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Services for OSHA

August 10, 2011

OSHA provides a service to companies which could prevent them from having any incidents on their report.  If a company wants to make sure they are proving a safe and healthy work environment OSHA offers a free consulting service.  This is a huge benefit which allows actions to be corrected before they become serious.

This consultation would go much like a regular visit would with an opening conference, the walk through followed by the closing conference.  This free service should be taken as a real visit.  By this I mean if any issues were brought to light they need to be corrected in a timely manner.  The possible violations will not be reported unless there is imminent danger, or the employer refuses to correct a problem.  When the walk through is completed there will be a written report of recommendations and agreements.  To make sure the company stays safe there will be a follow-up visit to insure everything that was address is properly handled.

This free service provides an appraisal of mechanical, physical, work practice, and environmental hazards of the workplace.  They also review the present job safety and health programs.  In many cases they will provide training and assistance with implementing corrective procedures.  Overall, this is a huge benefit which should be used if there is ever a concern for the well-being of the employees.

If this does not sound appealing enough there are other programs that offer a service as well.  There are private consultations available as well as consultations on the ergonomics of the working areas.   There are professional organizations as well.  These would include the American Industrial Hygiene Association and the American Society for Safety Engineers.  In many cities hospitals now offer resources to help with the ergonomics of the workplace.

Overall, there are many options available out there to keep a company out of the water.  Please feel free to leave comments.

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Ergonomics

August 9, 2011

I work in retail have good working conditions.  The company comes out every so often to ensure that all of our lighting is working, and our heating and air-conditioning works.  When something does go out they are quick at fixing the issue.  This is part of the OSHA requirement that can fall under ergonomics.  Ergonomics is the proper design of the work environment to address the physical demands experienced by employees.  When doing an assessment of how ergonomic your business is there are three aspects to consider.  The first being physiological being the items such as lighting and ventilation. Psychological factors would be items such as fatigue and stress.  The last factor is engineering design such as the layout and tools provided to complete the work.   When these items work together in a positive way it can help prevent accidents in the workplace.

When companies lose focus on the physical demands of the workplace there can and probably will be incidents that need to be recorded on the proper OSHA log.  There are many medical conditions which can occur on the job.  One such condition is musculoskeletal disorders.  This can include diseases that affect the muscles, nerves, tendons, ligaments, joints, cartilage, blood vessels, and spinal disks.  This disorder is caused by repetitive motion.  Another issue that can arise from improper ergonomics is back issues for employees.  These are just two examples of issues which can happen from bad or out of date ergonomics.

There are a number of ways to increase the ergonomic functions within a company.  These can include setting up an ergonomics team to provide the necessary feedback on problems or future problems in the working areas.  To be effective the team needs to consist of members from management as well as employees.  The suggestions the team makes means nothing without the budget set up to support it, so there should be a fund available for improvement to be made in the working design.  If there is a budget and the necessary adjustments are made there still needs to be the proper channel of feedback.  This can be done through creating workplace surveys. In my opinion the number one prevention tool is training.  There are proper lifting techniques along with back braces to remind employees to lift properly.  If employees are trained on the symptoms there can be measures put in place to prevent it from becoming worse.

Employee safety and health should be the number one priority for companies.  Without them there is often times no business.  Please feel free to leave comments.

Wellness Programs

August 8, 2011

In the workplace employers have the responsibility to keep the physical environment safe for the employees.  There is another responsibility employers need to take in to count to keep their employees healthy.  This would be wellness programs.  These programs can encourage employees to take care of themselves on and off the job.

One main purpose of wellness programs is to focus on preventative health concerns.  Such programs can deal with job burnout, violent behaviors, chemical dependencies, and stress management.     Wellness programs provide employees with flu shots, nutrition education, weight control, stress education¸ stress reduction, and smoking cessation programs.  If employees are notified of these programs it can lead to a more “healthy” workplace.

Many employees face a growing problem of stress on the job.  Stress can be defined as a mental and physical condition that results from a real or perceived threat and the inability to remove it or cope with it.  Employers can know when their employees are stressed through specific performance created issues.  These can include absenteeism, lowered productivity, employee turnover, and more accidents on the job.   More accidents on the job means more issues with OSHA, and more potential liability issues.

Increased stress on the job may be linked to several factors such as; increased demand on the job, drama or lack of drama in their personal lives, the work environment, or the employee’s individual personalities.  In my opinion todays working environment I would guess the number one reason for stress on the job would be the increased demand on employees.  With the economy in decline employers need more productivity with fewer workers.

When there is an increase in stress it can be noticed through either physiologically, psychologically, or behaviorally.  Employers can notice behavioral issues through absenteeism, tardiness, and accidents.  Psychological issues included; nervousness, depression, anxiety, and burnout.  Physiological systems would be high blood pressure, substance abuse, and eating disorders.  If stress on and off the job is not taken seriously it can lead to job burnout.  Please feel free to leave comments.

OSHA Safety Programs

August 5, 2011

The general goal of OSHA is to improve workplace safety and health for the employees.  This is accomplished through programs OSHA created and requires.    Having a safe work environment is everyone responsibility.  Management needs to take action and be involved through setting safety goals and objectives.  The less accidents or hazards can improve the bottom line for a company, which can lead to bonus if structured so.

One way to create involvement is through safety committees.  This is when workers from different levels and departments are involved in safety planning.  One way to be recognition is to allow the peer to elect a person to be part of the committee.  An effective committee can encourage safety awareness, motivate co-workers, and provide feedback when needed.

If an accident does occur there needs to be an investigation to determine the cause, and prevent future incidents.  There are two ways of classifying incidents in the workplace.  The first one is unsafe acts.  This is when it is the employee neglect or oversight that was to blame.  The second is called unsafe conditions.  This is when a mechanical or physical hazard that the employee is in control of is to blame.    Once the investigation is complete it is important to communicate with all the employees so there won’t be another incident.  There are specific forms that need to be filled out as well.

How does management and human resources prevent accidents from happening?  This can be done through communication, training, and design.  Communication is an important factor in preventing accidents.  This can be done through posters, safety booklets, and involvement of all employees.  There needs to be an atmosphere where a question on proper use is encouraged.  The other side of communication is training.  This is where it is management’s responsibility to provide necessary and adequate training.  This involves making sure the training is up-to-date and making sure the employees are understood what is necessary for safety.  Once the training is completed safety records should be kept for future reference.

Again it stressed that safety in a workplace is everyone responsibility.  If there is a wet spill on a floor employees need to take action to correct it before it can cause harm to other employees, or possibly a customer.  A safe store is accomplish through understand the environment and creating an atmosphere of a team responsibility.

Please feel free to leave comments or suggestions.

OSHA Violations

August 4, 2011

There are five levels of violations according to OSHA.  Depending on what level of violation the company receives will determine their penalty.

The first level is willful violation.  This is where intentional violations occur.  An example would be blocking emergency exits.  The penalty for this can be up to $70,000 per violation.

The second level is serious violation.  This is where the violation could cause a serious injury or death, and the employer should or was aware of the situation.  An example would be expecting an employee to operate manual equipment such as forklift with no training.  The penalty for this can be up to $7000 for each violation.

The third level is other than serious violation.  This is where there was a violation of safety or health standards that would not cause serious harm or injury.  This violation carries the same weight as a serious violation of $7000.

The fourth level is a repeat violation.  This is where an employer repeats a violation found in a previous inspection.  The penalty for this level is a $70,000 per violation.    If the repeat violation is determined to be willful then there could be jail time included in the penalty.

The fifth level is de minimis.  This is where there would be no harm done to any safety or health standards.  This is the lowest level and there are no penalties cited for this violation.

If during an inspection and a citation is received the employer must post a copy close to the location where the violation occurred.  This cannot be removed until the problem is fixed.  If an employer does not agree with the citation they have 15 working days to challenge by sending a Notice of Contest to the Area Director.  If this note is not sent during the 15 working days the employer loses the right to challenge the citation.

Please feel free to leave comments or suggestions.

OSHA inpection procedures

August 3, 2011

When OSHA arrives on the premises with proper documentation, or if the company willing lets them in there will be an opening conference.  This is where OSHA lets the company know the purpose of the visit, the scope of the inspection, and the standards that need to be met.  During this opening conference the employer is given copies of safety and health standards that the company should be using.  In the case of the inspection being caused by an employee complaint the company will receive documentation of the issue.  If the complaint was called in anonymously the employee name will be given.

When the opening conference is over the inspection of the property will begin.  The route of the physical inspection will be determined by the OSHA representative.  In case of a complaint the OSHA representative should be directed to the area in which the complaint was filed.  The representative will be checking for;  postings of the OSHA yellow safety and health poster, reviewing the Form 300 for the current year and two previous years, checks the standards for the specific industry, reviews written safety programs, training records, MSDS, and chemical inventories.  The employer needs to ready to submit documentation of such records to the representative.  If there are corrections to be made the company can correct unsafe conditions immediately to avoid a violation report.  When the inspection is completed there will be a closing conference to go over what was discovered during the physical inspection.

There are five levels of violations and the penalties are set accordingly.  During my next blog I will review these.  Please feel free to leave comments.

OSHA Inspections

July 29, 2011

I have been curious what happens during an OSHA inspection.  Granted I have not experienced a visit, but I would like to be prepared on what to expect.

First, it should be noted that an OSHA compliance safety and health officers are permitted to enter the premises without delay.  When they arrive they are able to inspect and investigate during regular hours.

The employers have rights also.  They have the right to request and receive proper identification prior to the inspection.  The officer completing the inspection needs to explain the reason for the inspection.   When the inspection begins they employer can be present while in inspection is taking place.  Once the inspection is completed there can be an informal conference to see what was discovered.   From this point the employer has 15 working days to file a Notice of Contest with the OSHA Area Director.  This would be course of action if  there was a citation and penalty.

There would be a different approach if the employer did not want the inspection to take place.  The employer could ask to see a search warrant before they would allow OSHA on the premises.  This would force OSHA to go the court system and obtain a search warrant, but they would need to have administrative probable cause or evidence of a violation.

During the inspection they would be looking for any condition where there would be imminent danger.  Second, they would look into occurrence where fatalities and catastrophes resulted in hospitalization of three or more employees.  Third, would be to investigate employee complaints.  Fourth, they would target high hazard industries, and fifth are inspections for follow up purposes.

Once the inspection begins there are guidelines that need to be followed.  In my next blog I will go over these.  Please feel free to leave a comment or point out anything I missed.