If you haven’t been paying attention to the news lately you may not know OSHA’s budget was cut once again. Being a large government organization some may think they are simply being required to more with less money but that may not be the case. To make up for the shortfall the amount of and size of fines levied by OSHA most likely will increase. It is just a simple fact that if your operation has an accident that triggers a physical inspection you will be fined. If you are concerned about this now would be a good time to review all of you current training policies and programs. Once you’ve reviewed and found the shortcomings don’t just sit back; fix them. What triggers the need for mandatory training for a company? That all depends on the industry but here are a few: ten or more employees, manufacturing equipment, heavy duty equipment such as power industrial trucks (forklifts) or commercial vehicles such as semi-trucks that require CDL (note DOT regulations also govern commercial vehicles), handling hazardous waste and the list goes on. With all the different industries, laws and regulations how does one approach ensuring your company is fully compliant? First keep it simple and follow these five keys as a guide.
Key #1 Know any and all the policies and safety training programs required by the industry & job functions your employees performs.
Look you’re in business and it just isn’t about supply and demand for your product or service anymore. Trust, customer service and liability all play a role today. As the owner(s) or manager(s) of an operation the duty falls to you to know, understand and implement any & all safety training programs. So how do you know what training you need to do? Depart of Labors OSHA requires you to know and they will not afford leniency if you don’t. “Ignorance of the law is not a defense” as they say. You could request help from the regional OSHA office and they will be happy to help. Even though their budget was cut they still retrain staff to assist in this area. It could and should be for free depending on your area and the type of help you request. I have heard of some fees for classes but you would need to enquire on that to confirm. If asking for help from OSHA is not to your liking you could hire someone with knowledge to your staff or contract a third party safety consultant to help. Here is a nice little hint if you need some free safety consulting for your operations. Call you friendly fire department and ask if they have a safety officer available to do a walk through. Not only will you build trust and rapports with your local emergency responders often they can offer tips that help you with compliance on items you never expected!
The important thing is to be sure to identify and deliver the training to everyone. Again if you don’t and should you have an incident that requires OSHA to visit you operation and inspect you will be fined. If you run an operation in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts you might even see the Department of Public Safety these days. Recent updates to hoisting regulations have created significant confusion (if you operate forklifts and public has access your operators are required to have a hoisting license see my blog MA Hoisting Regs on this) in the state. MA DPS has hired a number of inspectors that are now in the field visiting locations that the new hoisting regulations impact. Just as OSHA the MA DPS budgets were cut so to make up the shortfall it appears the DPS will begin to levy fines on companies they fine noncompliant with MA CMR. If you’ve been visited by OSHA in the past and they levied fines your company will always be on their radar. If they return and find the same violation it’s considered a Willful Violation which typically results in an automation $25,000 fine plus the fine for violations. Bottom line is simple my friends. Training is significantly cheaper than compliance violations fines.
Key #2 Do not procrastinate!
As I mentioned prior ignorance of the law or simply ignoring requirements will not make it go away. Waiting until you “get around to it” can and will cost you. Besides we are talking about the safety of your employees! As a manager of an operation for one of the country’s largest environmental services firm I was extremely proactive on this. Compliance was a big item and to ensure my operation was up to speed required effort and determination. Lists of training topics and the individuals that completed them were tracked. Lists for retraining were created as well so it was pretty easy to track who was trained on what and when. The difficult part was when people would miss group trainings due to vacation or time out but it didn’t matter. If I had to do a one off to ensure that employee that missed received that training I did.
We are all busy at work these days. The amount of workers per capita is down but the amount of production is up. That means everyone is doing more and I doubt we will see a change in that trend anytime soon. It doesn’t mean we have an excuse to push off training. It means as an owner or manager you must prioritize and schedule the training just like you would the production schedule. The sooner it is done the better off you will be. Look at it as a major investment in your operations and your employees. Consider it as a large portion of your company’s benefits program. After all the benefits do pay off in the long run and you’re not just investing in your employees you’re investing in their wellbeing, livelihood, and future.
Key #3 Create a formal plan!
Now this might sound a tad corny but it is a fact. There is another saying “if it isn’t in writing it doesn’t exist.” That goes for goals and plans alike. Many programs required by OSHA and or DOT require a company to formal plan. Formal plan; as in written down in its entirety on company letterhead and available for all to review. How does anyone in your organization know what to do unless there is a plan? Your written plans will spell out a number of things. How you train, those in charge of the training, time frames, resources and a ton of other items specific to the subject matter. Using company letterhead makes it official so be sure to do that. Likewise to add some very important elements: manager(s) of that plan, time frames, time frames of training & retraining, discipline action if applicable, modification/version numbers & dates, and if applicable FAQ’s.
Post it, review it, and toss it around. Engage your employees for feedback and update accordingly. Now file it in a master training file. Make an electronic backup and be sure you have at least one backup off location just in case. It makes no sense in having to rebuild from scratch when we have the cloud available to serve us. Remember there is another saying: “Nobody plans to fail but people fail to plan!”
Key #4 Complete the required training in time frames of your plans and please don’t pencil whip it!
Now that you have your formal written plans get to the training. Go back to Key #2 and don’t procrastinate! For heaven’s sake you just put a ton of energy, resources and perhaps money into getting them complete why on earth would you do nothing? Unless you just love expensive pieces of paper or worthless white papers some post grad could use why did you bother? Training is an investment into a positive safety culture! If your employees get even a whiff of pencil whipping you can and will lose them straight away.
If you don’t know how to move forward with or have anyone on staff capable of providing the training required go find someone. There are plenty of competent safety trainer’s out there but do some due diligence first. Regardless if you hire an employee to take on the training tasks or engage a consultant via contract be sure they have at least ten years under their belt. Obviously if you employ a direct hire you have your own practices for review prior to bring them on board. If you do hire a safety training consultant be sure to consider a number of items. The website is a good first start. Is it up to date or is everything from a number of years back? If you contact them via email or end up leaving a voice mail do they return that call in reasonable time? You could check out their profile on Linked In if they have one. Any numbers of avenues are available including OSAH and the National Safety Council. Just be sure to get to it within the time frame of your plans. Don’t pencil whip it or push it off. Again training is far cheaper than fines.
Key #5 Document, document, document all your training!
So now you have formal plans and you’ve launched the training. Super! Prove it! You must maintain records and keep them on file for a number of years. You read that right….years. Let’s go back to what I mentioned earlier. If you don’t know what you need to train for how do you expect to know the rest of the details? All of this is spelled out by OSHA, Dept. of Safety, DOT, DOL and the rest of the agencies that require safety training. They not only require the protection of employees they tell you how to do it but again if you don’t know what, where or how engage someone that does. Another saying: “no job is finished until the paperwork if done” rings true here.
So the best thing to do is create a master file to keep your records in. Back up all the files by scanning them. Look technology is cheap these days and the “cloud” doesn’t really cost so much and can save you in a disaster so just do it. Document the exact training each time employees participate. Go the extra mile and make copies to place in their HR files along with a cover sheet. How else do you keep a manual track of what they need to take and if they achieve it? Don’t forget any outside training or licensing they receive. Make copies of all of that for the files as well. Oh and the same goes for equipment by the way. As in forklift daily inspections and maintenance files. I know more? Yes some programs require continuous paper trails and if you don’t have them, boom you’re busted.
Bottom line is straight forward and simple. If you want to ensure full compliance you need to know which policies & programs you need, do it, plan, train and document it all in an organized and continuous fashion. Is it expensive? Not as expensive as multiple violation fines or a tragic loss of life due to negligence! I’ve worked with a vast number of clients over the years. A few had catastrophic accidents at their operations that resulted in loss of life. Ask yourself this simple question. Would you rather spend short money on ensure each and every employee working for you goes home safe each day or look in the mirror each morning wonder if you could have done something to save them?
The choice is yours. Now ask yourself this: is my operation 100% compliant and are we doing everything we need to do to ensure it?
Remember Safety First-Safety Always #SFSA
This has been a message from the Forklift Coach Coach’s Corner #TFCCC