According to OSHA’s website, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was created by congress “to assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education, and assistance.” They have established common sense standards, law enforcement actions, and compliance assistance. These programs have prevented injuries and illnesses, and saved lives.
Maintenance workers are among the many workers that are exposed to workplace hazards on a daily basis. OSHA aims to protect them by providing access to information for vulnerable workers in high-risk jobs. Information ranges from raising awareness of job hazards to safe chemicals handling and promotion of workplace best practices. Under OSHA law, it is an employer’s responsibility to provide a safe and healthful workplace for its workers.
Some specific OSHA safety standards include those related to fall protection, cotton dust, machine guarding, fall protection, bloodborne pathogens, and lead. These standards affect any industry or workplace in which these hazards can be found: construction sites, hospitals, machine shops, warehouses, transportation terminals, and farms
The role of maintenance in safety compliance
Establishing a safe and healthy work environment can substantially reduce the amount and severity of workplace injuries and illnesses. A comprehensive program that includes management support, worker cooperation, hazard identification, hazard prevention, education and training, and program evaluation/improvement is key to maintaining a safe and healthful workplace.
An overview of those these elements are listed below and details are available here:
- Management commitment and employee involvement: State and define clear and specific worksite policies to facilitate clear understanding of onsite personnel; provide top level leadership involvement when implementing programs
- Worksite analysis: Conduct baseline surveys for safety and health and periodic update surveys; analyze injury and illness data trends over time to help identify root causes and prevention measures
- Hazard prevention and control: Establish work practices and policies early and ensure understanding and compliance; keep facility, equipment, PPE’s in proper condition; plan and prepare for emergencies
- Safety and health training: Training helps identify responsibilities of both management and employees to promote accountability and compliance; educational programs should be designed to ensure understanding and awareness of hazards and proper methods of avoiding them
Specific OSHA laws and regulations can be referenced here. They are categorized by industry, subparts, and then by specific standard numbers. Maintenance workers, as employees, are required to comply with occupational safety and health standards and rules, regulations, and orders.
Some specific ways of how maintenance contributes to safe working conditions and OSHA compliance are listed below.
|OSHA Requirement||Maintenance Action|
|Protective equipment shall be provided, used, and maintained in a sanitary, reliable condition wherever necessary||Learn and demonstrate understanding of safety equipment training; use protective equipment on site|
|Fall protection is to be provided at elevations over four feet in general industry workplaces, five feet in shipyards, six feet in construction, and eight feet in longshoring operations||Be aware of elevated surfaces where falls may occur (top of tanks, towers, platforms, and roofs); use fall protection or prevention devices/equipment provided by employers|
|Control of hazardous energy (lockout/tagout)||Use loto software to develop proper procedures for each piece of equipment where hazardous energy is a concern|
|Restore all fire detection systems and components to normal operating conditions as promptly as possible after each test or alarm||Assure availability of any necessary spare devices and components that are normally destroyed during testing|
|Ensure that powered industrial truck operators are competent||Conduct any training under direct supervision of persons who have knowledge, training, and experience, and only in locations where other employees will not be exposed to danger|
Carrying out OSHA’s mission requires enforcement. Inspections are carried out without advance notice to employers. These can be done via telephone, onsite, or fax. Trained compliance officers inspect for imminent danger, fatalities, hospitalizations, worker complaints, specific hazards, and/or follow up inspections.
Workers or representatives of workers may file complaints to OSHA when they believe there is a serious hazard in the workplace or their employer is not compliant with OSHA standards. It is a violation of OSHA for an employer to retaliate against a worker that files a complaint.
When inspectors find violations onsite, OSHA may issue citations or fines to employers. Citations include methods that an employer may use to fix a problem and the date the corrective actions must be completed by.
OSHA provides assistance programs that aid employers in complying with regulations. These programs aim to help employers with the key elements listed earlier in this article.
Here is a list of resources: