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What Happens With Temporary Workers Under OSHA?

23 Apr

The summer hiring season is just around the corner.  And before you begin the search for temporary workers process, there are a few important things you need to know.

Temporary and migrant workers face greater dangers and are injured more often in the workplace than regular and permanent workers. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA These types of workers face multiple systemic problems which make them more vulnerable to workplace accidents and that also leave them less likely to report unsafe conditions and accidents to authorities and less likely to seek medical help for their injuries (source).

With workplaces that hire temporary workers, there is the familiar question: Who is responsible when accidents occur? This question especially exists under OSHA.  When temporary or leased employees are involved, it is important to understand who is responsible for compliance. Is it the agency supplying the employees or the client employer for whom they are working? Through interpretive letters and compliance directives to staff, OHSA asserts that it can be a shared responsibility. Read the full article here >>

OSHA requires that employers protect the health and safety of all workers under their supervision and control.  Employers must train all employees, including temporary workers, on the hazards specific to that workplace – before they start working. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance.

However, even after workplace accidents that result in death and permanent disability, OSHA is at somewhat of a disadvantage. Companies have a legal right to challenge their citations and the amount of their fines.

“We don’t have criminal prosecution powers,” OSHA administrator David Michaels told NPR. “We do everything we can within the current regulatory framework. We issue large fines. We go after companies we think are scofflaws. We do repeat visits to the worst companies.”

For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.

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A Changing of the Guard – DOL

26 Feb

Courtesy of dol.gov

If you haven’t noticed already,  we have a theme this month with our posts… We are talking about the changing of the guard at some high-profile agencies in the USA.  This week we are looking at the DOL, or the US Department of Labor.

Last month, on January 23, 2013. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis made the announcement that she would be stepping down from her post – an announcement that surprised both members of her staff and labor activists in Washington who considered her a progressive ally.

Solis  is a former California congresswoman who came to the Labor Department in 2009 with progressive credentials, giving hope to liberal worker advocates who felt the agency had catered to the business community during the George W. Bush years. Solis’ department ultimately carried out an agenda widely favored by labor groups such as the AFL-CIO, although her efforts were often stymied by anti-regulatory Republicans in Congress and, in at least one case, a White House concerned with appearing anti-business.

“Her efforts have helped train workers for the jobs of the future, protect workers’ health and safety and put millions of Americans back to work,” the White House said in a statement.

Solis’ efforts on workplace safety, perhaps more than anything else, revealed the challenges of her job.  Her department introduced a handful of pro-worker regulations that were strongly challenged by business groups and GOP members of Congress, creating enough pressure to delay the rules at the White House or even scuttle the reforms.

Seth D. Harris has been named Acting Secretary of Labor, following the resignation and departure of Hilda L. Solis from the position. .  Harris had been Deputy Secretary of Labor since February 2009. Before joining the Department of Labor (DOL), he served as a professor of law at New York Law School and as director of its Labor & Employment Law Programs. While teaching at the New York Law School, he was also a Senior Fellow at the Life Without Limits Project of the United Cerebral Palsy Association and a member of the National Advisory Commission on Workplace Flexibility. Before that, he  served for seven years at the DOL during the Clinton Administration as Counselor to the Secretary of Labor and as Acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for Policy.

Sources:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/09/hilda-solis-resigns_n_2443095.html

http://www.scranet.org/industry-news/2013/02/07/seth-harris-named-acting-secretary-of-labor

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Could Your Incentives be Illegal?

3 Jan

New Memo from OSHA Clarifies Injury Reporting and Incentive Policies

Incentive programs – are they good or bad?  

“While many employers want to reward workers for safe behavior, there’s a thin line between appropriate recognition and providing a disincentive to employees for reporting injuries. Companies that cross that line could be violating the law,”

- According to a new memo sent to OSHA regional administrators and whistle-blower program managers from Deputy Assistant Secretary Richard Fairfax.

Your incentive and recognition program might not pass OSHA’s test if “the incentive involved is of sufficient magnitude that failure to receive it ‘might have dissuaded reasonable workers from’” reporting, says Farifax.

Section 11(c) of the OSH Act prohibits an employer from discriminating against an employee because the employee reports an injury or illness … Reporting a work-related injury or illness is a core employee right, and retaliating against a worker for reporting an injury or illness is illegal discrimination under section 11(c). Other whistleblower statutes enforced by OSHA also may protect employees
who report workplace injuries.

According to Fairfax, employees who do not feel free to report injuries or illnesses place the entire work force at risk. Employers do not learn of and correct dangerous conditions that have resulted in injuries, and injured employees may not receive the proper medical attention or the workers’ compensation benefits to which they are entitled. “Ensuring that employees can report injuries or illnesses without fear of retaliation is therefore crucial to protecting worker safety and health,” says Fairfax.

To read more about incentive policies and practices at issue, click HERE>>

There are 5 key components to a properly structured safety incentive program, according to Safety Jackpot:

Component #1: Use an entire campaign to promote your program, building teamwork and interaction with your employees. Build in smaller prizes everyone can win and toss in grand prize awards that the program builds up to.

Component #2: Use frequent reinforcement. Establish an award vehicle that is handed out weekly. This could contain points and a trading component – game cards are a fun approach. Using a flexible point vehicle to reward/award for weekly prevention behaviors to discourage under-reporting.

Component #3: Award merchandise rather than cash. Give an employee a $20 bill as a reward and where is it spent? At the grocery store or maybe at the gas station. Will the employee even remember? Develop a fun game-based program and build trophy value by offering a choice of merchandise items they want – not need – because it simply works better.

Component #4: Promote the program. Posters, caps, balloons, newsletters, flyers, parties, and drawings grab their attention – dare to be different, you can’t do enough!

Component #5: Make everyone a winner.  And it won’t cost you more – when you run the numbers, you’ll find the return on investment is far greater.

On the other hand, here is a list of ten things NOT to do when utilizing and incentives program with your workforce, according to Northstar Travel Media LLC:

Mistake #1: Ignoring your history – Don’t create a reward program without knowing your company’s past history with rewards. Rewards can be misused and misdirected, and if a negative view is held, you need to correct that image.
Mistake #2: Neglecting to measure before you apply – Do not select the financial/tangible rewards or incentives without first identifying the appropriate behaviors to be rewarded. Some results require financial or tangible rewards and some behaviors can be changed only with social reinforcement.
Mistake #3: Basing KPIs on assumptions – Don’t presume you know what behaviors should be rewarded to produce the desired business results. Observe and speak with the front-line manager and employees and observe their performance to identify the behaviors you need to address.
Mistake #4: Ignoring objective metrics – Know both the objectives of your reward program and how you will measure them. Make sure you look at objective metrics, as well as subjective measures of effectiveness.
Mistake #5: Rewarding the wrong behaviors – Don’t reward the wrong things. Is it safe practices you want, or on-time safety reports with reduced accidents? What you reward is what you’ll get.
Mistake #6: Not getting feedback from employees – Reward programs work best when they incorporate employee and manager input. Find out if the reward makes an impact with the employees. Ask the recipients what is or is not working and apply these key principles to correct for the future.
Mistake #7: Not paying attention to results – Don’t create a problematic reward system. If you are not getting the behaviors you want, you are not using the right rewards or awarding them in the right way.
Mistake #8: Not connecting the dots – Provide individuals who earn rewards for exceptional performance with the specific reasons for the rewards. Knowing why you received a reward encourages future positive behavior.
Mistake #9: Not giving recognition uplift – Don’t forget to provde meaningful, sincere recognition with rewards. Tell the recipient specifically what they did and how that made a difference.
Mistake #10: Not presenting rewards well – Don’t just make rewards a transaction. Take the time to honor the recipient publicly or in person to build relationships.

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Glance at Safety Under the Obama Administration

29 Nov

As of November 7th, 2012 President Barack Obama will have another shot to improve our country and serve another 4 years in office. Question is can he turn it around and prove to many Americans that he can help the people of the United States? As a safety professional I think that the President of the United States can have a very large impact on the occupational safety and health of America.

I recently came across an article in Safety & Health magazine that did a great job describing to us where Obama might have faltered, major events that happen during his term, and what to look for in the future. Take a look at what the article written by Kyle Morrison from Safety & Health had to say:

Future Standards and Initiatives

  1. Major Finalized Standards: OSHA’s Hazard Communication, Cranes and Derricks in Construction, and General Working Conditions for Shipyard Employment Standards were finalized during Obama’s term. (Promulgation of all three standards began before Obama took office.)
  2. Injury and Illness Prevention Program Standard: Under the direction of OSHA administrator David Michaels, the agency has begun work on an Injury and Illness Prevention Program Standard, which would require most employers to institute a plan to identify and correct workplace hazards. It is arguably one of the more ambitious standards that OSHA has attempted in recent years.
  3. Enforcement Changes: In early 2010, OSHA replaced the Enhanced Enforcement Program with the Severe Violators Enforcement Program to focus on recalcitrant employers. Changes included nationwide inspections of related workplaces and targeting fall hazards and other hazards through National Emphasis Programs. The agency also changed its penalty assessment system to increase the average serious violation penalty, typically about $1,000, to up to $4,000.
  4. Heat Illness Prevention: In summer 2011, OSHA launched a major heat illness prevention campaign, which included training and educational materials. The campaign continued during the 2012 summer season, using new technology such as application software to spread safety messages.

Major Events

  1. Deepwater Horizon: The Gulf of Mexico oil rig explosion that killed 11 workers in April 2010 led to major reforms in offshore oil and gas oversight. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement originally was in charge of leasing, revenue collection and safety oversight but was subsequently split into separate agencies, including one dedicated solely to safety – the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.
  2. Upper Big Branch Mine: Both the mining industry and the Mine Safety and Health Administration were heavily scrutinized following the deaths of 29 miners in the West Virginia mine in April 2010. Since then, MSHA has taken a much more aggressive stance by conducting strategic inspections on mines with safety issues and, for the first time, began seeking court-ordered injunctions against mines with a pattern of violations.

Falters

  1. Delays: Although it is not unusual for agencies to miss self-imposed deadlines on when a proposed standard may be issued or when stakeholder meetings might be hosted, it is highly unusual for an administration to take a long time moving a standard through the review process conducted by the White House’s Office of Management and Budget. An update to the Crystalline Silica Standard has been under review for nearly two years – unheard of considering review periods are supposed to last 90 days. Critics suggest the rule has problems; the Obama administration maintains the rule is complicated and OSHA is trying to get it right; and supporters blame politics, suggesting the administration is waiting for a more opportune time (i.e., not during an election) to issue the rule.?Other delayed standards include those on combustible dust, beryllium and diacetyl – all of which have been changed to “long-term action” items on OSHA’s agenda.
  2. Musculoskeletal Disorders Column: OSHA originally proposed adding a dedicated column to employers’ form 300 logs to record MSD injuries. Employers currently are required to record such injuries, but under an “other” or generic “injury” column. Amid backlash from businesses, OSHA “temporarily” withdrew the rule in January 2011. OSHA, which supports the rule change to better gather more data on MSD injuries, intended to listen to concerns from businesses. However, a provision in the fiscal year 2012 budget prohibits the agency from working on this rule, effectively shelving it.
  3. Noise Interpretation: Similar to the MSD column, OSHA withdrew a noise interpretation proposal in January 2011. It would have reinterpreted hearing loss prevention requirements to require employers to use engineering and administration controls instead of hearing conservation programs. After backlash from the business community, OSHA abandoned the reinterpretation to focus on providing guidance on cheap and effective controls.
  4. Youth Work on Farms: A proposed Department of Labor regulation would have revised the Fair Labor Standards Act to prohibit minors younger than 16 from performing hazardous job duties on farms. Lawmakers from rural states said the new restrictions would have substantive economic and social impacts on family farms, which employ both immediate and non-immediate relatives. The rule would have exempted youths working on a farm owned solely by a parent or guardian. DOL withdrew the rule, and Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis announced it would not be pursued again during Obama’s administration. Instead, Solis said, agencies would work with stakeholders and conduct more educational outreach efforts.

Source:

Morrison, W Kyle. “Washington Update: A look back: Safety under the Obama administration”. Safety & Health Magazine, National Safety Council. November 2012 http://www.nsc.org/safetyhealth/Pages/ Washington-update-A-look-back-Safety-under-the-Obama-administration.aspx#.ULdzjazXaK0.

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MIOSHA Proceeds to Change Over 600 Rules

21 Nov

Picture from MIOSHA.gov

According Safety & Health magazine, MIOSHA will begin to move forward on changes to more than 600 rules unique to its State Plan program. It is also stated that the public will have a very limited amount of time to make comments on any/all of the proposals.

The article continues to say, “According to the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration, no public hearings on the rule changes are required, and the public has 21 days to review and comment on the changes after the drafts are published. The changes will be certified 35 days after publication.

‘This process is happening very rapidly, and it is incumbent upon interested parties to pay close attention in order to stay informed,’ MIOSHA said in a recent email update. The changes were prompted by recommendations from the Office of Regulatory Reinvention in a report (.pdf file) released earlier this year. ORR was tasked with simplifying state rules by identifying those that exceed federal standards, and its report called for rescinding parts of – or entire – rules. Some state officials claim the move will reduce business burdens.

State-run OSHA programs must meet federal standards, but can exceed them. The rules being eliminated are specific to Michigan”. For more information on this topic and to follow the next steps in this process please visit MIOSHA’s webpage.

Source:

Safety & Health Magazine, NSC. http://www.nsc.org/safetyhealth/Pages/MIOSHA-moving-forward-on-rule-changes-very-rapidly.aspx#.UKzaT4fXaK0

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Construction Work Hurting Those in Their 40’s

19 Sep

What do you think about when you hear the words “construction worker”? The first thing that comes to my mind is strong. Other words that describe them, brave, determined, hardworking, and powerful. These men and women do things daily for 6 to 8 hours that would normally exhaust the average person in about 15 minutes. Is there a limit on how much these working men and women can take? How would it feel to wake up every single morning with aching muscles and joints?

A recent article in Safety & Health Magazine has sparked my attention on this matter…the article “Taking a Toll” by, Ashley Johnson talks all about this issue and what safety professionals have to do to correct it. Johnson discusses how the average construction work is in their 40s. Many of them are waking up saying “I’m just too old for this now”. People are not meant to work like that every day of their lives. Our bodies and musculoskeletal system are not made to endure that kind of physical labor.

So what’s the problem here? Baby boomers make up about 40% of the construction workforce. Many of them are retiring early because of the physical tiredness and leaving contractors without their most experienced and skilled laborers… What does this mean for them? They are going to have to spend a lot more time training inexperienced young blood for these jobs. This could mean more dollars spent on training and possibly more injuries and illnesses due to a lack of knowledge and experience.

Is there a solution? I hope so! Employers may not be able to fix all the bumps and bruises but they can help encourage a smarter and safer working environment. This could mean working more as a team. When lifting and moving various materials ask a co-worker for help. Encourage tag teaming various projects. Management could also introduce more pieces of equipment that take the laborer out of the labor. They could use a buggy to move materials instead of trying to move them on their own. As Johnson stated, “Encourage your workers to work smarter, not harder”.

For more information on this topic check out the article in the Safety & Health Magazine! If you’re looking for help with your Ergo program check out Summit’s Industrial Ergonomics program that teaches your workers what musculoskeletal disorders are, how to reduce exposure, and how to recognize risk factors and prevent injury. Take a look here!

Source:

Johnson, Ashley. “Taking a Toll”. Safety & Health Magazine. September 2012. Vol. 186. No. 3. www.sh.nsc.org

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Grand Rapids, Michigan: Auto Business Burns in Commercial Structure Fire

13 Sep

Tuesday night while I was intensely watching “The Voice” on NBC, there was a sudden announcement take over from FOX 17 News stating there had been countless explosions coming from a local area between Madison Ave. and College Ave. SE in Grand Rapids. News reporters warned everyone that planned to drive through that area to stay home if they didn’t necessarily need to go that direction. Besides the backed up traffic, emergency response members were not sure what exactly caused the fire and whether or not it could be harmful to the environment and the surrounding community. The business that burned down was Lee Auto Export’s body shop.

According to the local FOX17 News article “Cleanup Continues at Burned Out Auto Business”, written by Jennifer Dowling, “Employees tried to salvage what they could as cleanup continued at Lee Auto Export’s body shop between Madison Ave. and College Ave. SE in Grand Rapids Wednesday. Workers also constructed a wooden wall where debris had fallen through a cement wall to protect the public from possible safety hazards. Flames reached up to the sky Tuesday evening from the body shop, located at 1515 College Ave. SE. Smoke could be spotted and smelled for miles. To add to the dramatic scene, some responding fire trucks were reportedly held up by a passing train for a few seconds.

Grand Rapids Fire Prevention Inspector Ric Dokter says someone waiting for that very train spotted and reported the fire. ‘A friend of one of the people who worked here called, waiting for the train saw the fire,’ says Dokter. Dokter says the chemicals inside used for body work made the fire even more challenging. “With the kind of operation they had here and with the flammable liquids, that was definitely a factor in making it difficult. Also the collapse buries a lot of the combustibles. So, when we pour water on it, we’re just pouring water on the outside, and not getting it inside. That also made our operations longer than they might be,” says Dokter.

“I got a call from Lee at around eight something when I was cooking dinner and that’s when it happened,” says Mo Pham, Lee Auto Export Sales Manager. “I went down there, I was shocked.” This wasn’t the first time a building has burned at the address. Pham says they’ve had another building destroyed like this by fire. “I had a building next to that building, a few years ago, and it got burned down too and it was bad. The other building we didn’t have no insurance,” says Pham.

“There was a building here, two to three years ago, but that was determined to be accidental due to cutting,” says Dokter. Pham says they learned from that fire and had insurance on the building itself, but not what was inside. “This one, I don’t have no insurance for the content either, we had like 15 cars burned, so there was a lot of loss there,” says Pham.

Some employees who came to survey the scene were emotional or concerned about perhaps losing their jobs. “This mostly just all total shock,” says Carl Jorgensen, inventory specialist for Lee Auto Export, “Really shocked that place went up in flames, worried about what building it was.”

Jorgenson says he saw his place of employment burning to the ground on Fox 17 News and decided to drive in and see for himself what had become of his workspace. “A sense of sadness on it, you know, that it happened,” says Jorgenson. Pham says there is security video that may help in the investigation. “We had like a camera recording, it looked like the fire started from the outside,” says Pham.

“It can point us in the right direction, look it’s a big building, and if we have a place to start it makes our job that much easier,” Ric Dokter, Fire Prevention Inspector. Pham says they will rebuild at some point or find another building to work out of, but she says some employees may be out of a job for now until they can figure out what to do. Jorgensen is hopeful he will be able to work out of the other buildings. “It’s just ungodly what happens because you know the people who worked in there, they have their tools in there, that’s their livelihood, lost all that, it can be replaced, but thank God there was no life lost,” says Jorgensen.

In 2011, there were 484,500 structure fires in the U.S. which is about 1 every 65 seconds…Of that amount there were 2,640 civilian fire deaths and 15,635 civilian fire injuries. These are very large numbers which are extremely costly, averaging about $9.7 billion in property damage. Fire prevention is an EXTREMELY important aspect of any business’ safety program. Please take your fire prevention programs seriously. And if you need help with your programs please check out Summit’s fire prevention programs. We have some really great materials! Check them out here!

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Sources:

Dowling, Jennifer. “Cleanup Continues at Burned Out Auto Business”. Fox 17 News. 12 September 2012. http://www.fox17online.com/news/fox17-grand-rapids-cleanup-continues-at-burned-out-auto-business-20120912,0,4497355.story?track=rss

Karter, Michael. “Fire Loss in The United States During 2011”. National Fire Protection Association. September 2012. http://www.nfpa.org/assets/files/pdf/os.fireloss.pdf

New Carbon Pollution Standard Underway!

6 Sep

There is a lot of talk out there right now on the new EPA carbon pollution standard for new power plants. Many of us would like to know how it is going to benefit our environment and not hurt those who work in coal-fired power plants…

According to the EPA, they plan to take common-sense steps under the Clean Air Act to limit carbon pollution from new power plants. EPA’s proposed standard reflects the ongoing trend in the power sector to build cleaner plants that take advantage of American-made technologies. The agency’s proposal, which does not apply to plants currently operating or new permitted plants that begin construction over the next 12 months, is flexible and would help minimize carbon pollution through the deployment of the same types of modern technologies and steps that power companies are already taking to build the next generation of power plants. EPA’s proposal would ensure that this progress toward a cleaner, safer and more modern power sector continues. Power plants are the largest individual sources of carbon pollution in the United States and currently there are no uniform national limits on the amount of carbon pollution that future power plants will be able to emit. Consistent with the US Supreme Court’s decision, in 2009, EPA determined that greenhouse gas pollution threatens Americans’ health and welfare by leading to long lasting changes in our climate that can have a range of negative effects on human health and the environment.

But the biggest question of all is how will it hurt our coal-fired power plants? Will plants get shut down? Will they eventually fizzle out? These are questions that I have a feeling will take a very long time to be answered. I read an article by Matthew Yglesias that was posted a couple months ago and he stated that,

 “The new rules will mandate that all new power plants generate no more than 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt of electricity produced. That’s a standard that your basic renewables can of course easily meet as can nuclear plants. It also conveniently draws the line such that natural gas, whose price has plummeted lately amidst the North American Fracking Boom, fits in under the standard as average gas-fired plants emit between 800 and 850 pounds per megawatt. But coal plants on average emit almost 1,800 pounds per megawatt, way outside of the acceptable range. The result is that barring some miraculous new innovation in the creation of cost-effective carbon sequestration technology, there aren’t going to be any more coal-fired plants built in the United States. The face of new fossil fuel based electricity will be gas (which is considerably cleaner than coal), and the alternative to gas in the event that the gas boom ends will be renewables.”
 

As far as updates go on this situation, the EPA hasn’t release anything in the past two months. They have held two public hearings on the proposed Carbon Pollution Standard for New Power Plants. The hearings took place on May 24, 2012 in Washington DC and Chicago. EPA also extended the comment period on this proposed rule until June 25, 2012 to provide for 30 days for the public to comment after the public hearing. Hopefully we get some more news on this topic soon!!

For more information check out EPA’s Fact Sheet on the new Rule!

Source: http://www.epa.gov

http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2012/03/27/epa_s_new_carbon_emissions_rule_spells_the_end_for_new_coal_fired_power_plants.html

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Put a STOP to Workplace Violence

2 Aug

The workplace should be a place where all employees come to work in an environment that is free from hazards or harm… right? Sometimes it is easier to notice a blocked exit than it is to notice someone suffering from workplace violence. As an employer, it is important that you recognize these “hazards” as well.

OSHA states that workplace violence is any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site. It ranges from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and even homicide. It can affect and involve employees, clients, customers and visitors. One of the most shocking statistics that I have come across is that homicide is currently the fourth-leading cause of fatal occupational injuries in the United States. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI), of the 4,547 fatal workplace injuries that occurred in the United States in 2010, 506 were workplace homicides. It is said that nearly 2 million American workers report having been victims of workplace violence each year. Unfortunately, many more cases go unreported.

What can you do to STOP Workplace Violence?

S: See the Risk Factors: In most workplaces where risk factors can be identified, the risk of assault can be prevented or minimized if employers take appropriate precautions. Examples (Crying, sulking or temper tantrums, Excessive absenteeism or lateness, Disregard for the health and safety of others and, Disrespect for authority)

T: Train Your Employees: It is critical to ensure that all workers know the policy and understand that all claims of workplace violence will be investigated and remedied promptly. In addition, OSHA encourages employers to develop additional methods as necessary to protect employees in high risk industries.

O: Offer Zero Tolerance: One of the best protections employers can offer their workers is to establish a zero-tolerance policy toward workplace violence. This policy should cover all workers, patients, clients, visitors, contractors, and anyone else who may come in contact with company personnel.

P: Produce a Prevention Program: OSHA believes that a well written and implemented Workplace Violence Prevention Program, combined with engineering controls, administrative controls and training can reduce the incidence of workplace violence in both the private sector and Federal workplaces.

For more information check out OSHA’s webpage!

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Capable, Knowledgeable, Authorized…Competent!

17 Jul

What does it mean to be a “competent person”?

The term is used often throughout OSHA standards and documents, carrying a load of responsibility and a heavy definition.  According to OSHA, a “competent person” is defined as “one who is capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards in the surroundings or working conditions which are unsanitary, hazardous, or dangerous to employees, and who has authorization to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them”.  By way of training and/or experience, a competent person is knowledgeable of applicable standards, is capable of identifying workplace hazards relating to the specific operation, and has the authority to correct them.  Some standards add additional specific requirements which must be met by the competent person.  Unfortunately, this term is highly misunderstood and disregarded due to the fact that there really are no specific guidelines or standards on it.  However, many states have implemented their own standards and enforcement policies through the use of their OSHA-approved State Plans.

While reading the article “What is a Competent Person?” by Kyle Morrison, I was educated on the fact that many people think that by attending a 10, 20, or 30 hour class, it makes them a competent person.  This is just not the case.  A competent person is someone who can demonstrate their competency.  This can be done by recognizing hazards, controlling them, and alleviating them.  If you are incapable of doing these things, then you are not by definition a “competent person”.

Another large misunderstanding is the difference between a “competent person” and a “qualified person”.  According to Morrison, a competent person can identify hazards and has the authority to mitigate them, whereas a qualified person must have a certificate or extensive experience within that subject area to solve technical or engineering problems.  Basically, you can be both, but to do that, you have to fit each of these roles separately; they are not the same thing.

For more information on this topic check out OSHA’s webpage!

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Sources:

http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/construction/trenching/competent_person.html

Morrison, Kyle. “What is a Competent Person”. Safety & Health Magazine. Vol.186 No.1. July 2012. www.sh.nsc.org.

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