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What is OSHA and How Does It Affect Your Workplace?
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) grew out of the Occupational Safety and Health Act in 1970. It sets out to reduce the number of work related illnesses, injuries and deaths that occur every year. OSHA directs national compliance initiatives in occupational health and safety; setting out what needs to be done in order to ensure the safety of employees.
Complying With OSHA
There is a range of aspects that companies need to consider in order to comply with OSHA:
- Developing and maintaining safe working procedures.
- Report all accidents that result in three or more employees being hospitalized and all fatal incidents; and do so within eight hours of them occurring.
- Keep up to date and accurate records of accidents, illnesses and near misses.
Employers are considered to be in violation of the Act if they discriminate against workers who exercise their rights under OSHA. It is, therefore, important that employers take the concerns of employees seriously and act on any potential hazards quickly.
Companies need to ensure that they have a set of policies and practices that they have designed in relation to OSHA regulations. They should set out how the company will reduce hazards in the work place and their vision for continual improvements in health and safety. These policies should cover every aspect of employee’s work tasks, environment and daily procedures.
In many states, OSHA requires specialized training for a variety of activities including construction. The OSHA 10 Hour Construction Course (also known as the the OSHA Outreach Program) is the single most popular training course taken by workers in the US. The OSHA Outreach Training Program provides training for workers and employers on the recognition, avoidance, abatement, and prevention of safety and health hazards in workplaces. The OSHA 10 Hour training also provides information regarding workers’ rights, employer responsibilities, and how to file a complaint. OSHA 10 Hour training must be conducted by an authorized trainer who has undergone safety training through OSHA authorized programs throughout the US. When you attend an OSHA 10 course you will receive an OSHA 10 card in the mail.
When creating these policies a company needs to question whether the plans already in place encourage the building of measurable health and safety goals. Once completed policies must be put down in writing and should be included in a company’s operations manual. Employees must be made aware of the existence of these policies and of their role in the continued safety of everyone within the company.
Policies are working documents and as so need to be reviewed regularly and changes made as required. The changes will reflect how the policies have worked in practice and identify new hazards as a company grows and develops. Employers need to consider how they are going to measure performance in order to assess whether the policies are effective; being able to measure the performance and effectiveness of a company’s policies is required in order to comply with OSHA.
Employees need to have clearly defined roles and responsibilities when it comes to health and safety. They need to know who to report incidents to, where to go for first aid, and what the company’s evacuation procedures are in relation to a wide range of possible events.
Training is vital in giving employees the knowledge and confidence to work within health and safety regulations and to act appropriately when things go wrong. It is the role of the employer to identify the employees who are at risk and to provide them with appropriate training. Training should cover knowledge of emergency plans and fire prevention, the use and general maintenance of tools and work spaces. Training should also cover the safe use of power tools and powered platforms that allow them to work at heights. Knowledge of the different types of protective equipment and clothing is a central requirement of training as is ensuring that each employee knows what safety equipment they need and how to use it effectively.
If Things Go Wrong
Even when a company acts within the regulations and provides high quality training and equipment for its staff things can go wrong. When involved in an industry such as construction where it is not employees that are at risk, but, also the general public, then there are extra factors to consider.
Ensuring that all employees are covered by insurance, and the type of insurance they have is right for the type of work they do, is essential in safeguarding both the welfare and future of the company and the public. Tradesman insurance can cover as little as just the tools that are being used, or it can cover from general liability insurance to workers compensation insurance. Compensation insurance protects the employee, as it assists with the costs related to injury at work; it also protects the client and stops the injury needing to be covered by their insurance. A fully insured tradesman is not only acting sensibly and legally they are more likely to get themselves, and their company recommended and hired again in the future. There are other types of cover that a company may want to check are in place before accepting a new contract. Risk insurance is related to the likelihood of natural disaster, fire or another type of disaster destroying a property that is being worked on and is usually purchased by the homeowner.
Staying Safe at Work
Although the employer is responsible for putting OSHA regulations in place, providing training and providing insurance for their employees, each employee is also responsible for their own safety and the safety of those around them. Safe working practices can only be carried out by the individual and errors can only be rectified once they have been seen and reported. Employees who take their responsibilities under OSHA are less likely to have a serious accident and more likely to have a long and productive working life.