How to use OSHA Standards for Workplace Safety

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) US-based regulatory body involves developing occupational safety and health-related standards. Fifty years back, in 1971, OSHA first act was enacted. Except for this time-to-time OSHA difference, total health safety-related standards were issued, providing guidelines to the organisations for safe and healthy operations. The number of measures related explicitly to industrial sectors like construction, maritime, agriculture, chemical and general industries was published by the OSHA, but here below is some summarised core of all these industry standards that need to be followed for workplace safety.

  1. Exit routes and emergency planning 

Organisations should develop and share the emergency exit plan with every employee; this can be done by displaying the emergency plan at some location within the organisation. Furthermore, alarms, fire prevention systems, including fire extinguishers, and suppressors based on the fire type need to be installed and regularly exercised. Proper emergency drills of emergency situation handling should be conducted to overcome the real situation.

  1. Power platform, Man-lifts and Vehicle-mounted work platforms

Power platforms, vehicles etc., have a combination of electrical and mechanical technology that need highly competent staff to operate. The operator must be fully qualified to operate it as per OSHA requirements. Proper due care needs to be taken while operating it as some occupational health safety hazards are involved. Furthermore, a competent authority with expertise needs to conduct a timely inspection of the equipment.  

  1. Occupational health and environment control

The working environment should be appropriate for operational activities, like the noise limit should not be greater than 85 decibels for 8 hours working. Similarly, light intensity should be controlled per specified standard; air monitoring should be done at the working area and within the defined limit. Where there is a breach of these prescribed limits, action should be taken to control or reduce them.

  1. Hazardous Materials 

Hazardous material includes flammable liquids, explosives, slurry water gel, petroleum products, acidic, basic, volatile and non-volatile compounds should be stored and handled as per the defined protocol mentioned in the respective safety data sheet. Proper care needs to be followed for the usage and disposal of hazardous material. An emergency plan also needs to be defined in case of the release of material. The material handlers should be trained on these materials’ storage and handling protocols. 

  1. Personal protective equipment

To protect yourself from accidental events, personal protective equipment is inapprehensible. PPEs include goggles, safety shoes, uniform, earmuff, buds, gloves etc., not only provided to the team but also proper training of these items should be given to the respective person. There is chemical usage; respiratory protection should also be provided to the person. Appropriate audits also need to be conducted to check and verify the use of this equipment. 

  1. General environment control

Occupational environment controls also need to be taken to make a safe environment for work operations. As per OSHA, environment control measures can be taken in the form of safety signs & tags, work permit issuance for working in confined spaces or work at height etc. lockout/tagout procedure should be implemented while working or performing maintenance of the equipment.    

  1. Medical services and first aid

To counter any unwanted injury or accident, the employer should take first aid measures at the workplace. A Properly trained first aid officer is also available at the site who knows the appropriate usage of the right things in case of injury. 

  1. Fire protection

The most important thing which any employer should not ignore at their site. Proper fire equipment, including extinguishers, sprinkles etc., whichever is the need of that area, should be installed as per the expert’s recommendation. Installation is just one phase; proper training of this equipment must be provided to the employee. Based on the expertise, an internal fire team needs to be developed to nip the fire incident before fire brigade arrival. A periodic fire drill is also part of it, which is regularly executed to provide real-time training to the employees so that employees can easily tackle in case of an emergency situation. 

  1. Material handling and storage 

Lack of proper and safe material handling is one of the major reasons for incidents in any organisation. OSHA standards focused on it to prevent any unforeseen incident. The material should be stored at a predefined safe height, and in case of storage, the provider's guidance needs to be followed, which can be in the form of safety data sheets, technical manuals, etc.

  1. Machinery and Machine guarding

Machinery that is being used in the organisation should be properly guarded, and where possible, a safety system should be installed on it to avoid any unforeseen accidental event. Proper inspection of these guards and the machine’s safety features need to be carried out. When the maintenance needs to be carried out, it should be done by proper lockout/tagout; relevant equipment/machinery manuals should also be referred for safe technical inspection or maintenance. 

  1. Electrical safety-related work practices

Electricity is the soul of any industry which runs the complete industry, but this soul needs to be managed properly; otherwise, it could be destructive for the whole industry. Most of the fire reasons in industries are related directly or indirectly to this electricity, so proper safe handling and managing of the electricity is required. For this purpose, OSHA provides a guideline for electric inspection, earthing and material etc., by following which organisation can reduce the risk related to electricity incidents.

  1. Toxic and hazardous substances

Workplace safety can’t be completed without considering the toxic and hazardous substances being utilised in the industry. Most industries are exempted from it, but the industries in which these toxic and hazardous substances are being used need to follow the OSHA guidelines, which refers to the safety data sheets of the respective chemicals provided by the manufacturer. 

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