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OSHA Releases Draft Safety and Health Program Management Guidelines

November 18, 2015

On November 16, 2015, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) released in draft the first revision to its Safety and Health Program Management Guidelines in over 25 years. The draft revised guidelines, originally published in 1989, incorporate lessons learned and best practices from existing OSHA programs and similar industry and international initiatives and also reflect modern technology and practices. According to OSHA's website on the draft revised guidelines, they incorporate, among other things, a more proactive approach to "finding and fixing hazards before they cause injury, illness or death," "improved safety and health in all types of workplaces," "increased worker involvement," and "better communication and coordination on multi-employer worksites."

Although OSHA considers its guidelines applicable in any workplace, the agency's primary focus with them is on small and medium-sized businesses. Of note, OSHA has invited public comment on its draft guidelines; the deadline is February 15, 2016.


The revised guidelines include seven "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 Multiemployer Worksites

Each core element is then subdivided into concrete "action items" and guidance on how to accomplish them, including cross-references to OSHA-developed compliance tools and relevant OSHA requirements. Set out below is a non-exhaustive list of central provisions of these core elements.

Management Leadership

Key provisions of the "Management Leadership" core element include (1) establishing a written policy describing the organization's commitment to safety and health and communicating the policy broadly to all workers and relevant stakeholders, (2) management allocation of the resources required to plan and budget for safety and health program implementation, and (3) enhanced communication with respect to specific goals and objectives of the program as well as the roles and responsibilities of accountable individuals.

Worker Participation

Key provisions of the "Worker Participation" core element include (1) establishing a process for the prompt reporting of safety and health issues and concerns, (2) incentivizing participation in the safety and health program, (3) involving workers at every step of the program from soup to nuts (and removing barriers to participation), and (4) providing access to safety and health information. The revised guidelines broadly define a "worker" to include "all workers, including contractors, subcontractors, and temporary staffing agency workers."

Hazard Identification and Assessment

Key provisions of the "Hazard Identification and Assessment" core element include (1) collecting existing information about workplace hazards (many of which involve culling documents required by or available under other OSHA regulations), (2) comprehensively inspecting the workplace, (3) conducting robust incident investigations, (4) anticipating and preparing for emergency scenarios, and (5) evaluating and prioritizing identified hazards.

Hazard Prevention and Control

Key provisions of the "Hazard Prevention and Control" core element include (1) identifying options for controlling identified hazards, (2) selecting controls with an eye to eliminating the hazards they address (including the use of interim controls and a combination of controls as appropriate), (3) developing and updating a hazard control plan, (4) selecting hazard controls to protect workers during non-routine operations and emergencies, (5) implementing hazard control measures (including using a "worst-first" approach to allocating limited resources), and (6) confirming the effectiveness of those controls.

Education and Training

Key provisions of the "Education and Training" core element include (1) providing program awareness training to all workers (broadly defined to include all managers, supervisors, workers, contractors, sub-contractors, and temporary agency workers), (2) conducting role-specific training for all workers, and (3) conducting training on hazard identification and controls.

Program Evaluation and Improvement

Key provisions of the "Program Evaluation and Improvement" core element include (1) monitoring performance and progress (including tracking a variety of different kinds of indicators and sharing results with workers), (2) verifying the program is implemented and is operating in accordance with OSHA's recommended core elements, and (3) promptly correcting program deficiencies and identifying opportunities for improvement.

Coordination and Communication on Multiemployer Worksites

Key provisions of the "Coordination and Communication on Multiemployer Worksites" core element include each of the above core elements with an emphasis on addressing the unique challenges that may arise in multiemployer environments, including (1) clarifying each employer's roles and responsibilities with respect to safety and health, (2) providing the same information relating to safety and health to all workers on a particular site, regardless of employer, (3) providing for additional measures to ensure hazards are identified and assessed, (4) ensuring the host employer and contractor, subcontractor, or temporary staffing agency are familiar with each other's hazard control plan and understand their respective responsibilities, (5) providing comparable education and training to temporary and contract workers as to permanent workers, and (6) ensuring sufficient program evaluation and improvement, including participation by all employers and their workers.


The draft revised guidelines have substantial breadth and depth. Employers should review them and consider submitting comments to inform the agency of differing perspectives and experiences relevant to any aspect of the core elements. OSHA and the Department of Labor have provided a number of tools to assist regulated entities in assessing the draft revised guidelines and providing informed feedback:

  • Appendix A (Implementation Tools and Resources) to the draft revised guidelines includes references to existing tools for regulated entities as well as a list of future tools, including a checklist that employers may use to track implementation of the various action items in the guidelines, a self-evaluation questionnaire, an audit tool, model programs, model training programs, and case studies.
  • Appendix B (Relationship of Guidelines to Existing OSHA Standards) to the revised guidelines describes (1) how regulated entities may already be implementing the core elements of the revised guidelines (incidental to efforts to comply with relevant OSHA standards) and (2) ways in which the guidelines can help regulated entities comply with existing standards.
  • An open meeting at the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Worker Health and Safety in a Changing Workforce will focus on the draft revised guidelines and will be held on Wednesday, December 9th, 2015 from 2:15 PM to 4:15 PM at 2 Massachusetts Ave, NE Washington D.C. 20002. 


OSHA has invited public comments for 90 days through February 15, 2016 on the revised guidelines. Public comments may be submitted at on Docket #: OSHA-2015-0018.

For more information, please contact the professional(s) listed below, or your regular Crowell & Moring contact.

Daniel W. Wolff
Partner – Washington, D.C.
Phone: +1.202.624.2621