Keeping Up With New Government Regulations
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Keeping Up With New Government Regulations

Because of the tragedy of September 11th, 2001, the US government has had to put more laws into place to protect the safety of American citizens. Some of the laws have inconvenienced us and some we never knew existed, but the good news is that they are not all that complicated.

By Johnny Duncan

For the sign industry, some of the laws are worth giving notice to because they not only affect the way you do business, but not adhering to them could cost you a lot of money in fines and penalties. The first step in keeping your business out of trouble is becoming familiar with the new laws and learning what you need to do to become compliant.

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  • Two important sites you should bookmark (other than SignIndustry.com) are the Department of Transportation www.dot.gov and the Osha site www.osha.gov These two sites provide easier navigation than they used to and they allow you to download new laws and provide resources to help you comply with these laws.

    There are several new laws and/or laws that have been revised that you need to be aware of because the results for not complying can be costly. However, our government, in most cases, is business friendly. In other words, they know how difficult it is to run a business and are lenient when it comes to punishing you if complying with the new law in an expedient manner causes your business tremendous financial hardship. But, be ready to prove the hardship.

    It is usually easier to comply than to try to get around it. Most of the these laws are not that difficult to follow and if you get your people up to speed with the new regulations and document the required training, you should not have any problem at all.

    Some New Ones
    A new law concerning the transportation of hazardous materials is one some folks are making a big fuss about these days, but it is really not that big of a deal. It is the Department of Transportation, 49 CFR, Subpart H. This law requires that you train all hazmat employers and employees in the proper handling, packaging and transporting of hazardous materials.

    Who needs the training?
    Under the heading of Regulation of Hazardous Materials Transportation in Commerce, the definition of a hazmat employee and employer are as follows:

    “The terms ``hazmat employee'' and ``hazmat employer'' are defined in detail in 49 CFR 171.8. Stated briefly, a hazmat employee is anyone who directly affects hazardous materials transportation safety, and a hazmat employer is anyone who uses employees in connection with transporting hazardous materials in commerce, causing hazardous materials to be transported, or manufacturing or offering packagings as authorized for use in transportation of hazardous materials.”

    In other words, the employees could be in manufacturing, supplying, receiving, shipping and even sales people.

    Staying out of trouble
    SignIndustry.com contacted the Department of Transportation and found out that these requirements were put in place to protect those handling the hazardous material as well as protecting the public. This includes making sure that the materials are labeled properly and kept out of the wrong hands. The best way to stay out of trouble is to follow the guideline.

    But training your employees and following the regulation is not enough. It is pretty far- fetched that a government DOT enforcer will come knocking on your door to make sure you are following the requirements, but make certain you have all the necessary documentation anyway.

    If you’ve trained everyone according to the DOT training documents, keep a record of the training in each employee’s file. That is all there is to it. If you’ve done your part and documented the necessary training, you shouldn’t have any worries. The training is not difficult or time-consuming and provides awareness for your employees, which will help to keep them safe.

    The training records for each employee must include:

    • Hazmat employee's name;
    • Completion date of most recent training;
    • Training Materials (Copy, description, or location);
    • Name and address of hazmat trainer; and
    • Certification that the hazmat employee has been trained and tested.

    If you are the employer, you can provide the training. The DOT website gives you all the materials you need including PowerPoint presentations. Just taking a little time to review these materials and then training your employees is all there is to it. Most of you are probably already doing all the required steps, but do the training anyway.

    Another point of interest:

    OSHA urges safety around electrical hazards

    The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is offering employers help in recognizing and eliminating occupational electrical hazards, with particular emphasis on worksites in the Southeast.

    Between Oct. 1, 2001, and Sept. 30, 2002, OSHA investigated 46 worker fatalities in Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi. To help employers prevent more incidents, agency offices in the Southeast are offering a free “Electrical Outreach” compact disc with training presentations, Internet links, photos of electrical hazards, discussion of OSHA regulations related to the hazards, and information on how to remove or correct hazards before an employee is injured.

    Because 23 of the 46 fatalities involved workers coming in contact with overhead electrical power lines, the agency also has developed a regional emphasis program to address potential hazards at these worksites. Investigators will address electrical hazards during inspections at worksites and distribute outreach materials where electrical hazards could be encountered.

    Six of the 46 fatalities involved workers who were exposed to electrical hazards as they installed plumbing, heating and air-conditioning units or cables, and OSHA offices are mailing advisory letters to these types of companies advising them of potential electrical hazards.

    For more information or to obtain copies of the safety material, visit www.osha.gov.

    The government can come up with some really interesting regulations, but the good news is that they usually also provide the means for complying. Keep yourself informed and inform your team and you won’t have to worry about business interruptions or fines levied against your company.

    The little time you spend staying informed will save you a lot in the long run.

    In part two of Keeping Up With The Regulations, we will address the laws governing the treatment of employees and how you can protect yourself and your company from unnecessary litigation.

    Note: This article is intended as information only and is not a substitute for legal or professional advice.

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