December 29, 1970, President Richard M. Nixon signed The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. This Act became the governing body of workplace safety and health standards. When the Safety & Health Act was initiated in April of 1971, it covered 56 million workers at 3.5 million
workplaces. Today this number has increased to over 105 million workers at 6.9 million work sites throughout the United States.
The Safety & Health Act established the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) which sets and enforces workplace safety and health standards. OSHA allows each state to adopt specific standards and statutes that modify or expand on the federal standards. Minnesota has
developed its own state OSHA (MnOSHA). The original ?Safety Bill of Rights? established standards that included fire safety and employee exposure limits. The original standard limited worker exposure to asbestos!
There have been, and will continue to be important changes that affect all industries throughout the United States. These changes include the decision in 1971 to develop an enforcement strategy, changing the manner in which employer?s thought of safety prevention in the workplace. Fines for
violations have been rising from $100s in the 1970s to $70,000 today for willful and repeated violation. An adaptive OSHA has become focused on results, making for a more straightforward approach to standard setting and a more targeted inspection program.
Minnesota has taken advantage of an OSHA rule that allows each state to develop its own "State OSHA Plan".Minnesota has adopted and modified national standards to fit its unique industries such as logging, manufacturing, construction, agriculture, and heath care that were not specifically addressed in OSHA?s Federal Standards. The Minnesota OSHA Plan gives the Department of Labor & Industry the opportunity to develop performance goals for each industry throughout Minnesota.
Here's the million-dollar question. . .How does an organization develop compliance with our state plan?
Minnesota OSHA has laid out a Four-Phased approach that each organization can use to become OSHA compliant.
Phase 1: Identifying Your Workplace Hazards
An employer is required to IDENTIFY ALL WORKPLACE HAZARDS an employee could be exposed to. Job Hazard Analysis, Facility Inspections and Organizational Assessments should be performed by a qualified employee, a trained professional or identified through an OSHA inspection.
Click here to learn more about OSHA Inspections
Phase 2: Controlling Your Workplace Hazards
Once an organization has properly identified workplace hazards, a plan must be developed to either remove the hazard or protect the worker from the hazard. The goal should be to implement controls and prevent identified hazards from affecting an employee.
Engineering controls that physically change a machine or work environment to prevent employee exposure to a hazard are the most effective controls. Questions to keep in mind should be, if we can?t
eliminate a hazard, how can we minimize exposure to the hazard? Utilizing sheathing needles would be one very common example of minimizing exposure to a hazard. We haven?t completely eliminated the needle stick risk but the risk is certainly reduced.
Since all workplace dangers cannot be eliminated, administrative controls and personal protective equipment also need to be introduced to minimize employee exposure.
Administrative controls can include written operating procedures, work permits, exposure time limitations, monitoring the use of hazardous materials, alarms, signs, warnings and, of course, employee training.
Personal protective equipment such as respirators, hearing protection, protective clothing, safety glasses etc. is an acceptable control method when engineering controls are not feasible or do not totally eliminate the hazard, when safe work practices do not provide sufficient additional protection and during emergencies when engineering controls may not be feasible.
In situations where the hazard cannot be completely eliminated a combination of hazard controls will most likely be the best solution. Managers and supervisors must be aware that not all controls are equal. Interim controls can be used when more effective controls are being sought, developed, or evaluated.
This may involve changing how employees perform their jobs tasks. Discuss your recommendations with all affected employees and consider their responses carefully. If you plan to introduce new or alter existing job procedures, be sure employees understand what they are required to do and the reasons for the changes.
Phase 3: Informing Your Employees
When workplace hazards have been identified and controls introduced, top management, supervisors, safety and health personnel, employees, and employee representatives should be provided with training that describes these control measures.
Standards developed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration require the employer to train employees in the safety and health aspects of their jobs initially upon assignment, and/or annually. Many of these OSHA standards make it the employer's responsibility to limit certain job assignments to employees who are "certified," "competent," or "qualified" - meaning that they have had special previous training, in or out of the workplace. The term "designated" personnel means selected or assigned by the employer or the employer?s representative as being qualified to perform specific duties.
Training records provide evidence of the employer?s good faith and compliance with OSHA standards. Documentation can also supply an answer to one of the first questions an accident investigator will ask: "Was the injured employee trained to do the job?"
Many researchers and studies conclude that those who are new on the job have a higher rate of accidents and injuries than more experienced workers. To help employers, safety and health professionals, training directors, and consultants can help fulfill OSHA training-related requirements.
Phase 4: Monitoring Your Safety Programs
The final step involves periodically reviewing your hazard findings and recommendations. An Organizational Administrator, Safety Committee or Safety Coordinator should examine the organizational records and injury reports and approve the job tasks, hazards, and hazard control recommendations used throughout each facility. A periodic review involving supervisors and department heads ensures an organization will remain current with existing regulations and continue to help reduce workplace accidents and injuries. Review the workplace hazard assessment if an illness or injury occurs on a specific job. Changes to the job procedure to prevent similar incidents in the future might be necessary. Remember that a
combination of changes and existing circumstances may cause new hazards to appear or old hazards to reappear.
If an employee?s failure to follow proper job procedures results in a "close call", discuss the situation with all employees who perform the job and remind them of proper procedures. It is important to train all employees affected by changes made in new job methods, procedures, or protective measures adopted. The MN OSHA formula for compliance, if followed properly, will most likely have positive effects on an organization.
In conclusion, if you receive outside help, or if you meet the OSHA requirements utilizing your expertise, you and your employees need to remain involved in the process of identifying and correcting hazards. It should be everyone?s mission to create and maintain a safe workplace
environment so that we all leave work the same way we showed up!
Click here for 16 Steps to Developing a Safety Program