Simply put, a workplace hazard is any condition or procedure that has the potential to cause harm. To protect employees, those hazards need to be identified. OSHA requires that all employers develop a means of systematically identifying workplace hazards so that they can be managed before accidents occur.
You may identify workplace hazards through a combination of several means. A periodic comprehensive industrial hygiene analysis is recommended whenever feasible. Your own analysis of accident records, near miss reporting and employee reporting of hazards or at-risk behaviors is a great way to determine where to focus your attention first. Job or process hazard analysis should be repeated for your workplace on a routine basis.
The goal of a hazard control program is to make the workplace “accident-proof.” OSHA has a consistent approach to how you need to manage occupational hazards. There is a specific hierarchy that should be followed as a “filter down” technique. After carefully analyzing your work tasks, you first eliminate all unsafe conditions or procedures that are not essential to the work to be performed, or substitute with less hazardous materials/procedures whenever possible. Then, you must implement the following:
• Engineering Control. Engineering controls manage hazard exposure. Examples include the redesign of work stations, enclosure of dangerous machine parts, ventilation systems to ensure healthy air supply when working with chemicals, isolation of noisy equipment and using lift assist equipment. OSHA requires that each employer implement all feasible engineering controls to eliminate or reduce hazards.
• Safe Work Practices. Work practices are the methods and procedures used to perform tasks. You must develop safe work practices for all tasks that involve hazards. The more complicated the task, the greater the need for established safe procedures. Some of these procedures must be in writing. Procedures should include any administrative controls, such as lengthened rest breaks, job rotation to reduce stress or repetitive motion of one part of the body or training on safe lifting.
• PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). When exposure to hazards cannot be completely eliminated through safe work practices and engineering controls, you must provide adequate protective clothing and equipment at no cost to each employee. This may include gloves, goggles, hearing protection, face shields, steel-toed shoes, respirators and hard hats, depending upon where an individual works and what tasks he/she performs. Employees must be trained on how to use and maintain their PPE.
Emergency and First Aid Plan. You must also have an emergency and first aid plan in case an accident or exposure occurs. This may include quick drench showers and eyewash stations.
Training is the backbone of any safety program. A safety program is of little value if employees do not understand or abide by it. Each employee must be trained on what the hazards are, and how you have opted to control those hazards.
• Employees must be informed of the purpose and function of engineering controls and be able to identify when they are damaged, missing or otherwise ineffective.
• Employees must understand safe work practices.
• Employees must be trained on the purpose, selection, fit, maintenance and use of any PPE that is required for their job.
• Employees must be trained on emergency and first aid plans.
PLAN OF ACTION
How do you develop a cost-effective safety training program? It is important to remember that safety is a process and a culture, not a static or one-time event. It is estimated that 40 percent of all job-related accidents can be prevented by the people who work in the area. Establish a culture where safety is everyone’s job and where employees understand how to prevent accidents in their work area, what to do if something seems out of place and who to talk to about safety concerns. This culture is the catalyst to preventing injuries and illnesses.
In summary, what OSHA says you must do is to:
• Identify all potential hazards at your work place.
• Inform your employees of their risks and how you will manage them.
• Apply feasible engineering controls.
• Develop safe work practices.
• Provide the proper PPE to employees.
• Develop an emergency action plan, first aid plan, and fire prevention plan.
• Train your employees on all of the above. OSHA has specific requirements about the content and frequency of training that is required. You must ensure that employees demonstrate competence on the job.
Developing a safety program may seem like a daunting and expensive task for your business, but it is money well-spent; studies have shown a $4 to $6 return for every dollar invested in safety and health. Remember, a successful safety program is a key to having not only healthy and successful workers, but also a healthy and successful business.
About The Author: Shannon DeCamp can be reached at 800-852-8314 or you can visit www.technetrainonline.com for more information on OSHA Compliance requirements for the solid surface industry.