OSHA’s Tough Measures to Create Safer Workplaces | DCR Workforce Blog

OSHA’s Tough Measures to Create Safer Workplaces

OSHA“A worker’s first day at work shouldn’t be his last day on Earth. We are seeing untrained workers – many of them temporary workers – killed very soon after starting a new job. This must stop. Employers must train all employees, including temporary workers, on the hazards specific to that workplace – before they start working.   –  OSHA chief David Michaels

Last week, I stumbled upon this YouTube video, and realized how danger could lurk around the most innocuous of corners.

An accident could happen anywhere, but a workplace which requires workers to face hazards without adequate preparation and protection must not be allowed to continue such a practice with impunity! The Wall Street Journal has reported that OSHA will soon propose that companies employing more than 250 workers must electronically file injury and illness reports that would be publically available. This would effectively turn away workers from places where their safety could be jeopardized! This is surely a welcome move from OSHA. After all, most workplace deaths are ‘preventable’ and we must leave no stone unturned in our efforts to prevent them!

In 2012, 4383 fatalities occurred, depriving 12 families every single day of a loved one! Responsibility for elimating conditions that lead to injury or death rests with both employers and workers. Employers must consciously and intentionally increase awareness of practices that lead to illness or injury.  They must increase supervisory oversight and provide the required training to ensure that the workplace is safe. Workers must be encouraged to keep an eye out for possible risks at the workplace and report them. We list some simple steps which employers can take:

  • Providing safety equipment is not sufficient. Workers must be trained to properly use the equipment, and penalties for not complying with corporate policies regarding the use of the equipment should push poor performers to better behavior where necessary.
  • Make safety a continuous improvement process, looking for and plugging loopholes at every opportunity. Consider using an independent third party to do safety inspections at each work site.
  • Monitor tasks which involve risks, need protective equipment, and have safety features which need to be adopted. To illustrate, the temporary worker at a bottling plant was crushed to death by a palletizer because he was never trained on the usual tag-out/lockout procedures at the workplace.
  • Ensure that workers can report potential hazards without fear of repercussions. When an incident occurs, onsite personnel must be trained to take immediate action to ensure rapid medical assistance and elimination of the hazard to others.
  • Conduct drills to test the readiness of workers to deal with a workplace incident.
  • Identify a safety officer for temporary workers.  Be clear as to who is responsible for their training, provisioning of special equipment, and monitoring their compliance with safety policies and procedures.

While the new OSHA practice may increase the motivation of some employers to upgrade their safety practices, the majority of companies recognize that workplace incidents are bad for business, resulting in financial losses, tarnished reputations, and, most seriously, harm to employees and the community.  Even the most vigilant companies continuously find ways to make their workplaces safer and healthier.  When I recently visited a manufacturing company, there was a large sign displayed in the lobby stating that the company had not had a safety accident in 435 weeks.  As I entered the facility, I noticed that similar signs were posted everywhere.  When we were about to take the stairs to the second floor, I was told that it was “company policy to hold the handrail”.  Clearly, this is a company that is focused on the safety of all who work at or visit their plants.  What was most impressive, however, was the pride expressed by the workers at their great safety record.  I learned that they receive bonuses for suggestions regarding workplace safety, and they asked if I noticed any area where they might improve.  Where does safety rank in your company’s list of priorities?

The content on this blog is for informational purposes only and cannot be construed as specific legal advice or as a substitute for competent legal advice. They reflect the opinions of DCR Workforce and may not reflect the opinions of any individual attorney. Do contact an attorney for advice specific to your issue or problem.
Lalita is a people/project manager with extensive experience in operations, HCM and training and development across industries like banking, education, business consulting, BPO and information technology. She believes in a dynamic approach to life and learning as change is the only constant.