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Fun With OSHA

Fun With OSHA

By: Rachel Cox, Posted: , Section: Latest from Service.com

OSHA Glad Someone Cares About Your Safety?

OSHA is like the big daddy of work place safety.  There's no argument that OSHA can inspire dread among those who operate a business. No one wants to catch the attention of a federal agency—let alone one that can levy fines against you. Like anything government related, it's not exactly a perfect operation. But OSHA has done a lot of good in keeping you and your employees safe.

The Nixon administration formed the Occupational Safety and Health Act in 1970 to "assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance."

Today there are 2,200 inspectors for 130 million employees. Before OSHA, there was an average of 38 deaths a day. Compare this to 2011, when there was an average of 13 worker deaths a day. The results of the program have had on worker safety are clear. These affects are especially profound when you take into consideration the fact that the workforce has doubled since the 70s, so not only are there 66% fewer deaths in the workplace, but the workforce has about 65 million more people in it. The potential for disaster could have exponentially risen in relation to the number of those employed, but it didn't because of safety and health protocols put in place in the early 70s.

Not only has OSHA greatly reduced the number of fatalities, it has also significantly reduced the number of work related injury and illness among workers. In 1972, there were 10.9 incidents per 100 workers, whereas in 2010, that number dropped dramatically to 4 per 100. OSHA has decreased the costs associated with injuries and illnesses as well by lowering the rates at which workers are harmed. 

OSHA covers most private sector employers in every state, D.C., and U.S. territories, whether federally or through state approved plans. In 2011, OSHA conducted 40,648 federal inspections and 52,056 inspections through state approved plans. To maintain compliance, your company needs to follow safe work practices and make sure managers have proper training and the ability to enforce safety regulations.

You should prepare your employees for what to do in the event of an inspection by a compliance safety and health officer. Appoint designated point-of-contacts to answers any questions the inspector may have. A designated employee may do the walkaround with the inspector.  There are a few things that will trigger an OSHA inspector to come knocking on your business' door.  These include the following situations:

  1. Imminent danger—Threats that could cause death or serious harm receive the most attention. Obviously a compliance officer wants to make sure employees are not in immediate danger, and if they are, any hazards are corrected and removed.
  2.  Severe injuries, illnesses, and fatalities—Employers must report all work related fatalities within 8 hours. If it's an inpatient hospitalization, amputation, or loss of an eye, it must be reported within 24 hours.
  3.  Worker Complaints—Workers who feel there have been violations will also receive an inspection from a compliance officer. Employees are given anonymity when they file complaints.
  4.  A Referral Has Been Made—Referrals from other federal, state or local agencies, individuals, organizations, or the media can trigger an inspection.
  5. Targeted Inspections—You will receive priority if you are in a high-hazard industry or your workplace has experienced high rates of injuries and illness.
  6.  Follow-up Inspections—OSHA will follow up on violations cited during previous inspections.

Those businesses not in compliance with OSHA face citations and fines. There are stiff penalties for not paying your fines and having a citation on your record could affect your ability to bid for jobs and obtain contracts. The worst thing you can do to incite the wrath of OSHA is show her you don't care: ignoring citations, not supplying PPEs for your employees, not making sure they wear them, etc. It may seem like a pain and a sort of over-reach on the part of the government, but going to work and earning a living shouldn't be a death sentence for your employees. Going to work and coming home to one's family in one piece seems reasonable, and OSHA has helped make that a reality for many more workers in America everyday.

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