What Comes to Mind When You Hear the Word OSHA?
As a certified OSHA Outreach Training Program Instructor, I have taught the OSHA 10 Hour for Industry course numerous times to many students. At the beginning of each new course, as we get ready to dive into the first segment entitled, Introduction to OSHA, I ask the students a question. When you hear the acronym OSHA, what comes to mind?
The answers are interesting and sometimes quite entertaining, but they all seem to revolve around a central theme. “OSHA gets in our way every single day. There are too many rules to keep track of.”
Another says, “They are just out to make money.” Several said that OSHA is there to help keep us safe, but have become too powerful and intrusive. Most of the responses carried a negative connotation regarding this government agency.
Workplace Injuries Affect More Than Just the Victim
As I progress through the Introduction to OSHA segment, I highlight what OSHA has done for the American workforce. I emphasize that today’s fatal workplace injuries are a fraction compared to the number of people who died in a workplace accident prior to the signing of the OSH Act in 1969. I touch upon the fact that workplace injuries affect more than just the victim. When a worker is seriously injured, the victim’s family, friends, co-workers, employers and each of us are impacted by personal AND financial loss. Finally, I ask the question, so who pays for this? Who pays for OSHA enforcement, citations, insurance, legal matters and so on?
The truth is, we all pay for this each time we buy anything! The costs associated with replacing and training a new employee, process changes to prevent similar, future accidents, possible liability suites – these all have an impact on every single item and service we purchase. When you put these statistics together, you end up with incredible dollar amounts that are paid out for several years following an accident. These costs get rolled into the product or service that the employer provides.
The Right to a Safe Work EnvironmentWe continue through this first segment, discussing OSHA’s reporting requirements and how employees can view the safety record of their employers. The right to know provides the mandate that employers must make OSHA 300A injury logs available, and as employees we are given the right to involve OSHA if an unsafe condition goes uncorrected in our workplace. Employees also have the right to make a complaint without retribution from an employer via the Whistleblower Act.
I cover in detail the actions that generate an OSHA inspection, what that inspection process is and the various types and levels of citations that can be written. On the OSHA website, www.OSHA.gov, we look up specific standards, letters of interpretation, and various businesses to see if they have any citations and their status with OSHA. OSHA Quick Takes is a helpful and interesting newsletter to subscribe to. The newsletter is emailed twice a month to subscribers, and highlights updates on OSHA initiatives and products, training opportunities and industry enforcement, where you can read about violations and citation fines that have recently been given.
As I wrap up this first segment of the course, we view OSHA’s Top 10 most frequently cited OSHA standards and the “Fatal Four”. I re-emphasize the mission of OSHA: the employee’s right to work in a safe and clean workplace free of hazards, and that it is both the employer and the employee’s responsibility to enforce this. We discuss training requirements and hazard controls, from engineered, to administrative, to personal protective equipment (PPE).
Has Your Opinion Changed?After about 2 hours discussing the many facets of OSHA’s roll in industrial safety, I ask the group, now how do you feel when you hear, OSHA?
The answers are very different. Heads nodded in agreement, and the student who had considered OSHA to be a money grab said, “I am glad my employer works to meet those standards. And, I guess wearing the gear isn’t such a pain after all.”
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How do YOU feel about OSHA? I’d love to hear what you think about this blog post. Let me know in the comments.