Anyone who works in a safety-focused position has most likely heard about the many requirements OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration, part of the United States Department of Labor) has in place. Even if you have a basic knowledge of the regulations and their importance, it is still helpful to have a broader understanding of how OSHA can impact your business.
Knowing how OSHA functions is something any company that wants to operate in America needs to be aware of. It is well worth the effort to learn about this significant agency even if it may seem overwhelming.
What is OSHA?
The US Congress created the department in 1970. The agency works across the country doing things such as: inspections, investigations, and helping businesses improve safety. The OSHA mission is as follows, “With the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, Congress created OSHA to assure safe and healthful working conditions for men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance.’
Legally, this government agency can impose fines and other penalties if a business does not follow their rules and regulations. If violations are not resolved, a business can possibly be shut down.
With over 2000 employees, the organization has an annual budget of around $500 million. Ranging from office jobs to hospitals and everything in between, there are very few employees who don’t fall under the protection of OSHA standards.
Outreach & Assistance
OSHA is there to help businesses even if their regulations may seem like an obstacle at times. OSHA provides resources to help businesses be a safer place and to be more successful in general. Safety has many benefits, including an improved bottom line.
Here are some examples of what OSHA offers employers and employees:
- Print Materials (booklets, documents, posters, and more)
- Training Classes (learn about specific safety topics)
- Compliance Assistance (inspections, implement policies, etc.)
OSHA operates an “Alliance Program”, a long-term partnership that provides employers and employees the opportunity to work with OSHA to improve safety.
These longer term partnerships have benefits for all involved. OSHA will assist in directly improving a company’s safety as well as use the data they gather to make recommendations for other institutions.
Almost every industry will be inspected by OSHA. Trained individuals who know how to spot safety violations are sent to conduct these inspections. Inspections can be arranged by the company themselves or as a “surprise” visit from OSHA. These options simply serve to make a facility safer.
If safety issues are not being addressed, OSHA may resort to enforcement strategies. Enforcements can be anything from a written warning to shutting down the facility until changes are made.
It’s important to understand that while enforcements are important, they are used as a last resort. OSHA does not want to penalize businesses, they are more concerned about improving levels of safety.
What Does OSHA Look For?
When OSHA conducts an inspection, either a scheduled or surprise visit, they are looking for any type of safety issue that violates their regulations. Furthermore, they will also be looking for any opportunities for improvement. OSHA inspectors are aiming to help the company identify issues and eliminate them.
The following are some areas OSHA is watching for:
- General Requirements
- Eye & Face Protection Violations
- Hand Protection
- Head Protection
- Food Protection
Typically, if an issue is discovered during an inspection, the company will have until the next inspection to fix the issue to avoid a fine or penalty.
How Do I Prepare for OSHA?
Even if your company is focused on safety, being proactive is very important. Taking the time to know about the OSHA requirements and having internal inspections can help.
Finding ways to improve safety does not have to be difficult. In fact, there are many different trainings available to companies. One of the best ways to prepare for an OSHA inspection is to identify all of the safety hazards and address them with training for employers and employees.