7 Elements Of An Effective Range Safety & Health Program


It’s going to take more than just downloading written program templates to develop, implement and maintain safety and health programs at your shooting range. But if they’re developed, implemented and maintained correctly, range owners can prevent workplace injuries, illnesses and deaths — while also reducing their financial liability.

Here are seven recommended practices to further improve your shooting range’s safety and health program.

1. It Starts At The Top

Range management leadership is essential to an effective safety and health program. Developing a written safety and health commitment statement that can be communicated to range staff and visitors is a good first step to showing management commitment.

However, it’s more important for range management to set the example by following safety program requirements — even when they think no one is looking. Range management should set realistic and achievable goals for their safety and health programs and actively work toward meeting those goals.

Safety program roles and responsibilities need to be established and communicated to your range staff. The necessary resources (time and money) to build your safety and health program must be provided. 

Ultimately, you should integrate workplace safety into all facets of your range operations and develop a disciplinary action program to hold range staff accountable for workplace safety and health.

2. Employee Participation

Range staff represent an owner’s most valuable resource and should be able to report safety and health concerns, incidents, near-misses and injuries without fear of retaliation. Safety information — like safety data sheets, injury and illness data and exposure monitoring results — must be readily available to employees. 

A safety committee should be formed and used to incorporate employees from every level of your company to assist with safety and health program development, implementation and administration. Delegating or “dumping” safety program development and administration responsibility onto one staff member is not recommended. Instead, encourage staff with program area interest or related experience to take the lead on individual programs.

Mark Rice, director of range operations at The Gallery Sportsman’s Club in Lakewood, Colo., shared this practice starts at the top.

“Through strong leadership, the staff will see the procedures and techniques being completed by management and will follow suit,” he said.

3. Hazard Identification & Assessment

Frequently inspect your shooting range for safety and health hazards. Evaluate the severity and probability of harm for each observed workplace hazard. Prioritize the highest risks for corrective action and utilize interim control measures to protect range staff until the permanent controls are implemented.

Investigate each workplace incident and near-miss report as soon as possible. Identify causal factors and root causes for each incident and near-miss report. Investigation findings placing blame on the employee are normally not the correct root cause. Dig deeper and ask why did the employee not follow procedure. Was it because of a lack of program training or enforcement?

Conduct full-shift personal airborne lead dust and noise exposure assessments on your range staff to evaluate employee exposures under peak operating conditions. Collecting this data will allow your range to evaluate regulatory compliance and the overall effectiveness of your hazard controls. 

Be sure to sample non-routine tasks, like filter changes or range maintenance activities, to determine if the controls and personal protective equipment provided are acceptable for the airborne lead dust levels recorded.

4. Hazard Prevention & Control

Identify potential controls for each of the workplace hazards identified from your inspections, incident reports and near misses. Where possible, eliminate the hazard. If elimination isn’t feasible, use a combination of engineering, administrative and personal protective equipment controls to mitigate it. 

Be careful not to rely solely on personal protective equipment (PPE) because the hazard is still present and the PPE itself may be insufficient. Remember, you won’t be able to fully evaluate the adequacy of your hearing and respiratory protection until you complete full-shift personal noise and airborne lead dust sampling.

“Range owners should be more involved in these seven practices. If ownership does not buy into safety, the range manager will face an uphill battle implementing these must-needed practices.” ”

Mark Rice, Director of Range Operations
The Gallery Sportsman’s Club • Lakewood, CO.

5. Education & Training

Train all range staff on the potential hazards and related controls present at your facility. 

Provide safety and health training to all range managers, supervisors and employees upon employment and when new hazards or controls are introduced. Retrain staff when unsafe behaviors are observed following a near miss or after an incident. 

Communicate your safety and health requirements to contractors working at your range and provide additional training to your staff if onsite contractors can potentially introduce new hazards at your facility. Ensure safety training is provided in a language and literacy level that all workers will understand and allow for participant questions and feedback. 

Don’t forget to document and maintain records of all safety training provided.

6. Evaluation & Improvement

Periodically, verify your safety and health programs are fully implemented and working as designed. 

Range management staff should make frequent observations of workplace operations to determine if the required work practices, procedures and controls are being followed. Review near misses, injuries and incidents to further evaluate the effectiveness of your safety program and solicit worker feedback for improvements. 

Provide retraining if deficiencies are observed or if program gaps are identified. Reevaluate your safety and health program goals at least annually to determine if changes are necessary. Share your safety program evaluation findings with all range staff to further improve the program. 

7. Multi-Employer Worksites

Lead reclamation, range maintenance, cleaning and other trade contractors frequent both indoor and outdoor shooting ranges. Normally these contractors are in and out of your facility without incident. 

However, contractors may be potentially exposed to hazards at your shooting range, or they may create hazards that could potentially harm your range staff. Given this risk, it’s important for range management staff to communicate and coordinate with their contractors prior to arriving on site. 

Inform contractors of the types of hazards that may be present at your facility, the means to avoid or control the hazards you identified and methods to report an injury or safety concern to your range management staff. 

Notify your range staff of the potential hazards generated from the contractor’s work, the means to avoid or control exposure to these hazards and how to report safety concerns related to the contractor’s work. 

Tying It All Together

Incorporating these seven elements into your shooting range’s safety and health program will save your range money and better protect your range staff. Rice agrees.

“Range owners should be more involved in these seven practices,” he said. “If ownership does not buy into safety, the range manager will face an uphill battle implementing these must-needed practices.” 

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