Putting focus on workplace safety

With the recent tragedy at the Sago Mine workplace, safety should be on all of our minds. There are regulations in place for all industries regarding safety. These regulations apply even to small businesses with one employee.

Everyone should be outraged by companies that do not follow safety regulations. Whether you own a business or are an employee, you should be asking yourself, “Does my company assure employee safety?” Does the company have adequate supplies of water, food and other essentials in the event of a natural disaster and employees are unable to leave the premises for extended periods of time?


Over the past two years, both OSHA and Cal/OSHA have made dramatic improvements to their Web sites in an effort to educate both employers and employees on workplace safety for all industries. Unfortunately, it has been my experience that few employers and even fewer employees are aware or comply with the mandatory planning and training requirements. Very little is written in newspapers or magazines to help educate the public.

Below is a list of the basic California state and federal requirements for all industries. Industries such as construction, mining, logging, healthcare, etc. have additional requirements.

Injury and illness prevention program. In California, every employer has a legal obligation to provide and maintain a safe and healthful workplace for employees, according to the California Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1973. As of 1991, a written, effective Injury and Illness Prevention (IIP), Program is required for every California employer.

This program must, at a minimum, provide training and instruction to all employees when your program is first established; to all new employees; to all employees given new job assignments for which training has not been previously received; whenever new substances, processes, procedures or equipment are introduced to the workplace and present a new hazard; whenever you or your supervisors are made aware of a new or previously unrecognized hazard; and for all supervisors to assure they are familiar with the safety and health hazards to which employees under their immediate direction and control may be exposed.

Hazard communication standard. This is designed to ensure that employers and employees know about hazardous chemicals in the workplace and how to protect themselves. Employers with employees who may be exposed to hazardous chemicals in the workplace must prepare and implement a written hazard communication program and comply with other requirements of the standard.

Emergency action plan standard. OSHA recommends that all employers have an emergency action plan. A plan is mandatory when required by an OSHA standard. Such a plan describes the actions employees should take to ensure their safety in a fire or other emergency situation.

Fire safety. OSHA recommends that all employers have a Fire Prevention Plan.

Exit routes. All employers must comply with OSHA's requirements for exit routes in the workplace.

Walking/working surfaces. Floors, aisles, platforms, ladders, stairways, and other walking/working surfaces are present, to some extent, in all general industry workplaces. Slips, trips, and falls from these surfaces constitute the majority of general industry accidents. The OSHA standards for walking and working surfaces apply to all permanent places of employment, except where only domestic, mining, or agricultural work is performed.

Medical and first aid. OSHA requires employers to provide medical and first aid personnel and supplies commensurate with the hazards of the workplace. The details of a workplace medical and first aid program are dependent on the circumstances of each workplace and employer.

Workplace safety should be a high priority for everyone. The cost of creating effective programs far outweighs the cost of just one minor injury and potential fines. Every employee needs to take action to assure their personal safety. If an injury or death occurs at work it affects our ability to fully enjoy life outside of work. Unsafe working conditions and potential hazards must be reported to supervisors, don't assume your company is aware of a problem unless it has been reported.

California employers may receive free information and consultation services from Cal/OSHA by calling 1-800-963-9424. Their Web site is http:www.dir.ca.gov/dosh/consultation.html.

You may visit OSHA's Web site at http://www.osha.gov or call 1-800-321-6742.

Nan Bowman is director of operations for a workplace safety business in Nipomo. You can send e-mail to her at nbowman@actionedu.com

January 18,2006