OSHA regulations can be tricky. There are regulations that apply to specific industries and others that apply to any type of workplace that meets certain criteria. Since the wording of some regulations is vague or imprecise, there are often interpretations of the regulations and exceptions to know about, too.
So how do you know which OSHA regulations apply to your business? Here are some steps to follow to get to the right place.
Does your state have its own OSHA program or does federal OSHA have jurisdiction in your state? About half of the states in the U.S. administer their own OSHA programs. Federal OSHA enforces its own regulations in the remaining states. Go to www.osha.gov to see which states enforce their own plans.
If you are in a ‘state-plan state,’ find the state OSHA’s web site. Nearly all of the state OSHA programs have their regulations online. If you are in a federal OSHA state, stay at www.osha.gov and go to the Regulations page. The online resources available are abundant.
What is your company's industry? That can make a difference in which regulations apply to you. In California, for example, which is a state plan state, there are different “trigger heights” for fall protection that depend on the industry and even the construction trade.
For Example: California framers on certain construction jobs are not required to use fall protection until they get above 15’; roofers have a 20’ trigger height and ironworkers, with some exceptions, have a 30’ trigger height. However, non-construction worksites have a trigger height of only 7 1/2’. Some exceptions and additional requirements that may apply.
Before reading the regulations from beginning to end, check your OSHA web site for publications about the safety area you are concerned about (e.g. fall protection, hazardous materials). If one exists it will probably summarize the agency’s regulations in plain English and give references to the actual regulations.
Joining a local meet up or safety council as well as attending a safety conference such as national shows hosted by ASSE and NSC are great ways to learn, and connect.
Ask a safety product sales team member, the knowledge they have is an invaluable resource. They spend hours researching products that apply to your industry and will often provide extensive knowledge because they want your business.
Once you have identified the agency that regulates you and found any publications that explain the regulations, it’s time to start looking through the regulations themselves. First check the section and chapter of the regulation before you start reading. If the regulation is specific to an industry it will say so. For example, fall protection requirements located in the construction standards cannot be applied to general industry.
Finally, many regulations have a “scope and application section.” If the scope and application don’t fit your company or situation, move on.
Working at height carries more risk than working at ground level. However, if workers follow safety guidelines, they can accomplish what they need to at height without undue risk to themselves. Workers need to know about appropriate equipment as well as about how to use that equipment safely.
Plan In Advance
The most important way to ensure worker safety when working at height is to plan the job in advance. Job coordinators must consider which equipment would be best to get the job done, what special safety considerations are involved with the job and what training workers may require in order to safely perform the job.
Workers should familiarize themselves with the equipment and job requirements. They should minimize distractions by turning off mobile phones or leaving them behind while working at height. Workers also should not use personal music players or other devices that interfere with putting their full attention onto the job at hand. They should also speak to their supervisors about anything they feel uncomfortable with or unsure about so that they can receive appropriate training.
Use Proper Equipment
The type of equipment workers require to work at height varies based on the type of job they are attempting to do. For example, ladders should only be used for short-term jobs and workers should not use this equipment if they are going to be remaining at height for a significant period of time.
All equipment should be checked regularly for signs of wear or other problems. This is especially important if workers rent equipment for the purpose of completing a particular job. Rented equipment may not always be of the highest quality due to how many others have used it.
Finally, workers must be sure to place equipment properly for greatest safety. Ladders must be secured at the foot and placed in a manner that doesn't interfere with pedestrian or other traffic and elevated platforms must be used only on firm, level ground.
Have a Rescue Plan
Workers at height should never go up without first having learned and practiced a rescue plan. If a worker should become trapped at height, it's important to be able to reach and free the worker quickly; time is of the essence to prevent serious injuries. Thus, job coordinators should first go over rescue plans verbally, then have workers practice several rescue drills before work begins. Practicing rescue plans makes it more likely that workers will be effective in helping to resolve an emergency situation.
Take Risks Into Consideration
Every work site presents different risks. When working at height, workers must take the specific risks of the site they are working on into consideration. Workers should examine the site prior to beginning work so that they can identify these risks and make plans to minimize risk. For example, workers may wear safety harnesses or use other safety equipment in order to minimize the risk of falling or becoming trapped.
Yes! That's a stuffed monkey in a fall protection harness! I got this picture from a friend over the Thanksgiving holiday and it got me thinking that the best way to help create safety conscious employees is to emphasize safety from a young age.
Believe me, I'm not suggesting that we start installing harnesses on playground equipment or get crazy about the fact that kids climb trees, but I am saying that some simple reinforcement at a young age can reap great rewards for creating a safer work environment.
Here are a few thoughts about emphasizing work safety with children:
Model it! This is really the most important thing isn't it? Practice what your preach. Monkey see, monkey do. If kids see parents and other role models with blatant disregard for their own safety, will they be led to to practice safety themselves? Maybe, but not likely!
Integrate Work Safety into Play - Kids love dress up. Make sure to pick up some extra personal protection equipment for your kids. They'll love wearing hard hats, safety goggles, you name it! My kids have little log cabin that they climb on in the back yard. Sometimes they play roofer and tie themselves off while banging on the plastic roof!
Observe and Comment - When you pass a work site or read a kids book, ask you kids to tell you if they are working safe or not. This will emphasize the importance of working safely as a part of how they view the environment.
Practice - This is right up there with modeling. When building a project with your kids make sure they are wearing the proper safety gear. Kid sized work gloves and safety goggles are not always easy to find a the local home store, but the Internet is your friend. Remember to buy in bulk...they'll go through them faster than you do!
Encourage Leadership - By leadership I mean the ability to "go against the flow." I am sure that a lot of unsafe working conditions are caused by the simple fact that people just do what others are doing instead of thinking "what should I be doing?" This kind of leadership has nothing to do with personality, it has everything to do with "making sure that your kids don't jump off a bridge just because their friends do."
These are just a few ideas to emphasize a safe work environment with children. Please share your own thoughts and comments below.
Video can be such a pain! Especially when it catches you ignoring a safety regulation. Unfortunately we all know that the "It won't happen to me!" mindset keeps many people from practicing the proper safety procedures. Perhaps on the statistical levels, people often do dangerous things without being hurt, but who wants to be the exception! Don't be the exception in the statistic? Practice the proper tie off procedures when working at heights!
OSHA is making their way into the heart of the You Tube Generation with a series of new animated safety videos. The video above focuses on the dangers of the leading edge and will hopefully we used to help people understand the real dangers of working at heights.
Find out more about these animated safety videos on the OSHA website.
Self-retracting lanyard/lifelines are popular devices among professionals who work at height. These fall arrest systems can save lives but they can also be dangerous if used improperly. The use of an SRL can seem easy, as it’s basic functions are just like a seat belt, but it is important to pay attention to proper use.