Well-informed, cautious employees will make any workplace safer, regardless of your industry or specific risk factors. They’re also necessary to uphold the standards enforced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the official experts on preventing workplace accidents. When your workers know how and why to protect themselves, they can prevent injuries to themselves as well as legal and financial setbacks for you. But how do you actually reach your employees and make sure they understand and uphold OSHA safety requirements?
Following safety standards isn’t just about passing inspections, avoiding citations, and reducing insurance costs. It’s important for your employees to understand that. OSHA is a government agency that was created to protect employees, not employers, so make sure your safety talks revolve around their right to a safe work environment. Empower them to learn their rights and understand that OSHA is here to protect them.
If your workers want to avoid debilitating injuries and illnesses, OSHA standards should be their top priority, because these standards were designed to reduce their risks and make sure you – their employer – will do the same. And if they ever feel unsafe at work, OSHA also gives them a way to request inspections, report violations, and review previous injuries and illnesses. When employees understand that OSHA rules are about them and their rights, they may be more motivated to learn and enforcing them.
Falls in the workplace can cause serious injury and even death, but fortunately, many are preventable. In 2017, improper fall protection was OSHA’s most frequently cited safety standard, and scaffolding violations came in third place. Inspections revealed these violations, but all too often, on-the-job accidents and injuries force employees to “learn the hard way”. You are responsible for providing a safe workplace, but employees are also responsible for wearing the gear you give them and properly using the safety barriers you put in place.
If your employees work in warehouses, construction sites, or any other workplaces that include elevated surfaces or dangerous machines and equipment, it’s especially important to emphasize the danger of falling. Make sure employees know the specific OSHA rules regarding fall protection, so that they always clear out known dangers (such as wet floors or uncovered holes) and use safety gear properly. For example, your employees must understand the importance of handrails, guardrails, toe boards, scaffolding, and safety harnesses before they’re exposed to any fall risks.
Do your employees work in confined spaces? They need to know that their risks are greater, so their rules are stricter. OSHA has specific rules for working in confined spaces, and confined space training course is a great idea for any employees who spend a lot of time in them. Some of the most common confined spaces in workplaces include:
While all of these spaces require certain safety precautions, some are especially hazardous. If your workers occupy confined spaces with additional risks, such as potential gas leaks or movable structures, they actually need OSHA permits to enter these spaces at all.
Everyone is more protected when the whole workforce is up-to-date on OSHA standards (and why they’re so important). Protect yourself and your employees by taking an OSHA training course and encouraging them to do the same. If your employees belong to any of these groups, they’re great candidates for OSHA training:
Of course, employers and employees from every industry will benefit from learning and following OSHA standards. But if your employees work with machinery, heights, hazardous energy, electricity, or anything else that causes specific workplace hazards, formal education is especially vital. After all, following OSHA standards to a tee will seriously reduce everyone’s risks, from citations and insurance hikes to injuries and death.
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