Working in an environment that is safe and healthy is not a privilege but a right of every worker regardless of industry. To ensure this, there are multiple agencies, authorities, and governing bodies throughout the world that enforce worker health and safety laws and regulations. One such organization which we are going to talk about today is OSHA.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is an agency of the United States, Under the Department of Labor, and was created by Congress in 1971. OSHA’s job is to protect workers and their health at work. In 1971, after the deaths of 14000+ workers on the job, OSH Act was enforced to provide a secure and healthy working environment by the enforcement of laws and standards and by the provision of training, education, and support.
The OSH Act states:
“To assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women; by authorizing enforcement of the standards developed under the Act; by assisting and encouraging the States in their efforts to assure safe and healthful working conditions; by providing for research, information, education, and training in the field of occupational safety and health.”
The main task for OSHA is to avoid and prevent recognized hazards that might cause injuries, diseases, and deaths related to a working environment. OSHA aims to allow employers, government agencies, professional groups, medical and educational organizations to collaborate with OSHA to avoid recognized hazards.
There are certain safety practices and training requirements by OSHA which are called OSHA Standards. These standards are organized into five major categories:
All these categories have regulations that are referenced in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), which is the codification of rules and regulations published in the Federal Register by the executive departments of the federal government of the United States. Title 29 of the CFR, which includes all the OSHA standards and regulations, is reserved for the U.S Department of Labor.
The regulations in the CFR by category type are as follows:
|General Industry||part 1910|
|Maritime||part 1915, 1917 and 1918|
|Federal Employee Programs||part 1960|
Regulations for electrical safety can be found in different standards:
|Subpart I – Personal Protective Equipment||1910.137, Electrical protective equipment|
|Subpart R – Special Industries||1910.269, Electric power generation, transmission, and distribution|
|Subpart S – Electrical||1910.301 – 1910.399|
|1915 Subpart L – Electrical Machinery||1915.181, Electrical circuits and distribution boards|
|1917 Subpart G – Related Terminal Operations and Equipment||1917.157, Battery charging and changing|
OSHA makes sure that workers are physically protected by enforcing the usage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE for short). This is to reduce the chances of damage or harm to occur to any person working in a hazardous situation where the hazard cannot be predicted, mitigated, or is ever-present. Employees must be trained on how to use the PPE. They should be told why the use of PPE is necessary before they start the job for which it has been provided.
Where PPE is provided, it must be used as instructed. Employers should make sure that the PPE they purchase complies with the relevant OSHA standards. PPE must be stored in a clean and working condition and should be easy to find in need. It must be inspected regularly to make sure it is in good working order and defective or damaged PPE must be reported at once. It must be tagged (to prevent its use until it has been repaired) or thrown away and replaced.
Personal protective equipment can include a lot of gear, most common of which are:
OSHA also has “Quick Cards” which can act as a general guidance for any situation for example:
Burns, shocks and electrocution are all results of Electrical hazards.
Other standards and regulation governing bodies also provide guidance related to worker protection, such as the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) which has a detailed Electrical code for Electrical safety in the .
There are about 300 codes and standards published by NFPA to lower the chances of fire hazards and their effects.
NFPA code 70E, aims to provide employers the help to avoid workplace injuries and fatalities due to arc flash, shock, electrocution, and helps them to comply with OSHA 1910 Subpart S and OSHA 1926 Subpart K
NFPA 70E suggests safe work practices for workers exposed to electrical hazards as well as provides safe work practices for the following scenarios:
Conducting regular meetings is a basic and strongly encouraged requirement to discuss health and security issues related to the workplace but is not necessary for small businesses. Workplace inspection should be carried out to find possible risks and all training and accidents must be documented. Employees must follow guidelines and standards set by OSHA and must use protective equipment, report injuries, and hazardous circumstances, and take care of their health and those around them.
There are state-level OSHA requirements that allow states to develop programs to suit them better than federal requirements. About 24 states and 2 territories of the US have their safety programs but are in many ways similar to the federal programs.
In workplaces, most of these injuries include:
Unsafe working conditions increase the chances of accidents.
Employers have the responsibility to provide a safe workplace. Employers must make sure that the workplace they are providing does not have to pose any threats to the safety or health of their employees and must conform with OSHA standards. In case any health or safety hazards are found during a routine inspection, employers must eliminate them according to OSHA standards. Using safer chemicals, harmful fume extraction, or using ventilation systems to clean the air are some ways of ways to get rid of or minimize risks.
Employers must also:
Safety of workers can be ensured if workers took care of their own and other employee's health and safety by cooperating with anything that the employer does to comply with OSH requirements. Employees must ensure the safety of other employees by not intentionally or recklessly misuse anything provided at the workplace. An employee should know how to handle any unfortunate circumstances in the workplace.
Security of employees can be enhanced by involving them in safety planning. The better the workers know, the better their response can be.
Employees can contribute to safety culture of workplace if and only if their fresh thoughts about safety will get attention and concern by employer.
Employer should make sure that employees understood all safety instructions by reviewing and confirming that they know what they are being told.
Employees who are performing tasks in instructed manner should be praised and those who are taking shortcuts that could reduce safety should be fined or punished.
Employer must ensure that all machinery is in good state and working order. This can be done with the help of a routine maintenance program.
Safety meetings deal out important safety measure information to company employees and give them a chance to ask questions about communicating polices and monitoring the safety program. These meetings also talk about shop-safety rules, emergency procedures, and hygiene.
Maintaining a clean working environment by removing clutter and other safety issues will help employees to be more creative and disciplined at workplace.
By routine inspection of workplace regularly, an employer can identify any unnecessary risk.
Inspection of workplace and safety program is necessary as with each new day we face new challenges or risks that can only be handled by polishing the safety standards.
Workers’ health and safety must be taken seriously by every employer and that is only possible when one is aware of the laws and regulations concerning one’s business.
We hope this article proves to be helpful for our readers. Please feel free to give your valuable suggestions in the comments below. Thank you.
About The Author
Abdur Rehman is a professional electrical engineer with more than eight years of experience working with equipment from 208V to 115kV in both the Utility and Industrial & Commercial space. He has a particular focus on Power Systems Protection & Engineering Studies.