If you work in an industry that requires safety inspections and OSHA compliance workspaces, you may often visit sites that require these things, or you work for a company that does these things. OSHA standards are divided into four basic categories based on different industries. They include general industry, construction, maritime, and agriculture. If your company lies within any of these categories, it’s very important to know that a company has gone through the proper steps to create an OSHA compliant workplace.
The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 says, “To assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women; by authorizing enforcement of the standards developed under the Act; by assisting and encouraging the States in their efforts to assure safe and healthful working conditions; by providing for research, information, education, and training in the field of occupational safety and health.” No one should ever be injured, fall ill, or die because they were trying to get a paycheck.
OSHA compliance and workplace safety begin with the employer. Employers have a responsibility to create and maintain a safe work environment for themselves, employees, contractors, and visitors. Employers are responsible for providing the following:
- A workplace free from serious recognized hazards
- Safe, properly maintained tools and equipment
- Necessary signage and labels on all potentially hazardous materials and areas
- Updated operating procedures, and safety and health requirements
- Safety training for all employees, in languages they can understand
- Safety training on all hazardous chemicals, with accompanying safety data sheets
- Post applicable OSHA posters in prominent locations for all employees
- Keep records of work-related injuries and illnesses, and allow employees, current and former, access to that log
More information and responsibilities can be found here.
A few things to know about OSHA compliance
A small business with 10 or fewer employees is exempt from many of the OSHA rules and standards when it comes to recordkeeping and compliance. Industries considered low-hazard are also exempt such as, retail, finance, insurance, real estate.
The most common workplace violations after an OSHA inspection include, but are not limited to, the following:
Improperly Labeled Hazardous Materials
Hazardous chemicals that are flammable, carcinogenic, and reactive need to be properly labeled so hazards are visibly seen. This includes propane, chlorine, and other everyday items. This is especially important in laboratories and job sites where explosive materials need to be stored appropriately and safely. Hazard communication standards must be trained to all employees, and all appropriate signage, warnings, and labels must be posted to be OSHA compliant.
Scaffolding Not Meeting Standards
The complex scaffolding you see on sides of buildings of construction zones require proper construction with suspension ropes and appropriate counterweights. A study done by the Bureau of Labor and Statistics found that of all the scaffolding injuries, 72% of the workers slipped or their support gave way.
Slip and Fall Protection
One of the most widespread workplace concerns for safety is slip and fall protection. This stems across all varieties of industries, in both office settings and on-the-job sites. The OSHA standard requires employers to maintain safe walking surfaces and areas surrounding them, such as steps, handrails, elevator platforms, etc. Anywhere people are walking, needs to be free of cracks, change in elevation, spills, etc. The National Floor Safety Institute states that slips and falls account for over 8 million emergency room visits per year, are the primary cause of lost days from work, and are the leading cause of worker’s compensation claims. Preventing these from happening to both employees and visitors is key to protecting your company and its workers.
Respiratory protection can also apply to multiple industries, not just those in laboratories or construction zones. Anything from dust, fog, smoke, sprays, dust from mixing dry ingredients, and solvent vapors – even from paint, can all cause sickness or death when inhaled. OSHA signage, labeling, and respiratory protection devices should always be used and displayed for all employees.
If you work at a business, this applies to you, unless you work in the middle of nowhere, with no electricity. This standard takes a lot of time to read through and determine what your site’s specific needs are to avoid electrical problems. The amount of electricity used, and types of electricity conducting materials vary per industry. Electrical wiring problems can stem from grounding circuits, temporary wiring, conductive materials, and more – and should be installed and maintained properly.
Being cited for OSHA non-compliance is not only expensive, but can completely ruin a company’s reputation. OSHA defines five types of violations served for non-compliance. Serious, Other-Than-Serious, and Posting Requirements all cost $13,260 per violation. Failure to Abate also costs $13,260 but per DAY beyond the abatement date. Abate means to end or reduce something, so failure to end a violation will result in that fee per day until it is resolved. The third penalty is Willful or Repeated violation to the tune of $132,598 per violation. Ouch!
If you ever suspect a company is not following OSHA compliant safety practices and procedures, know that there are whistleblower protections through OSHA for anyone refusing to operate machinery deemed unsafe by safety standards, or reporting unsafe conditions to OSHA. It is always better safe than sorry. OSHA also provides support to businesses to ensure compliance. They offer free, confidential on-site consultation programs in all 50 states, D.C., and several U.S. territories. They will walk through and assist in establishing or improving the safety and health programs on the site.
First Response takes your safety very seriously and trains in OSHA compliant practices to keep your business safe, knowledgeable, and compliant. Contact us any time with questions or to schedule your in-house training that will leave a lasting impression with your employees.