If you hold a job, there is a good chance that your employer is governed by rules and regulations set forth by the Occupational Safety and Health Association (OSHA). OSHA rules have evolved over the past 50 years to ensure that employers use modern technology and other best practices to ensure worker safety. What are some of the most important rules and regulations that you should know about as a worker or employer?
Have a Written Safety Plan
No matter what industry your company is in, it is critical to have a written safety plan in place. If people are working at heights, there should be fall arrest systems in place as well as scaffolding platforms available to workers. Those who are working under or near falling debris should have hard hats and other safety equipment available.
Part of a safety plan should address how workplaces or job sites are monitored for both known and possibly unknown hazards. Each day, a workplace or job site should be inspected for hazards, and work should not commence if there is a hazard that cannot be remedied in a timely manner.
Make Use of Warning Signs
Employers should make use of hazard warning signs whenever a worker may enter a dangerous working environment. Dangers could include exposure to chemicals, machinery that could turn itself on or off without warning or falling from heights. Signs should include both words and symbols, and words should be written in a variety of languages to get the point across quickly to all workers.
The best signs are large enough to be seen from any distance necessary. Ideally, employers will use one sign as opposed to several smaller signs as multiple signs can be distracting and confusing to employees. Finally, words and symbols should be written in bright colors that are easy to see and are clearly distinguishable from the background.
Have Training Records Available for Inspection
As a general rule, no worker should be asked to perform a task that he or she is not trained to perform. This may reduce the odds of an injury and the costs that go with it. It may also help an employer avoid citations and other penalties from OSHA. After a serious accident, the organization may want to do an inspection of your factory or other job site. Having training records on hand will help to show that your company takes worker safety seriously.
Major Accidents Need To Be Reported to OSHA
If an accident requires a worker to go to the hospital or have a limb amputated, it generally constitutes a serious accident. A report should be sent to OSHA within 24 hours to comply with regulations. If an accident report is not sent, it could result in a citation or even result in the company being shut down for a period of time.
Workers Should Look for Hazards
While there are many things that employers can do to comply with OSHA regulations, employees have a responsibility to keep themselves safe as well. If they see hazards such as mislabeled chemicals or slippery floors, they should contact management immediately. It may also be a good idea to create a new label or mop the floor where slipping may occur.
Workers should also insist that they have access to eye washing stations as well as access to face, head and neck protection. When workers are exposed to noise, workers must be given something to put on their ears, and they may also be required to give workers breaks outside of a noisy environment throughout the day. Workers who are not properly protected may report violations to OSHA or make charges to the EEOC.
Workers Should Never Be Asked to Work in Dangerous Weather Conditions
Workers should never have to work when it is too humid, too cold or too wet to do so safely. If hail or lightning are present, it may be necessary to stop work until the storm has passed. As a general rule, inexperienced workers or those over the age of 65 are most vulnerable to heat stroke or may otherwise need rest breaks more frequently in humid conditions. Workers should also be given access to water and shade while working in hot weather and access to heated spaces and warm drinks while working in cold weather.
Anyone who runs a company or works for an employer should know about their rights and responsibilities under OSHA regulations. While accidents may occur, the worst thing that a person can do is to lie about how it happened or deny that it occurred. Instead, employers and employees should work together to make sure that everyone stays safe on the job and that worker safety needs can be balanced with the need to get work done in a timely manner.
Jessica Kane writes for Advance Online, a leading provider of web-based OSHA. DOT. and HAZWOPER training.