In a recent memo, OSHA announced an initiative to help protect temporary employees from workplace hazards. The agency said it’s taking action after reports of temporary workers suffering fatal injuries – many during their first days on the job.
A major issue surrounding temp workers is that they can be overlooked – especially when it comes to adequate training, protective equipment, and even the proper reporting of injuries. Although employers are required to report and log all injuries, non-reporting for temporary workers remains a common practice today.
Some employers still have the mindset that since temp worker is being paid by someone else (the staffing agency), then the temp is not a real employee. This is not how OSHA sees it. Employers must treat temp workers as their own employees, and all OSHA rules apply. If they get hurt or need training, PPE, medical exams, or air monitoring, they must receive the same treatment as regular employees.
The new OSHA effort will result in inspectors using a newly created code in their information system to denote when temporary workers are exposed to safety and health violations, and differentiating between temporary workers and permanent workers. In addition, they will verify that temp workers have received training in a language they can understand.
Below is an excerpt from OSHA’s memo:
Employers have a duty to provide necessary safety and health training to all workers regarding workplace hazards. In order to determine whether employers are complying with their responsibilities under the Act, please direct CSHOs in your region to determine within the scope of their inspections whether any employees are temporary workers and whether any of the identified temporary employees are exposed to a violative condition. In addition, CSHOs should assess- using records review and interviews – whether those workers have in fact received required training in a language and vocabulary they understand. Recent inspections have indicated problems where temporary workers have not been trained and were not protected from serious workplace hazards due to lack of personal protective equipment when working with hazardous chemicals and lack of lockout/tagout protections, among others.
It is OSHA’s job to regulate safety in the workplace. Failing to meet their standards can result in citations and hefty fines. But a visit from OSHA doesn’t have to bring on feelings of anxiety and fear for employers.
If employers take the necessary steps towards compliance, they can rest easy when OSHA comes knocking.
Here are the top 10 ways to avoid OSHA fines:
Being Prepared – In most cases, OSHA won’t show up without a reason. Possible reasons for a visit to your jobsite include: a fatality or serious accident, employee complaint of unsafe conditions, and follow-up inspections.
Hazard Communication (HazCom) – Failure to maintain adequate HazCom programs is one of the most common citations nationwide. The fundamental of this standard is that employees who may be exposed to hazardous chemicals in the workplace have a right to know about the hazards and how to protect themselves. Some compliance with the HazCom standard involve having a list of all hazardous materials on your jobsite, training in the proper use of PPE, and MSDS sheets on site.
Training - Failure to meet PPE requirements, which includes offering required PPE and training to employees as well as written certification, is also a common citation. Simply taking the time to train employees will not only prevent injuries, it will save you money in the long run.
Paperwork - OSHA views maintaining paperwork as critical to safe operations. Inspectors are likely to review written HazCom or PPE program materials, training documentation and more. By having paperwork readily available, you are showing that you care about your safety program.
Slips, Trips, and Falls – Because of the seriousness of fall-related injury, OSHA takes fall protection very seriously. Employers must be sure to properly install fall protection equipment, adequately train employees in the use of fall protection equipment, and use safe work practices.
Citations involving ladders have only recently became common. Data suggests that more and more people are using ladders when they shouldn’t. Ladders that are broken or bent should not be used – ever. Working on and around ladders can be hazardous, and proper is a must.
Ergonomics – Overexertion is a leading cause of work-related injury, and is unique in that is can happen over a long period of time. Ergonomics is like designing the job around the worker through feasible engineering controls. This can greatly reduce the risk of injury – and an OSHA inspection – in your facility.
Lockout/Tagout – If your employees operate any heavy machinery or equipment that needs to be shut down before performing any routine maintenance or service, you are required to implement a lockout/tagout program. Failure to comply can be costly – up to $7,000 per violation.
Engineering Controls – Engineering controls are used to remove a hazard or place a barrier between the worker and the hazard. Examples include ventilation systems, sound-dampening materials to reduce noise levels, and safety interlocks. These things may come at an initial cost, but will be well worth it in the long run.
Administrative Controls – These work practice controls are changes in procedures with the goal of reducing duration, frequency, and severity of exposure to hazards in the workplace. Examples include rotating workers to avoid repetitive motion injuries, requiring breaks when working in hot environments, and proper housekeeping.
Research – If you are unsure if your facility is in compliance with any OSHA standards, the web has a ton of useful information. OSHA’s website has a variety of materials, supplies, handbooks and articles that will help you to avoid violations during an inspection.
On any jobsite, accidents can and do happen. But by taking the proper steps, you can work with OSHA to ensure all employees work in safe and healthy conditions in order to prevent injuries.
Over in the UK during the 70s there was a guy called Fred Dibnah – a steeplejack by trade who had a thing for steam engines as well as an old Victorian way of demolishing old mill chimneys.
The north of England was the spine of the Industrial Revolution that fueled the Empire -the predominant industry being cotton.
Fred was a no nonsense type of guy who’d strap a load of ladder together with rope to clamber up a 300+ ft chimney prior to setting fire to the bottom where he’d placed wooden struts, which, once burned out would cause the chimney to topple – hopefully in the direction of Fred’s choosing.
He never used dynamite. He was also something of a national hero.
Anyway, if you enjoy this kind of thing and hark back to more innocent times when you could climb up chimneys unaided without safety harnesses and be stood next to a chimney as it topples, then the following video might interest you:
And if you liked that then you may be interested to hear his thoughts on health and safety – especially how he felt better climbing chimneys with a couple of pints inside him!
North Carolina’s Labor Department said Thursday the state’s rate of injuries or illnesses at private companies dropped to a historic low in 2009. The 3.1 percent rate compares with 3.4 percent in 2008.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said there were just over three cases of illness or injury per 100 full-time workers in both Carolinas. Injury rates in both states were near the country’s lowest along with Texas, Louisiana, Virginia and New York.
But, the workplace safety in South and North Carolina has been heavily criticized by the US Labor Department for suggesting paltry fines to companies flouting the laws and not taking safety issues seriously enough.
Another state OSHA that has also come under fire recently, California, has hit back at the US Labor Dept’s audit suggesting that its criticisms asking for better complaint resolution and improved safety training are irrelevant due to the audit relying heavily on out of date information and lacking understanding of the state’s process.
Cal/OSHA chief Len Welsh said in an interview Thursday that the federal audit didn’t provide documentation for many of its claims, making it difficult to pinpoint failures and make effective changes.
Cal/OSHA could change the way it responds to complaints as a result of the audit’s criticism that the state takes an average of 24.5 days to initiate an investigation after a complaint is received, a process that should only take three days.
To speed up the process, Welsh said the department may stop sending on-site inspectors to workplaces for low-priority complaints — those alleging non-serious hazards — to reduce inspection workload. Cal/OSHA can make the change unilaterally, Welsh said, but it wants to vet it with stakeholders before changing protocol.
“As time goes on and resources dry up we’re going to have to find ourselves prioritizing what we do more and more,” Welsh said.
If you were to put a list together of unsafe workplaces, you’d be hard pressed to have office spaces somewhere near the top. Office safety always seems a given. After all, how dangerous can a 2B pencil, a ream of paper and a Xerox machine really be?
Well, according to the following Mad Men era-ish video it’s positively strewn with all manner of near death possibilities.
Gallaway Safety & Supply for your Safety and Industrial Safety Products. We carry a broad line of products from safety glasses and earplugs to spray paint and duct tape. We look forward to doing business with you not only today, but also in the future.