Where Do I Begin?

There are literally volumes and volumes of Federal and State regulations regarding Occupational Safety and Health.  Where do you begin?

I believe the place to start is called the “General Duty Clause” which applies to every business no matter what industry it belongs to, or how many employees it has.  “General Duty Clauses” state that each employer will “provide a safe and healthful place of employment for its workers”.  The next question is “How Do You Do That”?

No matter what type of business, or how many employees work there, the way to make the workplace safe is to identify the hazards.  That means each group of workers faces things during their workday that could hurt them.  Even one office worker can have the file cabinet fall on them, or have injuries from typing all day without interrupting the work.

Some hazards are inherent.  That means those hazards always exist in that workplace.  An example would be the requirement to use a power saw or skill saw of some sort.  The saw doesn’t care what it cuts, so the user has to operate it in accordance with company policies, or the instructions from the manufacturer.  It is never acceptable for an employee to remove a protective guard from the tool, but it’s easy and common to find them missing.

Some hazards are temporary, such as water spills, or an extension cord stretched across a pathway that is normally kept clear.  Temporary hazards also include things like Winter and Summer, where employees may now have to drive through ice and snow just to get to work, or who are exposed to potential heat stress disorders from working in areas where the temperature exceeds 86 degrees.  California mandates annual heat stress training for employees potentially exposed.

The fact is, that figuring out what can hurt your employees gives you the ability to create a “Safe Work Practice” to help them avoid the hazard.  There are “Administrative Controls” (policies) that can be implemented to reduce exposures, and there are “Engineering Controls” (stuff) that can be used as well.  When employees have less exposures to hazards, they are safer.  The point is, once you know how employees can be injured, you can DO SOMETHING about it.  That’s where you start, and that’s how you comply with creating and maintaining a safe workplace.

Remember, safety is NOT what we talk about, it’s about what you and your employees actually do!


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