The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) publishes an updated list of the top 10 most cited standards from data collected during the previous year. The list is created both from data collected directly by OSHA and from other sources of labor statistics to provide transparency and insight into the most common safety issues plaguing worksites.

But what makes this a difficult resource to utilize for most workplaces is the consistency of standards seen on the list. How helpful is an annual list of common citations when the list is virtually unchanged year-over-year? The answer primarily lies in the question. Because reframing how organizations think about OSHA’s top 10 list can turn it into a helpful tool. One that employers can use as a springboard to craft holistic, beneficial safety action plans.

The What vs The Why

The question that hounds the OSHA top 10 list is why continue publishing a list that essentially stays the same? But it’s that consistency that is key. Because it provides an avenue for more fruitful insights if organizations ask the right question — what is causing the same standards to appear on the list over and over?

The primary issue is a misunderstanding between being technically compliant and maintaining a strong safety program. There is a difference between having equipment, signage, and documentation and employees understanding the importance of these tools and adhering to their use every time. This creates the disconnect between organizations that believe they are fully compliant with OSHA’s top 10 list and OSHA’s data reinforcing the standards appearing on the list. And digging into this disconnection is where organizations looking for change will make real progress.

Utilizing the List to Find Gaps and Form a Plan

OSHA’s top 10 list works as a framework to identify issues and gaps around a worksite or facility. Employers can then use these observations to drill down into the root causes of their safety issues and establish an action plan around a solid culture of safety.

  • Observe

Employers can start by using the top 10 list as a guide to stage a mock inspection. Observe the site through the eyes of an inspector. Knowing the most common issues up front helps employers focus on those areas first to see the true state of a workplace’s current safety program. Be objective and record detailed observations.

  • Collaborate

Use the OSHA list and observations gathered around the workplace or facility to meet with the organization’s safety leaders and team leads. Discuss any obvious safety issues up front. Then work with the leaders to uncover what is causing perpetual issues and what will cause future issues.

This dives into the human and behavioral elements behind the safety issues. Understanding the issues from the perspective of each team helps employers view the safety issues from a new perspective and discover new solutions. What might seem like an equipment issue could actually be a process or training issue. It also empowers employees to feel more confident identifying issues and creating solutions on their own.

  • Consult

Knowing which issues are the greatest concern and the underlying factors to be address to prevent those issues are the building blocks for an organization’s safety action plan. But it’s easy for details to go overlooked during this process. Bringing in a third-party safety management consultant like Optimum Safety Management helps assess and fill in any gaps before implementing an action plan. Optimum distills observations into actionable metrics from an objective point of view to provide guidance while working with organizations to structure and implement their unique action plan. This eliminates the guesswork and maximizes the efficiency of the action plan to ensure organizations can bolster their safety program with a strong foundation.

Deconstructing the OSHA top 10 list to build a better safety program turn the list into a functional tool instead of another year’s vapid top-ten list. Working with a professional safety management consultant like Optimum ensures employers feel confident while providing employees with a thorough action plan and culture of safety to addresses the turnstile of the most common citations and the issues underneath the obvious.

Optimum Safety Management provides the information and services to help companies develop safety leaders and improve overall safety performance. For more information on how Optimum Safety Management can assist with your businesses’ safety needs, contact an expert today, or reach out via phone at 630-759-9908.

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