Learning the basics behind OSHA compliance

July 1, 2007
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Jonathan Worrell, Compliance Assistant Specialist from OSHA’s Atlanta East Area Office, discussed the basic ways to prepare for an OSHA visit during StonExpo East in Atlanta, GA.

During an OSHA seminar titled, “A Safe Shop is a Productive Shop - Safety and Health in the Workplace,” which was held during StonExpo East in Atlanta, GA, presenter Jonathan Worrell, Compliance Assistant Specialist from OSHA’s Atlanta East Area Office, discussed the basic ways to prepare for an OSHA visit.
OSHA’s mission, according to Worrell, is to “assure so far as possible every working man and woman in the nation, safe and healthful working conditions.” And in 2006, OSHA and the Marble Institute of America (MIA) signed an alliance to work together to help enforce these safety rules and regulations throughout the U.S.
As a team, OSHA and MIA have set the following goals:
• Improve health and safety conditions
• Speak, exhibit and appear to promote cooperative programs
• Post monthly articles in industry magazines and publications
• Develop and disseminate information and share “best practices” as they develop
• Demonstrate commitment to groups

Inspections versus investigations

OSHA hears about companies through complaints and referrals, as well as when accidents and fatalities take place, and they have two approaches to handling the situation - Inspections and Investigations.
When “imminent danger” is present, OSHA will send someone out immediately to inspect a shop. This includes complaints, accidents, fatalities and emphasis program inspections (i.e. silica, forklifts, noise, amputations). A total of 75% of cases fall under the “serious violation” category that is distinguished when serious injury or accidents are likely to occur. Inspections occur without any warning to the company, and penalties are incurred when necessary.
However, if a person were to put in an anonymous complaint, for example, OSHA would further investigate the situation before sending someone into the field. Another example would be if a person uses the phone or a fax machine as the first attempt to address a concern. In this case, OSHA would decide whether or not an inspection was a necessary step. No citations or fines are implemented unless OSHA decides to go to the site and take a look around.

Preparing for a visit

One tip discussed during the seminar was how to prepare for an OSHA investigation. Worrell suggests that managers and workers sit down and discuss “what they would do if OSHA showed up at the front door tomorrow.” To prepare, companies should know where all written programs are and have a camera on hand to take pictures as they are walking through the shop with an OSHA representative in order to document any violations.

Silica concerns

One of the main areas of concern for OSHA is silica, which causes silicosis, a serious disease that industry workers are commonly exposed to. Statistics show that 1.7 to 2 million U.S. workers are exposed to the silica each year, and of those exposed, an average of 300 will die of silicosis. Among the steps to avoid silicosis, OSHA suggests that employers have their workers change their clothes at the end of the day, before leaving the workplace, to avoid bringing the dust home and risking exposure to family members.

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