Know How: Video

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Part II: OHSA Issues in the Workplace

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The next topic I want to touch on is the use of electrical extension cords in the workplace. It becomes so ubiquitous in our home environment, where everybody uses them – in the workplace it’s different. The primary things you have to remember are those cords cannot be run through doorways and wall openings, window openings where they might be pinched. Secondly, OSHA requirements require you to inspect those cords on every shift before they are used. They cannot take the place of permanent wiring, and you have to inspect them to ensure that the ground plug, that third prong on those plugs is there to protect against electrical shock, and that the cord itself is not frayed or cut or exposing the insulation. It is so easy for OSHA to find those in your workplace, especially, if you’re not looking to find them, before they get there. While I’m on the subject of electrical items, like electrical cords, let me mention just a couple of other pieces of low hanging fruit that OSHA loves to find in your workplace. How many switch outlets do you have where you plug something into the wall? I cannot tell you how many times I’ve found OSHA inspectors who will cite an employer for a crack or a missing outlet plate, the cover for that plate. It prevents the risk of electrical shock, and they will cite you for that. It’s not very hard to inspect your workplace to try to ensure that those are all in place or replace, them but very cheaply.

Another item is electrical panel boxes – kind of like you have in your house. If you find that electrical panel and the breakers in that panel are not labeled, it’s a violation. If there’s a blank because a breaker – not all the breaker spots are used, and that blank has been knocked out and missing and therefore there’s a hole, you’ll be cited for that because it’s a place where a person could put a finger or body part and potentially get shocked. If the door to that panel box is open, when an OSHA inspector walks through, it’s a citation. A simple thing like that door being left open vs. closed, also dust accumulation. Most and a lot of places of employment, unless you’re in perhaps retail, or some health establishments, have exposure to dust. If dust accumulates on that panel box, on those breakers or an that wiring, then you will be cited for that as well.

So those are some other little areas of electrical safety where you’ve got to pay attention. Again, routing inspections and walk through of your workplace with a little checklist of these things might save you thousands of dollars.

The last thing I want to cover with you is the OSHA record keeping standard. An employer is obligated to keep a log, the logs is called the OSHA 300 log. It is where you list all injuries and illness that happen in the workplace that are what considered and defined to be recordable or lost workday cases. Very specific and very precise entries have to be placed on that log, have to be kept on a day to day basis and then it has to be posted every year. Now if you’re an employer with 10 or more employees, there is a definite obligation to use this OSHA 300 log. In some industries, such as low risk industries, retail and insurance businesses, you might not have that obligation. But to be careful, you need to check them. In any event, the OSHA 300 log must be posted every year for the months of February, March, and April. It also has to be signed off by an officer or owner of the company or the highest local official at that worksite, and they must be kept for 5 years. If you don’t do it or make any mistakes on that log, I’ve seen OSHA fine, at a minimum, $1000 every time they find a mistake. When you do that and they ask you for that log, and they’ll do that every time they stop by to see you – it’s the first thing they look for, to try to determine where your entries are and what, where they might want to look for hazards, you must produce that document within 4 hours. A failure to do so, will again result in a citation.

So as you can see, what we’ve tried to do here today, is give you some tips, some ideas on where to look for the low hanging fruit that an OSHA inspector will look for and the simple inspection of your workplace on a routine basis will keep money in your pocket instead of giving it to the federal government.