OSHA issues updates to its industry-defining rules periodically. Here are two recent changes to take note of.
Complying with the rules and regulations set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is essential for companies of all industries, sizes and descriptions. From the busiest factory floor to the most sedate office space, each workplace has its own OSHA rules to follow. When creating programs to ensure compliance, leaders should make sure they’re reaching all relevant personnel with bulletins and training – and also that the information they’re passing along is up to date.
When OSHA issues a change to its rules, it gives companies a grace period to begin compliance. Once that deadline passes, however, firms that haven’t caught up may find themselves subject to legal penalties. For this reason, leaders should pay frequent attention to announcements from the government agency. The following are two examples of recent amendments, one covering a vast number of industries and the other focused specifically on crane operation.
Electronic reporting guidelines
OSHA’s recent introduction of a new electronic reporting guideline is tied to its existing recording rules for illnesses and injuries, but expands upon those programs. The agency announced that the new program is meant to have several valuable effects: The data gathered from employers will provide insight into how work environments may be causing sicknesses or accidents. Additionally, the new reporting standard builds on existing rules that protect employees who report their ailments to their workplaces. Companies can never retaliate or discriminate after someone reports sickness or injury, but the regulations now state that employers can be cited for retaliation even if the employee does not file a complaint.
All companies with 250 or more employees are subject to the revised regulation and must submit their electronic data. Smaller companies, those between 20 and 249 workers, must electronically submit their information if they are in high-risk industries, a group that encompasses everything from furniture stores to agriculture, the post office to supermarkets. Leaders that don’t consider their work environments particularly dangerous may be surprised to find their sectors on the list.
The nuts-and-bolts tech requirements of the new plan involve a revised website that accepts data in three ways. Employers can either fill out their forms by hand, upload a file of injury and illness information in CSV format or use an API that connects to automated record-keeping systems. The data supplied to OSHA will allow the agency to measure organizations, let companies stack their performance up against their industries, and hopefully point the way to more secure practices overall.
Insurance Journal noted that the publicly available nature of the data caused concern when the rule was unveiled. The OSHA announcement of the regulation, however, defended the searchable database. The agency cited the “behavioral economics” effects of the new rule. When companies have to publicly state on-the-job sickness and injury statistics, the pressure to protect employees becomes greater. This can and should lead to better workplace protection for workers in many kinds of environments.
Crane operator certification
While the new electronic reporting style applies to firms of all kinds, the crane operator rulings unveiled at the end of 2017 affect a narrow group of organizations – but are important to focus on for those businesses. The latest announcement is actually the third debut of the same set of rules, which were initially revealed in 2010. It states that crane operators in the construction industry will now be required to gain certification by November 10, 2018.
The timeline shows a series of rollbacks in response to recommendations. The cranes and derricks rule presented in 2010 drew criticism from industry stakeholders about the requirements tied to certification. The rule that followed in 2014 called for a 2017 compliance date, which was then extended to late 2018. OSHA plans to spend the extra year responding to stakeholder feedback.
Construction Dive reported on the details of the back-and-forth between the industry and OSHA. The latest delay is tied to whether certification should be broken up by crane type or universal – and whether a certificate alone should be enough to declare someone capable of running a crane.
The source also noted other concerns over the years. Construction leaders have protested the part of the new guidelines that requires crane operators to store their cranes in winds over 20 mph. The source noted, however, that the risks associated with crane use are real – collapses in the past few years have claimed lives in New York City and Boston. There are currently almost 400 fixed cranes in place at construction sites across the country.
Training and preparing
When OSHA rules change, it’s time to ensure every stakeholder is up to date on the latest version of the regulations. Leaders with effective and up-to-date training programs can use these courses to get individuals in compliance. Video-based training courses may be the best option for such updates, as they can be given to a whole workforce asynchronously, without requiring everyone to be in one place at the same time.