Taking a closer look at OSHA

You hear the safety folks talk about OSHA a lot, so I thought this month we could take a closer look.

What is OSHA?

OSHA stands for Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Its mission is to save lives, prevent injuries and protect the health of America’s workers, which means volunteers too!

OSHA was created in 1970 and covers all commercial and residential construction.

What does OSHA do exactly?

  • Develops job safety and health standards and enforces them through worksite inspections.
  • Maintains a reporting and record keeping system to keep track of job-related injuries and illnesses.
  • Provides training programs to increase knowledge about occupational safety and health.
  • Develops and enforces standards that both employers and employees must follow.

In 1995 the National Home Builders Association assured OSHA that it could self-monitor safety compliance of residential home construction. OSHA agreed and allowed a special exemption for residential builders, including Habitat for Humanity. Due to an increasing number of fatalities and injuries in residential construction, OSHA rescinded the special exemption in June 2011. Since then, all residential construction must follow the OSHA regulations, including Habitat for Humanity.

How can you find your way around the website OSHA.gov?

If you are looking for something specific, ladder safety for example, the search feature in the upper right hand corner is a great place to start. This query returned 29,100 results. You should find your answer in the first few lines.

I’ll go over a few key pages on the site. For the construction regulations, click Regulations, then the Construction tab. Construction is broken up into eight subparts.

  1. Subpart C: General safety
  2. Subpart E: Personal protection
  3. Subpart F: Fire protection
  4. Subpart I: Tools
  5. Subpart K: Electrical
  6. Subpart L: Scaffolds
  7. Subpart M: Fall protection
  8. Subpart X: Ladders and stairways

For more information on ladders, you would scroll down to Subpart X and you would see section 1926.1053 - Ladders. Clicking on this link will tell you everything you ever wanted to know about ladders and more. You will notice that some of the section headers are blue. This is a link that will take you to Letters of Interpretation. These are questions asked by businesses to clarify or seek exemption on a specific standard.

You will find accident descriptions under Data and Statistics as well. Go down to the fifth line for Fatality and Catastrophe Investigation Search. If you type in ladder falls under description, you will get 562 results. Click the link under the summary for details of each accident. This description gives a brief summary of what happened, what went wrong and how it could have been prevented. These are great training tools when you want examples for people who say, “I’ve been doing this for many years and have never fallen off a ladder.” Note – if it was a fatal indecent there is an X under the column Fat.

Looking for training tools?

These can be used to inform yourself or used at topics for the morning briefing or even more in-depth training for your team. Click the Publications tab then the Topics tab. Click L and go down to Ladder Safety. Here you will find a PDF fact sheet that goes over ladder safety.

For more training tools, go to the Publications tab and click on the type tab. Here you will find a wealth of information, there are brochures, posters and fact sheets you can hang on the job site or in tool shed. You can download guidance documents if you want to read up on “Mold: Preventing Mold-Related Problems in the Indoor Workplace,” for example. Pocket guides and pocket cards are great for quick reference.

The last section to cover is the Small Business tab. Click on the blue Small Business Resource and the second link for eTools. This section gives you more information about specific topics, such as Lockout/Tagout Interactive Training Program. You will see a link to the regulation, 29 CFR 1910.147, a tutorial and hot topics page as well as some interactive case studies.

OSHA is a user-friendly website and the information is easy to understand. Spend some time finding out how you can make your job site safer.

Lisa Crawford
Master Safety Training program coordinator