A safe workplace is an employee’s right. OSHA requires employers to provide a safe work environment for their employees. Safety supervisors represent and act on behalf of their employers and have a duty and responsibility to carry out this mission. They must take a leadership role in making safety part of every job or work activity. Supervisors must work to manage safety by identifying hazards, implementing hazard prevention and control programs, educating and training employees on safe work practices, involving employees in safety management and enforcing safety rules.
Safety supervisors must know and understand OSHA regulations to be functional leaders. This knowledge is necessary to lead by example and direct employees on safe work practices. Safety supervisors must communicate clear goals and expected behavior with regards to safety standards. Meeting established goals requires the supervisor to motivate and encourage employee participation in safety and health programs. One way safety supervisors can motivate is to promote a culture of open communication where employees can voice their safety concerns.
Keeping the workplace free from hazards is a major duty for safety supervisors. Supervisors regularly monitor operations, conduct routine inspections to discover and correct unsafe conditions and follow-up to ensure timely corrective actions. Unannounced inspections are routinely conducted by OSHA. Safety supervisors participate in these inspections and post OSHA issued citations in the work area for a minimum of three days or until the violation has been corrected.
Investigations and Reporting
When workplace accidents and injuries occur, safety supervisors are responsible for investigating them. Supervisors collect facts, determine cause and take action to prevent the incident from recurring. They must also keep records of work-related injuries and illnesses and provide this information to OSHA when requested. When a workplace injury or illness happens and results in a fatality or hospitalization of three or more employees, the safety supervisor has a duty to report this information to OSHA within eight hours.
Safety meetings provide a means to reinforce safe work practices, safety programs and to communicate information, especially about accidents and near misses for learning purposes. Conducting regular safety meetings increases awareness and provides a platform for employees to ask questions or express concerns. Safety supervisors are responsible for conducting regular safety meetings that cover specific information relevant to employee job duties.
Certain OSHA standards mandate training. Safety supervisors must provide all required training and any optional training that further facilitates a safe workplace. Particularly, supervisors must train employees on OSHA rules specific to the workplace, work procedures required for compliance, workplace hazards and actions needed for employees to protect themselves. Supervisors must document and maintain training records.
Enforcing the Rules
Supervisors have a duty to make sure employees understand and follow workplace safety rules and policies. They must hold employees accountable and enforce compliance with safety rules, work practices and job procedures. This includes making sure employees use proper protective equipment when required and report unsafe conditions, injuries and accidents.
Deb Dupree has been an active writer throughout her career in the corporate world and in public service since 1982. She has written numerous corporate and educational documents including project reports, procedures and employee training programs. She has a Bachelor of Science in chemical engineering from the University of Tennessee.