By Colleen C. Karpinsky
Published in New Hampshire Business Review
Jamie owns and operates a small New Hampshire business and currently employs 10 office workers. Should Jamie be concerned with NH Safety Requirements?
Yes. New Hampshire law requires that every employer provide its employees with a safe and healthy workplace. To help ensure that this general duty obligation is met, New Hampshire workers’ compensation laws require certain employers to establish a workplace safety committee, create and disseminate a written safety program, and file a safety summary form with the Department of Labor on a biennial basis. As Jamie’s business has 10 or more employees, he is required to comply with all three requirements.
The Safety Committee
Under New Hampshire workers’ compensation law, all employers with 5 or more employees are required to establish a joint loss management committee, sometimes referred to as a Safety Committee. The size of the Safety Committee will vary based on the size of the business; employers with 20 or fewer employees must have a minimum of 2 members, and employers with more than 20 employees must have a minimum of 4 members. According to Department of Labor regulations, the Safety Committees should generally be comprised of an equal number of employer and employee representatives. Employer representatives are members of management and employee representatives are non-management employees representative of the workforce.
The purpose of the Safety Committee requirement is to bring employees and management together in a cooperative forum to discuss and address workplace safety issues. The goals of the Committee are to establish safety practices that prevent workplace illnesses and injuries and to investigate safety incidents or accidents to prevent their reoccurrence. According to New Hampshire regulation, the Safety Committee must:
(1) meet at least quarterly;
(2) elect a chairperson;
(3) develop and disseminate a committee policy statement;
(4) maintain current, and disseminate to all employees, clearly established goals and objectives;
(5) review workplace accident and injury data to help establish the committee’s safety goals and objectives;
(6) establish specific safety programs that designate individuals knowledgeable of specific safety requirements for each department or site, provide for inspections at least annually, include performance audits at least annually of inspection findings, and communicate to management identified hazards and suggested control measures;
(7) ensure that necessary employee safety training is taking place; and
(8) assist with the identification and definition of alternative work duties for employees returning to work after workplace illnesses or injuries.
The Written Safety Program
In addition to a Safety Committee, employers with 10 or more employees must also have a written safety program. The written safety program is meant to demonstrate the employer’s commitment to safety and to communicate to employees the company’s safety policies, practices, and rules. The written safety program should also clearly identify roles and responsibilities for safety functions.
According to New Hampshire regulation, the written safety program must include (among other requirements) the following:
(1) Designation, by name and title, of a person who shall be knowledgeable of site specific safety requirements and be accountable for their implementation and adherence;
(2) Provisions for health and safety inspections and audits, at least annually for hazard identification purposes;
(3) Descriptions of identified hazards, with recommended control measures;
(4) Disciplinary measures for violations of the safety rules and regulations set forth in the program;
(5) Provision(s) for the commitment of adequate resources solely for safety; and
(6) Provision(s) for medical services, emergency response, first aid, and accident reporting and investigation.
New Hampshire law also requires that the current written safety program be reviewed by all employees. To accomplish this, the program should be disseminated to all current employees, and any new employee should receive a copy as part of new employee orientation. As sections of the written program are updated on a periodic basis, it is important to provide employees with copies of any updated sections.
Employers should carefully evaluate safety concerns applicable to their business and address them in the written safety program. For office workers, a safety program should include local emergency contact numbers (e.g., police, fire, ambulance, poison control), evacuation procedures for each building with a meeting place and headcount procedure (and this should be posted in each building), policies to avoid accidental injury (such as procedures for proper ergonomics, lifting and general office housekeeping), and a policy about the administration of minor first aid and the location of first aid supplies. Employers should also include additional procedures such as a procedure for responding to instances of workplace violence or other crises such as power outages, flooding, etc.
Biennial Safety Summary Form Filing
Finally, all employers with 10 or more employees are required to file a Safety Summary Form with the New Hampshire Department of Labor biennially (every other year) by January lst. The form is used to provide a summary of your written safety program to the Department demonstrating compliance. In addition to some other basic information, the Safety Summary Form asks employers to list: the members of the Safety Committee; potential safety and health hazards identified by the Committee; established emergency response procedures; the individuals responsible for safety training and corrective actions; a summary of your safety disciplinary policy; and your method for ensuring that adequate resources and communication are dedicated to safety and health policies. Employers can complete and send a hard copy of the form every other year to the New Hampshire Department of Labor or complete it on-line at: http://www.labor.state.nh.us/safety_training_forms.asp.
Colleen C. Karpinsky is an employment attorney at the law firm of McLane, Graf, Raulerson & Middleton, P.A. Colleen can be reached at 603-628-1495 or [email protected]. The McLane Law Firm is the largest law firm in the State of New Hampshire, with offices in Concord, Manchester, Portsmouth and Woburn,