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Watch for OSHA’s list of gotcha’s

July 25, 2010
By PAUL GIANNAMORE, Business editor

STEUBENVILLE - An employer can have good safety programs in place, make sure employees are properly equipped and trained and still face a fine on a quick inspection by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Sarah Ghezzi, an industrial safety consultant specialist for the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation, told members of the Jefferson County Safety Council during the group's July meeting at the YWCA on North Fourth Street, she had an eight-hour course to condense into her 40-minute talk.

Ghezzi covered rules for general industry and construction. The construction industry has many of the same requirements but fewer written policies to maintain simply because many employees work out in the field, not in one plant or office location.

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OSHA EXPECTATIONS — Sarah Ghezzi, an industrial safety consultant specialist for the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, briefed members of the Jefferson County Safety Council on potential pitfalls of surprise inspections by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
-- Paul Giannamore

She said there are some simple trips that companies can be caught out on an OSHA inspection.

For instance, she said construction companies with workers doing trenching and excavation need to know

OSHA inspectors will stop to check jobs they see while heading from one place to another.

"If you are in the public view, like out on state Route 7, OSHA will talk to you," she said.

Another potential tripwire is paperwork regarding materials safety data training, and on mandatory safety equipment.

She said she knows of one small machine shop, with just five employees, which had its required Materials Safety Data Sheets (information federally required to be kept for employees to know of potential hazardous substances in their workplace), but had no employee training and no job-specific hazard training and information.

Further, she said an easy trip on an inspection is for employers required to provide workers with mandatory safety equipment, such as respirators, safety glasses or helmets.

The same machine shop, she said, had the mandatory safety equipment and the workers were using it properly, but the shop still faced another fine.

"He didn't have a piece of paper," she said, to show the personal protective equipment assessment and program.

She said employers also have to consider such issues as any changes in the workplace that require updating of safety training, procedures and equipment. Places that use fork trucks, for example, have to conduct a formal re-evaluation of their fork truck safety if a worker has an accident or a near-miss with a fork truck. The safety program has to be in writing.

She said rules apply generally to any workplace with more than one employee.

"If you have one employee, you are now on OSHA's radar," she said.

"Now, will they stop by and inspect you if you have only one employee? Probably not. But if you kill that one employee, now they may start to ask some questions," she said with a smile.

Workplace violence now qualifies as an OSHA enforceable issue, with homicide as the third-leading cause of occupational fatalities in the U.S., she said. It's not just among co-workers but also deals with customers and visitors. She said retailers and other businesses open late at night, or pizza delivery operations should have training on how to avoid dangerous circumstances.

Other major points applying to any workplace with more than one employee:

Having written standards on what to do in case of an accident, who to notify and how to report the accident.

Having written policies regarding the cleanup of blood or bodily fluids in the workplace.

Having written programs on confined space entry. The words immediately call to mind pits, tanks and manholes, but Ghezzi said any place that fits the definition of having limited access, is not designed for occupancy and may contain additional hazards is a confined space.

Training workers on how to deal with potential electrical hazards. The standard get specific, such as making sure cleaning crews know to check the cords daily on vacuums and not to use any potentially hazardous electrical equipment, such as a machine with frayed cords. In addition, she said, there is a new emphasis on safe procedures guarding against electric arc flashing and arc blasts, where an entire electrical box blows apart as someone throws a switch.

Making sure workers know what to do in case of an emergency, such as a fire, tornado, flood or even winter weather when hazard levels are set.

Fall protection programs apply to places where an employee is more than 6 feet above ground (excluding ladders), or on scaffolding more than 10 feet above ground. Harnesses, training and other equipment is required.

First aid programs require at least one person per shift be trained in basic first aid and an American National Standards Institute-certified medical kit be available. The standard does not apply if emergency response is available within four minutes, but Ghezzi noted for many workplaces, it takes that long to get from the front gate or door to the place in the plant or building where the injured employee is.

She said the Bureau of Workers' Compensation can monitor sound to determine if a full hearing conservation program is needed in a workplace.

The bureau, OSHA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health all have training and resources available for employers for all the programs.

For information, contact the Bureau of Workers' Compensation, Division of Safety and Hygiene to learn about OSHA requirements on employers.

(Giannamore's e-mail address is

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