Weeks before attending the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) Safety Conference and Expo, I poured through the list of sessions and created a schedule of workshops to attend and booths to visit so I could make good use of my conference time.
I also made sure that my presentation wasn’t at the same time as the plenary session with Assistant Secretary of Labor, Dr. David Michaels. Not only because I’d be staring at a room full of empty seats, but also because I wanted to hear Michaels’ perspectives on the direction the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is taking with various workplace safety issues.
Dr. Michaels reminded the standing-room-only crowd that although we’ve come a long way, there are still more than 4,500 workplace fatalities and over three million injuries each year. He acknowledged that OSHA can’t inspect every facility and that it is up to employers to make sure that they are doing everything in their power to ensure the safety of their workers.
Recordkeeping & Reporting
One of the things that will encourage this is the new recordkeeping and reporting rule that goes into effect in 2017. Under the new rule, facilities with 250 or more employees and certain high-risk facilities with 20 to 249 employees will be required to submit their 300A logs to OSHA. This information will be posted online to further encourage employers to have safe workplaces.
Accompanying this regulation is the requirement that employees must know their rights to report work-related injuries and illnesses. Injuries and illnesses are underreported by between 40 and 70 percent, according to Dr. Michaels. This new provision should help decrease that percentage. Employers must inform employees on their company’s procedures for reporting injuries. Those procedures must be reasonable and encourage injury reporting. Furthermore, employers cannot retaliate against an employee who does report a workplace injury or illness.
Safety Program Guidelines
To help facilities develop more robust safety management systems, OSHA is also finalizing a Safety and Health Program Management Guidelines publication that should be available in September 2016. It will include seven core elements:
- Management leadership
- Worker participation
- Hazard identification and assessment
- Hazard prevention and control
- Education and training
- Program evaluation and improvement
- Coordination and communication on multi-employer worksites
When OSHA does perform inspections, they want them to be “more meaningful” and have a greater impact on worker safety. This is one of the reasons they are categorizing their inspections and giving greater weight to inspections that require more time and effort to complete. This is a departure from their current system, which counts each inspection equally whether they’re following up on a non-formal complaint or performing a complete Process Safety Management audit. Categorizing inspections allows OSHA inspectors to focus on larger issues that impact a greater worker population, such as chemical exposures, workplace violence, musculoskeletal disorders and Process Safety Management.
Check out this blog post for checklists you can use to prepare for an OSHA inspection.
On the Horizon
Looking forward, safety pros should also keep an eye on the silica rule as it goes through hearings, the proposed rulemaking for noise in construction, a bulletin on protecting tree care workers and the final rule on walking and working surfaces.
You tell us: Were you at ASSE 2016? What was your favorite session/takeaway from the conference? Let us know in the comments section below!