OSHA compliance is an ongoing effort, with regular steps necessary to adjust and improve as time goes on. No matter the location, audits, updates, and training are required to ensure adequate OSHA compliance. While each location has individual needs, there are a few common steps that will help target problem areas and implement standards to improve overall conditions.
What Does It Mean to Be “OSHA-Compliant?”
OSHA’s mission is to “[…] ensure safe and healthful working conditions for workers by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance.”¹
Complying with OSHA means that your facility adheres to applicable OSHA regulations that are set to prevent hazards that may lead to employee or visitor injury or death. There are different OSHA standards for different industries, each designed with category-specific regulations. While comprehensive, OSHA’s guidelines don’t cover every aspect of individual locations’ safety plans: Some things, such as specific color standards beyond a mandated few or using painted lines versus taped lines, are able to be implemented on a facility by facility basis, so compliance is achieved by tailoring the safety measures to your location’s needs.
How to Improve OSHA Compliance
OSHA provides regulations for everything from how to use fire extinguisher signage, specific requirements for floor markings, PPE use, ventilation systems, and equipment operation to associated record-keeping and audits. Follow these easy steps to improve facility safety and overall OSHA compliance.
1) Evaluate the Facility
Auditing current processes allows for a full picture of where safety is lacking, which requirements aren’t being met, as well as which standards the facility meets or exceeds. Evaluations may be done internally, via an external audit team, or as part of an OSHA compliance inspection. There are various types of safety inspections and audits, each with different goals:
- A third-party audit is completed by an external group that evaluates processes, procedures, and safety protocol. While third-party audits are not required, it is an advisable process as these professionals can help find and correct dangerous situations and OSHA violations before accidents or fines happen.
- Internal audits, including daily zone check-lists, machine, vehicle, and safety equipment checks, and overall facility safety review, are completed by on-site staff to ensure compliance. These are helpful between inspections and third-party audits and the records kept can help inform official inspections.
- An OSHA inspection may happen without notice and may carry fines or penalties for failing marks. Internal and third-party audits may find these issues ahead of time so procedure updates can be made—potentially avoiding accidents or fines—which is why regular facility evaluations are important.
Evaluation is about more than checking the physical location: Review accident or incident reports and records of injuries, time and product loss, and employee or visitor comments to get a full picture of the facility’s safety and compliance history. The Continuous Improvement model looks to adjust regularly and as needed to ensure all communication, and audits are integral to meeting progress goals.
2) Set or Adjust Color Standards
Creating or modifying color standards may help to improve OSHA compliance. While some colors are mandated—for example, red for fire-related hazards or equipment versus orange to warn of potential hazards—there is room for facility-specific standards, especially if they improve overall visual communication and location safety. If repeated incidents pop up in one location, or similar locations, you may find that current color standards aren’t meeting staff needs. During the audit process, consider whether the current color standards are ideal, or if updated methods are necessary.
3) Update or Install New Signage
An audit may reveal areas that require improvement: Slip, trip, or fall hazards may not be properly marked, a change in workflow may require new visual cues or instructions, or you may discover areas where a specific notice may be useful to prevent future incidents. Any traffic pattern, facility process, or workflow changes should follow best practices when installing taped lines or floor signs.
When it comes to which visual cues are required, what aisles must be marked, how to designate traffic flow, or ways to prevent pedestrian injury, look to OSHA standards. The best way to prevent accidents—or fines—is to refer to the requirements from the start, rather than fixing your floor tape and signage later.
4) Implement or Revise Training Programs
New employees and long-term staff alike benefit from dedicated, in-depth training programs. If audits turn up multiple instances of new employees involved in incidents, you may need to consider updating orientation or new employee safety training. If incidents involve longer-term employees, there may be a need for refresher courses. You may also discover that the original training received no longer matches the processes used—a case for regular evaluation to ensure the instruction matches current procedures. No matter the circumstance, regular reminders and targeted training help keep facilities running smoothly.
5) Review and Revise Regularly
Audits aren’t just the first step: Repeated review of processes, safety protocol, and associated floor markings and signage are required to ensure OSHA compliance. Without these safety audits, it’s too easy to miss concerning trends or developing safety risks. Continuous improvement, one of the cornerstones of the 5S Methodology, depends on incremental changes and further evaluation to determine success.
Safety in industrial facilities and production locations is a moving target. While OSHA guidelines are in place to prevent accidents, injury, and death, revisit safety procedures regularly—in addition to OSHA inspections and required audits—so adjustments can be made when necessary. For more industrial safety tips, explore our Resource Center.
¹ Source: https://www.osha.gov/aboutosha