Steps to Being OSHA Compliant

Steps to Being OSHA Compliant

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA, creates guidelines for employers to follow to ensure the safety of their employees. For thoroughness, the regulations are lengthy, but not all rules apply to every business. All companies must adhere to the OSHA requirements for employers. To ensure you follow the steps needed for compliance with these regulations, follow this checklist. It aims to help you understand the rules and covers OSHA requirements, training, record keeping and more.

Following OSHA standards helps make your business stronger and more competitive. When you create a safer workplace by following OSHA guidelines, your employees will experience fewer accidents and missed work, improving your productivity.

Understand OSHA Regulations That Apply to Most Businesses

OSHA regulations require you to provide a safe working environment for your employees. Keeping this main idea behind the standards in mind will help remind you of what you need to do. Employees should know about what they need to do during emergencies and how they can prevent problems from happening. Many regulations involve education, which makes OSHA compliance training for your workers a crucial step in the process. Here are some OSHA rules that apply to all businesses and that you will need to inform your workers about during training sessions.

1. Have an Emergency Plan

In an emergency, all workers need to know their roles. What should they do if a fire breaks out? Do workers have outlines for how to handle chemical spills or similar problems?

The emergency plans that you have in place depend on what your business handles. If you operate construction equipment, you need to know how to respond to accidents or fires that may occur around the machinery. Include in the emergency plan a listing of first responders in the area to contact.

Encourage workers to practice emergency drills, so they know how to respond in those situations. Exercises do not have to occur weekly but have them regularly enough to create an automatic response in your workers if an emergency does occur.

Emergency action plans, while required for businesses that handle hazardous materials, are part of OSHA's recommendations for all companies. Questions you must answer in an emergency action plan include the following:

  • How do you report an emergency?
  • What are emergency evacuation routes?
  • What will critical employees do if they must stay behind for servicing the facility?
  • How will you account for workers after an evacuation?
  • What do those who perform rescue or medical duties do?
  • Who should people contact in case of an emergency?
  • Does your business have an alarm system to alert workers of an emergency?

Put your emergency action plan in writing. After distributing copies to all workers, keep a permanent display in a break area or other place where employees can refer to it as needed.

2. Provide First Aid on Site

For minor incidents, you must have a first aid kit available to your employees. OSHA's requirement for medical aid on site is that it reflects the nature of the hazards of your business. Offices may only need a basic first aid kit with materials for small cuts, headaches and heartburn. But if you have a business where workers may encounter more severe problems, you need to have equipment in your first aid kit to reflect that. For example, if you have chemicals that may splash into workers' eyes, have an eyewash station available to them.

Some businesses, such as those with electrical hazards or where workers are in confined spaces require employees to have CPR training. If you own such a company, consider installing an automated external defibrillator, or AED. Whereas the survival rate from CPR is 5% to 7%, the use of an AED can raise that to 60%. Even if you only have an office space, because AEDs can rescue people from sudden cardiac arrest, they are beneficial in all workplace settings.

If possible, host a first aid training course for at least one point person per shift at your facility. Having someone with medical knowledge to care for minor wounds or conditions can reduce the chances of worsening problems. The trained person should also know when to call for an ambulance for more severe conditions than those he or she can handle.

3. Mark Exits

Not only do you have to have clearly marked exits in case of an emergency, but you also must have enough ways for people to get out of the building. Generally, most businesses need at least two ways out. If your company has too many workers to evacuate the building safely from only two locations, you will need to add more exits.

Keep the paths to the exits clearly marked and free of debris. Have signs along the exit routes to indicate the fastest way to get out of the building.

Mark the exit doors clearly and do not allow signs or other coverings on the doors to hide the exit designation. Use an alarm in your business to alert workers of the need to evacuate.

Well-marked exit routes and doors will make evacuating in an emergency faster for your employees. When they can leave the danger inside the building quicker, they will be more likely to escape without injuries.

4. Keep Workers Safe From Trips and Falls From Working and Walking Surfaces

Falling from heights and slipping on surfaces pose serious hazards for workers in any field. You must supply means of preventing these accidents.

For heights, require workers to wear safety harnesses and tether themselves to a secure surface. Additionally, install guardrails and train employees in safety procedures for working at heights.

On walking-working surfaces, place signage for any potential slip hazards, as may happen when cleaning floors. Otherwise, the floors should have non-skid surfaces and lack tripping hazards. If you have carpets on the floor, do not allow them to bunch in ways that could cause tripping.

5. Create a Fire Prevention Plan

While having an emergency action plan will let your workers know what to do in an emergency, you must also have a plan in place to prevent fires from breaking out. Training workers to become aware of fire hazards and how to respond to small fires will reduce the chances of a major fire.

Do not allow flammable materials to accumulate where they can spontaneously combust. Properly store flammable materials and safely dispose of waste. Train workers to use heat-generating products safely, including space heaters, stoves and chemical burners. Walk workers around the building to show them where potential fire hazards lie and teach them how to use fire extinguishers.

6. Communicate About Workplace Hazards With Employees

If you have employees who could experience exposure to hazardous chemicals, you must create a hazard communication program to train your workers. The communication program puts into writing any training you give to employees who work around potentially hazardous chemicals.

Part of creating the plan requires you to know about the hazards of the chemicals your business works with. OSHA outlines several steps to the hazard communication program that go beyond the written warnings. You will need to keep safety data sheets for all chemicals and have them accessible to workers. Train workers on safe handling, storage and disposal of any chemicals on site. Make sure every container has a clear and accurate label for its contents. Lastly, update your training program and written communications if any significant changes occur.

Research OSHA Requirements That Might Apply to Your Business

Some OSHA requirements only apply to certain types of businesses, due to the specific nature of the regulations. You will need to research to see which of these standards, if any, apply to your operation. Don't forget to check state regulations, which may have slightly stricter rules that you must adhere to.

1. Machinery Operators

If you have employees who work with machinery, you will have additional standards to comply with. You must put guards on your machines to keep them from causing injuries such as lacerations and amputations. Ensure the types of guards used fit with the machines' uses.

2. Machinery Maintainers or Repair People

If you have workers who repair machinery at your company, you must follow lockout/tagout procedures to prevent the equipment from accidentally turning on while undergoing maintenance or repairs. These processes stop the device from releasing electricity. To do this, workers typically need to attach a lockout-tagout device to an energy-isolating device to prevent the equipment from releasing energy. You must train workers on what you do to control energy release, their duties in the plan and what lockout/tagout procedures require.

3. Those Who Need Personal Protective Equipment

While OSHA recommends that you have safety procedures and engineering controls to protect workers, personal protective equipment, or PPE, is still a vital part of the administration's standards. Gear to protect workers' hearing, vision, skin, lungs and heads are among the pieces of PPE needed in many industries. Depending on the hazards encountered, your workers may need helmets, goggles, respirators, footwear and gloves.

4. Employees Exposed to Electrical Hazards

Electrical hazards, which are one reason for lockout/tagout procedures, can still pose risks for those who do not conduct service on equipment. To ensure compliance in this category, you must have the equipment and your building wired correctly and workers must receive training on safely using electrical devices.

OSHA's electrical safety guidelines help prevent electrocution. Tips from the agency include the following:

  • Use outlets with ground fault circuit interrupters, or GFCIs, when working in damp places.
  • Never work within 10 feet of overhead lines.
  • Only allow trained electricians to repair electrical equipment.
  • Never work with electrical devices while standing in water.
  • Do not use electrical devices that have had water damage until an electrician inspects them.
  • Do not touch fallen power lines.
  • Use caution when working around electricity.

5. Workers Who Need Respiratory Protection

Among the types of PPE that your workers might need is respiratory protection. Respirators provide a way of filtering contaminants from the air before workers breathe it in. To ensure correct filtering, you must provide respirators that fit the individuals using them. Additionally, OSHA requires NIOSH approval on all respirators used. Workers must also undergo medical evaluation and training before using the devices.

6. Those Exposed to Excessive Noise

High noise levels or long-term sustained moderate noise can damage hearing. You can protect your employees' hearing by requiring the use of hearing protection. Individually molded earplugs for each employee will fit better than universal plugs, ensuring greater comfort and more sound dampening.

7. Workers Who Use Powered Industrial Trucks

If you use powered industrial trucks in your business, you will need to train your workers on how to use them safely. The OSHA safety standard governing these vehicles requires workers to learn about operating the trucks, hazards of using the forklift and the OSHA safety standards. Everyone running a powered truck, such as a forklift, should demonstrate safe use of the vehicle. When a worker fails to drive a truck safely, he or she must undergo training again.

8. Employees Exposed to Bodily Fluids

Blood and bodily fluids can transmit diseases, and workers exposed to them must take extra precautions to remain healthy. As an employer, you need to have a plan to minimize exposure to blood and bodily fluids.

Ensuring safety at the worksite will help reduce accidents that cause bleeding. Keeping anything that's exposed to blood separate and contained from other materials is one engineering control you can implement. An example of this type of control is using a sharps disposal container for safely discarding used needles. Provide PPE, including eyewear, gowns, gloves and masks, to reduce exposure to bodily fluids.

If any of your workers may be exposed to blood, make a hepatitis B vaccine available and provide a post-incident evaluation of all employees who come into contact with blood or other bodily fluids.

9. Those Who Work in Confined Spaces

Those who work in confined spaces require special precautions to keep them safe. OSHA recommends that you use its confined space tool to determine if any of your employees works in such spaces. If they do, you may need a permit to allow workers into the space and take steps to protect them from other hazards such as air contamination.

Keep Up to Date on Training

You need to ensure that your workers stay up to date with safety training throughout the year. Because the definition of OSHA compliance differs for each company, you need to conduct some research to see which requirements to your business. Then, you can plan your training around those standards. Most likely, the rules will require employee training, as 100 of them do. The training you offer to your workers needs to accurately reflect the information they need to know, have credible teachers, be clear and easy to understand and provide practical information the workers can use on the jobsite.

New employees should go through the training soon after they start, but even seasoned workers will need regular safety training updates. Any time a worker fails to show compliance with the safety standards, you should schedule retraining. Hold training sessions to update employees if you experience major changes in the OSHA standards your business follows.

Keep Accurate Records

OSHA requires that you keep careful records of your compliance and any incidents that occur. The organization requires all businesses to keep records of illnesses and injuries. The only types of companies that don't have to adhere to these recordkeeping rules are those in low-risk industries and those with fewer than ten employees.

Record information about all major injuries and deaths in your facility. OSHA must know about deaths within eight hours of the incident. You must inform OSHA about injuries that result in the loss of an eye, amputation of a limb or hospitalization of a worker within 24 hours. With the administration's electronic forms, submitting this information is easier than it was in the past.

You must maintain medical records and a listing of blood exposures of all workers for at least 30 years. If asked by an OSHA official, you must make these records available for review, even if the employee no longer works for you.

To keep your workers informed of their rights under OSHA, install an OSHA poster in every break room where employees can see it. If you have employees whose primary languages are languages other than English, get posters in those languages, too. If you already have a previous version of the poster, you don't need to replace it. If you need new ones, you can download them for free from OSHA's website in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Portuguese and other languages.

Complete Internal Audits

To ensure your workers keep up with the regulations, keep an OSHA standards checklist on hand for when you do internal audits. These reviews will ensure that you maintain compliance and don't incur fines or fees. Name a safety auditor who will be in charge of the process and answer questions on your business' compliance and how you can improve your company's safety standards.

Internal audits of your company also help keep your workers safe by repairing safety violations before they cause problems. Part of the audits should include thorough training for your employees and instruction on the benefits of following the regulations. Creating rewards programs within your company may help.

Internal audits and investigations help you to constantly improve your safety standards. If an incident occurs, investigate how it happened and determine ways to prevent similar future occurrences.

You may not have regular visits from OSHA inspectors, but you should still hold your employees to a high safety standard. Internal audits help you with that task.

Why Ensure OSHA Compliance?

Following an OSHA compliance checklist does more than keep your business legal. It also saves you money and can increase your profits. When you adhere to the safety standards set out by OSHA, you prevent accidents that can result in productivity losses, project setbacks and workers' compensation payments. By avoiding these problems, you will save money that you can put back into improving your operations.

OSHA created a tool you can use to see how much money your business can save by preventing worker injuries, called the $afety Pays program. To use the tool, input your profit margin and select an injury type. The calculator will tell you how much that problem would cost you and the number of sales you'd need to make to cover those costs. The more accidents you prevent by staying OSHA compliant, the more money your business will save.

Focus on Keeping Your Employees Safe

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