The OSHA General Industry Training requirements specify that employers must train their employees in any relevant health and safety aspects of their job. Depending on the nature of the job in question, the training could vary massively from simple safety briefings or communicating ground rules to requiring specific qualifications. In fields where there are ‘dangerous’ assignments, the OSHA requires that those job assignments be limited to employees that are certified as being competent �” which may mean having a paper qualification, previous training, or a certification.
The rules for health and safety vary from industry to industry, but there are some general industry rules that should be understood. Every workplace and every building that accepts members of the general public must be safe and have emergency plans for fires and for other potential risks. The OSHA requires that the workplace is kept as safe as possible, and puts the burden of providing that safety �” in the form of training, guidance and equipment, on the employer.
The OSHA policies are federal, but there are state-level regulations as well and these may differ from what the OSHA Federal regulations specify, so it is important that employers consult the state regulations to ensure that there are no differences.
If you run a business and you are unable to find general guidance for a specific activity, substance, tool or piece of machinery, then it is a good idea to consult the manufacturer’s documentation for guidance. If you cannot find such information then you should take some time to document potential risks and how you plan to mitigate them, and if possible get together a group of experts to develop safety guidelines for you.
Your safety guidelines should be kept up to date and regularly reviewed, and it is important that you send out reminders to your employees about general safety precautions. For example, you may feel that it is OK to say “Employees must always wear their personal protective equipment” as a part of the onboarding process. This is true. However, you should send out regular reminders. Have safety briefings a couple of times per year where issues such as PPE, site cleanliness, manual handling and the handling of dangerous substances are discussed.
Even if you feel that there is no real risk factor in your business, having a safety policy is important. Think, for example, of a store that is open late. A general store probably does not hold anything hazardous, but it is important that the store’s fire exits are kept unobstructed, and that there are no trip or fall hazards in the aisles. Employees should also be trained to keep the till locked unless they are making a transaction, and in what to do if there is an attempt to rob the store. You may also want to set a policy regarding employees leaving at the end of their shift, especially if you have young employees or there are females on your staff. While this is more of a goodwill thing, making sure that your employees are safe is always helpful.
The full OSHA rules are lengthy and contain hundreds of recommendations for everything from combined spaces to handling specific goods, respiratory protection, machinery, vehicles, working at a height, working with electricity, handling dangerous chemicals, working where there is a risk of bloodborne pathogens and more. There are also recommendations for injury and illness records, and for supporting workers who are recovering from a workplace injury. These rules exist to help protect employees and members of the public, and they are generally easy to implement.
If you have not got a training policy in place, it is important that you implement one as soon as possible. If an employee is injured on your work site and they were not given proper safety advice, then you could be liable for their injury. Some proactive accident and injury prevention work could make a huge difference to your employees wellbeing and also to their productivity and their morale. Don’t dismiss the OSHA as red tape – take the guidelines seriously, and look after your employees so that they can return the favor by doing good work for you.