How to Write a Memo About Safety Hazards

by Linda Ray ; Updated September 26, 2017
Midsection of young worker holding a yellow hardhat  outdoors with factory in the background

Safety programs that include documented policies and procedures save employees from accidents and save the company money. According to lead safety adviser Mark Steinhofer at Safety Management Group, employee injury and illness rates decline by 20 percent and companies see a $4 to $6 return on investment for money spent on safety programs. Write safety memos and documents that follow Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidelines and are directed at employees with proper training and credentials.

Employers Are Bound to Comply

OSHA requires employers to provide safety guidelines to all employees performing jobs that could be hazardous. Small business owners, safety compliance officers, human resources professionals, training directors or other employees designated with the supervision and safety of employees are responsible for writing safety memos and distributing them to appropriate staff members. For example, a foreman may be responsible for circulating memos about the requirements for wearing hard hats in certain areas.

Employees Receive Appropriate Safety Messages

Safety memos must be designed to target the appropriate employees who will understand and be affected by the safety regulations. Ignorance of how a job is supposed to be performed is no excuse for a lack of safety, according to OSHA. It’s the employer’s responsibility to train workers who are not properly certified or trained in jobs that carry risk. Human resources may compose the list of employee job titles, for example, that includes their level of access, such as “only certified crane operators may enter yard when machines are in use.” This message could go out in a memo and be posted in the work area.

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Memo Content Checked Against Company Protocols

Employers and managers creating safety memos should compare the content of the documents against company checklists that determine the core requirements in safety documentation. If, for example, a new OSHA ruling is passed down, the memo should explicitly cite the requirements, and managers should check the wording to ensure its accuracy. New directives coming down from the board of directors or a safety commission should follow a checklist provided by the creator of the rules. Memos should include instructions for employees to provide feedback to ensure they understand the directives. A memo may include the names of those who need to read it, with the requirement that each designated employee initial after his name.

Failure to Comply Penalties

Employers can face stiff fines from OSHA if they fail to provide employees with clear safety rules and regulations. Employers who are deemed to show a disregard for employee safety by not complying with OSHA directives can be fined up to $70,000 per violation. Failure to post safety memos and OSHA regulations also can lead to fines. Once an employer has been cited for safety rules violations, the employer also must post a copy of that violation in plain view for three days or until the problem has been fixed. Additionally, all memos and training materials also must be made available to employees in the language they can understand.. Employers may have violations translated, for example, and post side-by-side copies of the violation in English, Spanish, Arabic and any other languages spoken by employees to avoid additional fines. It’s up to human resources or a hiring manager to translate and provide all training memos and manuals in the languages spoken by employees as well.

About the Author

Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."

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