Facility Dude

Make OSHA Your Partner and Reap the Benefits

By Alexandra Altvater
Apr 22, 2016

Safety and Risk Management

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Sometimes it becomes too easy to forget that OSHA is not this evil entity out to get us with fines and penalties, but instead it is the governing entity of safety in the workplace. We get so caught up in day to day operations that the potential surprise visit of an OSHA inspector can turn our day upside down. It is important to remember that, without OSHA, fatalities and injuries in the workplace would be even more common than they are now. In fact, only four decades after OSHA was founded in 1970, occupational injuries and deaths declined by over 60%. With that in mind, it’s easier to stop thinking of OSHA as this powerful “Big Brother” and instead turn OSHA into your partner for a better, safer workplace. 

With the mindset of OSHA as a partner, it is much easier to achieve a wide variety of benefits like better recordkeeping for data-driven decisions, reduced workers’ compensation costs, and often less visits from OSHA inspectors.

Just recently, a United States Postal Service (USPS) distribution center in Iowa was cited and penalized for unsafe practices in the workplace, resulting in a fine of over $88,000.  Penalties of this size are certainly painful for those on the receiving end of the citation, but they can also serve as a “wake-up” call of sorts. The organization which receives the citation has an opportunity to address potentially dangerous situations before an accident can occur, but it also provides a great opportunity for the rest of us to step back, assess our own work safety measures, and close any gaps before receiving an OSHA visit of our own.

There are many simple, affordable ways in which companies like USPS can improve operational safety. The ubiquity and affordability of mobile devices, for example, provide facility and safety managers with an ideal platform for hosting and delivering Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS), operation manuals, and other supporting documentation aimed at placing critical information in a format and form factor that’s universally accessible. Through a safety app with this level of functionality, USPS workers, for example, could have gained instant access to training documents for fork trucks that help ensure proper loading of the lifts, proper length of forks used, and general training documents for the safe handling and driving of them. Since all fork lift drivers require a license, an app like this could also monitor when the licenses were given and simplify when there is a need for subsequent refresher courses.

Safety apps aren’t just a great way to access training documentation, but they also put critical emergency information where it can do the most good: at your employee’s fingertips instead of in a binder on the shelf or the computer on their desk. If an injury or accident does happen, such as a “struck-by hazard” incident in the case of USPS involving a fork truck, the worker could simply check their safety app for the first responder steps to take, as well as instructions on how to file and log the incident accurately and timely for OSHA purposes. 

With the addition of a safety app, the OSHA visit becomes less daunting and the newly implemented process gives companies the opportunity to proudly present themselves as a role model.

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