OSHA Standards
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OSHA Standards

Will You Be Ready For OSHA?

By Johnny Duncan

Should you be concerned about the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) visiting your facility or even your job sites for an inspection? If you have been practicing good safety standards then no, you should not. However, if you have been somewhat lackadaisical about safety, then maybe you should be a little worried. Knowing your rights and responsibilities before, during and after an inspection can make the process run more smoothly, make your worksite safer and even reduce your chances of getting a citation.

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  • In 1999, OSHA conducted over 34,000 inspections and those inspections were distributed in a new way because OSHA has been changing the way it selects sites to inspect. Until recently, an employer stood a pretty good chance of inspection if it was part of an industry with high injury and illness rates, regardless of the business individual rates. But today OSHA targets inspections more narrowly by aiming at specific worksites rather than whole industries.

    This is something we in the sign industry should be concerned about because it means OSHA spends less time inspecting sites with good records and more time inspecting sites with potential problems. But the new focus does not mean your site is off the hook just because you have a spotless record. A complaint or accident still brings an inspector to your door.

    Your best measure against an OSHA inspection is preventative maintenance. This means you as a business owner or manager must stay up to date on the OSHA regulations and train your employees in the safety requirements. OSHA has identified what it considers to be the 2,200 most dangerous workplaces: those with lost workday injury and illness rates of 16 or higher in 1997. (The rates reflect the number of workdays lost, per 200,000 hours worked due to work-related injuries or illnesses.) These work sites along with others OSHA rates as having a high potential of accidents are the most inspected sites.

    Because of the type of work performed within the sign industry- high rise, electrical, material handling, etc.- our industry rates as a high potential to be inspected by OSHA. Inspectors are expected to look for violations of all types, but violations OSHA judge serious are the ones inspectors are likeliest to target. In fiscal 1999, the ten most frequently found serious violations related to problems with the following areas:

    Area of Concern No. of Serious Violations
    Scaffolding 5,539
    Fall protection 3,862
    Hazard communication 3,274
    Lockout/ tagout 3,532
    Machine guarding 2,266
    Electrical 1,902
    Excavation 1,399

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    In order to assist you in complying with OSHA regulations, I have cited some common areas of work within the sign industry and their location within the OSHA handbook:

    (OSHA regulations often require training on particular topics such as fall protection or personal protective equipment (PPE). OSHA regulations for construction are in the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 29, Part 1926.)

    The leading causes of injury and death at construction sites:
    Falls account for 33%
    Being struck by an object: 22%
    Caught between hazards such as trenching: 18%
    Electrical accidents: 17%

    Electrical
    According to the Bureau of Labor (BLS) statistics, 297 workers died in 1999 from electrocution. Contact with overhead power lines killed 138 employees. Approximately 140 of these deaths were construction workers and 77 of these were caused by overhead power lines. The OSHA electrical regulations for construction are located in Subpart K of 29 CFR 1926. The rules are divided into four major groups:

    Safety requirements for installing and using equipment
    Safety-related work practices
    Safety-related maintenance and environmental issues
    Safety requirements for special equipment

    Ladders
    Ladders are a major source of accidents at construction sites. OSHA estimates that 66 construction fatalities occurred in 1999 due to falls from stairways and ladders. Thousands more were injured. The regulations for ladders and stairways are found in the Code of Federal Regulations at 29 CFR 1926.1060 (Subpart X)

    Handling Materials
    Recently, OSHA added the training requirements for the powered industrial truck rule, 29 CFR 1926.602. That s because OSHA had found that each year about 100 workers were killed and almost 95,000 injured in industrial truck accidents. OSHA believes that an estimated 11 deaths and 9500 injuries will be prevented and $135 million in employee costs will be saved each year as the result of their new safety training requirements for operators of forklifts and other powered industrial trucks. OSHA regulations for materials handling and storage are scattered throughout 29 CFR 1926. Here are a few of the categories to help save you time in your search to see if you are in compliance:

    29 CFR 1926 Name
    .20 General Safety and Health Provision
    .250-.252 Materials Handling, Storage, Use, and Disposal
    .550-.556 Cranes, Derricks, Hoists, Elevators, and Conveyors
    .600-.606 Motor Vehicles, Mechanized Equipment
    .1000-.1003 Rollover Protective Structures, Overhead Protectors

    Preparing your organization for the chance that an OSHA inspector may knock on your door takes little time and effort and is well worth the small cost. Even if you are called upon by an inspector, don t sweat it! Be cooperative and assist the inspector in whatever way you can. In the event you are handed a citation for workplace safety and health violations, OSHA provides what it considers to be a reasonable abatement period, which is OSHA s term for the amount of time the employer has to fix the problem. The deadline for abatement is a specific date--- usually no more than 30 days. Even then, they will usually work with you if you are cooperating and making a genuine effort to comply. We all want our workplace to be a safe environment for our employees. Meeting the requirements of OSHA is not that difficult. It is just a matter of being familiar with the rules of the game and communicating those to your employees. And lets not forget the most important--- common sense!

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