Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Health Care and OSHA

If you are an employer, you are likely familiar with OSHA, or should be. Most employees or individuals in general are not going to know much about this government agency. However, OSHA, which stands for Occupational Safety and Health Administration, is the government watchdog at the federal level that oversees workplace safety. So, if you are in human resources, or a business owner, you are going to hear from them or about them.

According to www.OSHA.gov, the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) was passed to prevent workers from being killed or seriously harmed at work. The law requires employers to provide their employees with working conditions that are free of known dangers. The Act created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which sets and enforces protective workplace safety and health standards. OSHA also provides information, training and assistance to workers and employers. Workers may file a complaint to have OSHA inspect their workplace if they believe that their employer is not following OSHA standards or that there are serious hazards.

Who OSHA Covers:

1.) Private Sector Workers -- Most employees in the nation come under OSHA's jurisdiction. OSHA covers private sector employers and employees in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and other U.S. jurisdictions either directly through Federal OSHA or through an OSHA approved state program. State-run health and safety programs must be at least as effective as the Federal OSHA program.

2.) State and Local Government Workers -- Employees who work for state and local governments are not covered by Federal OSHA, but have OSH Act protections if they work in a state that has an OSHA-approved state program. Four additional states and one U.S. territory have OSHA approved plans that cover public sector employees only. This includes: Connecticut, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, and the Virgin Islands. Private sector workers in these four states and the Virgin Islands are covered by Federal OSHA.

3.) Federal Government Workers -- Federal agencies must have a safety and health program that meet the same standards as private employers. Although OSHA does not fine federal agencies, it does monitor federal agencies and responds to workers' complaints. The United States Postal Service (USPS) is covered by OSHA.

Not covered by the OSH Act:

--Self-employed;
--Immediate family members of farm employers that do not employ outside employees; and
--Workplace Hazards regulated by another Federal agency (for example, the Mine Safety and Health Administration, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Coast Guard).

Also, according to www.OSHA.gov, employers have the responsibility to provide a safe workplace. Employers MUST provide their employees with a workplace that does not have serious hazards and follow all relevant OSHA safety and health standards. Employers must find and correct safety and health problems. OSHA further requires employers to try to eliminate or reduce hazards first by making changes in working conditions rather than just relying on masks, gloves, ear plugs or other types of personal protective equipment (PPE). Switching to safer chemicals, enclosing processes to trap harmful fumes, or using ventilation systems to clean the air are examples of effective ways to get rid of or minimize risks.

Employers MUST also:

--Inform employees about hazards through training, labels, alarms, color-coded systems, chemical information sheets, and other methods.
--Keep accurate records of work-related injuries and illnesses.
--Perform tests in the workplace, such as air sampling required by some OSHA standards.
--Provide hearing exams or other medical tests required by OSHA standards.
--Post OSHA citations, injury and illness data, and the OSHA poster in the workplace where workers will see them.
--Notify OSHA within 8 hours of a workplace incident in which there is a death or when three or more workers go to a hospital.
--Not discriminate or retaliate against a worker for using their rights under the law.

Much more detailed information can be found at this website: www.osha.gov .

A safety program is a set of policies and work practices specifically designed by your company for your company. It addresses not only the OSHA regulations and ways to reduce the exposure to hazards in your work areas, but also organizes a performance driven framework for continued focus and improvement on safety, according to www.AllAboutOSHA.com.

When you think about the term “safety program”, you probably think about the OSHA regulations and procedures for handling fire extinguishers or ladders, for example. This is only partly true. A safety program is more than canned procedures on how to comply with OSHA regulations. An effective safety program is designed around the work processes or tasks normally assigned to employees and integrates safety and health related decisions and precautions into them. A significant amount of information about this solution can be found at this site: http://www.allaboutosha.com/safety-programs .

There are online courses for OSHA training and certification. One of the better websites is www.OSHA.com, and is not affiliated with any government agency. With on-demand training courses designed by authoritative experts, OSHA.com delivers immediate and cost-effective educational solutions that improve your safety, compliance and risk management initiatives.

Another web portal for OSHA training can be found at www.osha-pros.com . For two decades, OSHA-Pros USA has become synonymous with quality OSHA training and risk avoidance. Founded by Certified Safety Professionals, OSHA-Pros USA provides both online and group onsite courses, including the OSHA 10 Hour Construction Training, OSHA 30 Hour Construction Training, OSHA 10 Hour General Industry Training and the OSHA 30 Hour General Industry Training. All courses are accepted by OSHA in all 50 states and result in the Department of Labor Wallet Card. Established in 1971, OSHA’s Outreach Training program teaches workers about their rights, employer responsibilities, and how to file a complaint as well as how to identify, abate, avoid and prevent job related hazards.

Workplace safety and health is a very important issue, and the OSHA programs at both the federal and state levels mandate how employers must comply. If you feel that you need more help, the resources listed in this material can assist you in getting up to speed, and help you stay out of trouble. Organizations are subject to heavy fines if violations are reported and verified. Be careful to follow OSHA guidelines as an employer; and if you have problems as an employee with workplace safety, and your company is not responsive to your issue, you have adequate resources at your disposal to help with a resolution. Follow the rules, and be vigilant about protecting yourself, your business, and your employees and co-workers.

Until next time.

2 comments:

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Tom said...

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