OSHA: Expanding Role in the Workplace
Maintenance and engineering managers and front-line technicians perform dangerous work, whether undertaking tasks at high elevations, managing potentially harmful chemicals, or maintaining electrical systems and components.
Because of those hazardous conditions in commercial and institutional facilities, managers have a target on their backs related to compliance with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). To ensure increased scrutiny does not lead to fines, injuries, or even death, managers and their organizations must follow strict rules to comply with OSHA.
David A. Casavant, executive director of the Workplace Safety Awareness Council, outlined a roadmap to compliance in his ABCs of OSHA Compliance: Protecting People, Property and Profits presentation at the NFMT Conference & Expo in Baltimore.
Before offering tips and strategies to ensure compliance, Casavant discussed the current administration’s stance on the role OSHA plays in the workplace. OSHA activity often depends on the party the current president represents – activity often increases under Democratic administrations and decreases with a Republican in office – and it is no different under the Obama administration. To illustrate the way the current administration views OSHA’s role in the workplace, Casavant offered a quote from the president’s report on the 2010 U.S. Department of Labor budget:
"For the past eight years, the Department's labor law enforcement agencies have struggled with growing workloads and shrinking staff. The President's Budget seeks to reverse this trend. The Budget will increase funding for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, enabling it to vigorously enforce workplace safety laws and ensure the safety and health of American workers."
Casavant also mentioned that as of March 2011, OSHA was hiring. With new construction in a rut, OSHA is hiring the majority of its inspectors in general industry, which includes the built environment. This fact only increases the chance of an OSHA inspector visiting commercial and institutional buildings, so managers need to be prepared, Casavant said.
In a typical year, OSHA issues more than $40 million in fines and logs more than 87,000 citations, 67,000 of which are cited as "serious," Casavant said. Businesses spend $170 billion annually on costs associated with occupational injuries and illnesses, which are expenditures that directly impact the bottom line. For example, Liberty Mutual Insurance Co. conducted a survey that found 61 percent of executives say they can save $3 or more for each $1 they invest in workplace safety.
"If you can evaluate worker’s comp costs and lost time, you can see a return on investment for your safety initiatives," Casavant said.