No business owner should operate a company or hire employees without a carefully crafted safety manual in place. The most cautious, safety-conscious company might do a great job of verbally educating employees on workplace safety issues, but if that information isn't reduced to writing, the employer is vulnerable to legal liability if something goes wrong. While insurance such as workers compensation is important, a safety manual is a necessary component of workplace safety. In addition, providing employees with a comprehensive set of written safety instructions reinforces the importance of the training they may already receive and reduces the likelihood of accidents or injuries. When drafting your own safety manual, consult materials published by the Occupational Safety and Health Association (OSHA), a division of the U.S. Department of Labor that specializes in workplace safety. Also, seek out expert advice. Labor and employment attorneys are often involved in creating manuals related to workplace safety, and some consulting firms specialize in advising employers about how to run a safe working environment. Regardless of what resources you use to develop your company's safety manual, consider including the following concepts and ideas: Reacting to Emergencies First, employers should address the procedures it expects its employees to follow in the event of an emergency. Emergencies come in a variety of different forms, and a good manual will contemplate the possibilities and instruct employees on how to address the complexities of different scenarios. For example, if a condition on the premises puts employees at risk, the manual should provide a standard for evacuation procedures. Provisions in a workplace safety manual related to emergencies should also emphasize the need for calm, deliberate actions to avoid preventable accidents and injuries. Reporting Accidents Prudent employers will outline a clear chain of command in their safety manuals -- that chain becomes important when accidents occur. Employees should understand exactly which supervisor or manager they need to notify, as well as the need to phone 911 if the circumstances demand it. Typically, safety manuals also detail the procedures for documenting workplace accidents. Location of Safety Items Safety manuals should inform employees where to find important safety-related items around the workplace. For example, a well-crafted manual will explain how to locate first aid kits and fire extinguishers. In addition, safety manuals should instruct employees to wear certain protective gear, such as hard hats and gloves, when engaging in dangerous activities. Workplace Violence Most companies have adopted a violence-free workplace policy, and safety manuals should emphasize that zero tolerance stance. Employee-on-employee violence accounts for a shocking number of serious workplace injuries, so taking proactive steps to prevent any altercations among staff members is important. Implementing mediation and conflict resolution initiatives can quell tensions before arguments escalate. Instructions on Operating Equipment In addition to the hands-on training companies conduct to educate employees on the proper way to use tools, equipment, and machinery, companies should provide employees with detailed written instructions in the safety manual so employees can routinely refer back to the information. After all, safety training sessions are often overwhelming, so this provides an opportunity to reinforce the information. Outline Discipline for Failure to Comply Upfront, employees should understand the implications of failing to adhere to their employer's safety standards. Therefore, the safety manual provides a perfect platform for outlining the consequences of deviating from a company's policies and procedures related to safety. Using these ideas as inspiration, you'll be on the right track to creating a safety manual that is both informative and helpful. In addition, make sure you customize the material to relate to the unique realities of your workplace. Photo credit: safetymanualtoday.com At safetyservicescompany.com, the team run by Jay Acker makes safety manuals and a variety of safety training materials. They make videos, posters, training kits and other items for safety training.