This week OSHA announced that it is seeking public comment on its updated voluntary Safety and Health Program Management Guidelines (OSHA-2015-0018) which it hopes “will provide employers and workers with a sound, flexible framework for addressing safety and health issues in the workplace.” Comments must be received by February 15th, 2016.

The Safety and Health Program Management Guidelines were originally published in 1989. They have been updated to reflect modern technology and practices as well as incorporate approaches taken in two other OSHA programs – the Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) and Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP) – and similar initiatives, for example, ANSI/AIHA Z10.

The guidelines take a proactive approach by helping employers collaborate with their employees in establishing health and safety management plans. OSHA believes that they will be especially useful for small to mid-sized businesses and in multi-employer situations. The Agency emphasizes in the News Release that these guidelines are “advisory only and do not create any new legal obligations or alter existing obligations created by OSHA standards or regulations.”

The 42 page draft guidelines are detailed, informative, clearly presented, and illustrated. They are divided into seven, color-code “core elements”:

  • Management Leadership
  • Worker Participation
  • Hazard Identification and Assessment
  • Hazard Prevention and Control
  • Education and Training
  • Program Evaluation and Improvement
  • Coordination and Communication on Multi-employer Worksites.

Each section provides a brief overview followed by Action Items and steps on “how to accomplish it.” Two appendices follow: Appendix A offers Implementation Tools and Resources which, when viewed online, contain links to various training tools and related OSHA materials; Appendix B, entitled “Relationship of Guidelines to Existing OSHA Standards,” contains color-coded tables detailing the existing standards with their connection to the seven core elements.

OSHA’s updates don’t end with the Guidelines. The webpage itself reflects changes which improve user experience. A countdown clock has been introduced counting down the number of days left in the comment period. Large, colorful icons link to information, easy access to the guidelines, and the option to submit comments directly from the webpage.