As an employer, it’s your responsibility to keep your staff safe and protected in the workplace, including staying up to date with recent rulings and decisions made by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). This organization is committed to providing a safe workplace for all Americans, and they constantly look for ways to modernize and improve laws surrounding our work environments.
The US Department of Labor hands down final rulings on new workplace regulations to OSHA, so it’s up to the employer to stay educated on any changes. Although 2017 has only just begun, there are quite a few new rulings in place which came in over the last 12 months that could affect your workplace this year. Here we take a look at them and what kind of implications they could have for your employees.
Final Rule on Exposure to Beryllium
After it was found that exposure to beryllium can cause dangerous lung diseases and possibly fatalities, it was imperative to put new measures in place regarding safe exposure in the workplace. Because many workplaces use this material, in particular shipyards, construction, and general industry environments, the rules have recently changed.
In January this year, OSHA ruled that the exposure time now allowed with beryllium will remain as eight hours, but that now there was only to be 0.2 micrograms of beryllium per cubic meter be allowed. When compared to the previous 2.0 micrograms limit, these changes aim to save the lives of over 94 workers per year. As beryllium is still an extremely useful resource in many industries, this drastic measure was crucial.
Final Rule on Walking-Working Surfaces
Traditionally, workplaces had to provide one set standard for fall systems in place. As studies have found that far too many injuries and fatalities were caused in this area, OSHA has now ruled that each worker can be responsible for selecting their own personal fall protection system. Other changes include prohibiting body belts as a personal fall arrest system and mandatory training on personal fall protection systems now be in place.
With the change set to affect 112 million workers at sites across the country, it’s one of the largest amendments to OSHA regulations in recent times. The prediction from this change is that 29 lives will be saved each year, and over 5,842 injuries prevented just by these small measures.
Final Rule on Protective Equipment
Protective equipment is a mandatory requirement for almost all workplaces, even those in the blue collar sector. However, workers in shipyards, long shoring, construction, general industry, and marine terminals now have new regulations in place about their Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
The final ruling included a number of changes to the previous legislation, including now allowing employees to choose their own protective equipment provided it complied with the industry standard. All other changes related to face and eye protection specifically, as an area which receives a large percentage of injuries each year in the workplace.
The Importance of Educating Your Employees
- Mail out – a simple email directed to all staff members whenever a change might occur in your industry is a quick and easy way to keep everyone informed.
- Newsletter – have a dedicated OSHA section on your company newsletter so that people can keep up to date with any changes that might affect their job.
- Bulletin board – a basic notice in the office boardroom or kitchen so that people can be reminded of OSHA updates during their lunch break.
- Orientation and training – any important occupational health and safety information should be covered off in orientation and training, so ensure this is updated with the latest developments too.
- SMS updates – sending a simple text message through your company software is a modern and succinct way to communicate important changes to staff.
- Intranet – posting regular updates to the company’s main hub on the intranet means staff can stay informed as changes happen, as well as always have a dedicated place to visit should they want to touch up on their OSHA knowledge.
The best place to keep up to date with changes to occupational health and safety laws is directly through the OSHA website. They regularly update the website with media releases regarding rulings and new regulations in place, and it’s an essential resource for both employers and employees.
If you’re not able to keep a regular eye on their website, you can set up alerts to notify you whenever a press release is published. This way, you know every small change and ruling directly as it happens so that you can pass this information onto your employees.
2017 should be the year that you make occupational health and safety an important area of your workplace. Find new ways to involve staff in learning, have a detailed and up to date training system in place for new employees and ask for feedback from your colleagues on how you can better improve the health and safety conditions of the workplace. With a little bit of proactivity, you can avoid future disasters altogether.