at no cost to help you get started.

Files and policies in a drawer.

3. Hold employees accountable if a rule is broken.

Most business owners don’t want to see anyone get hurt at work; however, when safety standards aren’t strong enough the potential for injury may increase. Written safety rules can become worthless unless someone is willing and authorized to enforce them. When someone breaks a safety rule at your workplace, what happens? Here are a few repercussions to consider, noting more than one of the following tactics leads to better outcomes:

  • Stop the unsafe act or behavior
  • Review safety expectations with the employee
  • Review the safer, proper method for doing the job
  • Provide a copy of your written safety rules
  • Review the reasons for the safety rules
  • Provide training, if needed, or as required by OSHA
  • Document each time you have a corrective action event, or safety discussion with your employee to prevent future violations

Even businesses with robust safety programs can see increased claims costs if they don’t enforce the rules. Especially in a smaller sized business or a particularly tenured business, many of the employees, including the employer, are close friends or are seen as being as close as family. While it’s not easy to reprimand a close friend or family member for violating safety rules, it’s far more difficult to deal with the consequences of a severe injury if the rules are not enforced consistently. Being proactive and making safety a priority are the two best ways to keep your workplace injury-free.

Know Your Rights as an Employer

Missouri’s work comp laws support enforced safety rules because they lead to safer workplaces. Employers must know their rights when enforcing safety policies and procedures.

  • In the event your employee fails to follow written, acknowledged and enforced safety rules and is injured at work, a 50 percent penalty can be assessed against the injured worker’s benefits if it’s determined the employee broke written safety rules that were trained, acknowledged and enforced.
  • Missouri’s work comp law also supports drug-free workplaces. When an employee tests positive for illicit drugs or alcohol in a post-incident drug and alcohol screen, work comp benefits could be reduced or denied. But a written drug-free workplace policy must be in place, acknowledged by employees and enforced by management.

The key to taking these penalties is enforcement. If there is no evidence of enforcement, the penalties on work comp benefits cannot be taken.

Employees wearing high-vis vests and hard hats

The Bottom Line

As a responsible employer, make sure your employees are protected and the safety rules are enforced every day. Written safety rules that are acknowledged by employees and enforced by management will lead to a safer workplace. Explain often that safety rules are meant to be followed and that your workplace is drug-free. All management within your company must understand their duty to enforce these rules and protect the employees from unsafe acts and conditions.


Thanks to Mark and Terri for sharing their expertise on the podcast. Check out our other WorkSAFE Podcast episodes, and subscribe for more workplace safety stories and insight.

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