What You Need to Know About OSHA Safety Laws
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is a federal agency under the U.S. Department of Labor that is tasked with ensuring the health and safety of workers on the job through the enforcement of federal regulations designed to promote safe working conditions and make employers accountable for failure to comply with regulations. As an employer, you need to be aware of laws governing health and safety in your industry so that you can comply with OSHA standards.
If you're a company that works with hazardous materials, you have even more cause to pay attention to health and safety regulations because of the added risk to employees caused by the presence of such substances. Your employees have the right to a safe workplace.
Also, you could face serious penalties and even federal charges should you fail to uphold standards for health and safety. In other words, there are a few things you should know about OSHA safety laws so that you can maintain a safe work environment and comply with all regulations.
Go to the Source
OSHA is not your enemy - the agency is committed to keeping workers safe and they want to help employers create safer working conditions any way they can. It's simple enough to get started by simply visiting the OSHA website to read up on rules and regulations pertaining to business in general, your type of business, and/or the safe and proper handling and disposal of chemicals, waste, and other hazardous materials.
OSHA also has offices in every state. As a business owner, there's no reason not to contact your local OSHA office in order to get valuable information about how to operate accordingly. You can also speak to a representative in order to have any and all questions answered.
Finally, OSHA helps to support small businesses by offering on-site consultation services for free. OSHA representatives will come to your workplace and help you to uncover potential health and safety hazards so that you may correct them for the benefit of employees and your company as a whole.
Proper Storage and Handling
There are laws in place that dictate the proper storage and safe handling of hazardous materials and as a business owner you are required to read, understand, and comply with these laws. In some cases, OSHA can actually provide you with cheat sheets that help both you and your employees remember proper safety procedures.
As for storage, you'll want to utilize appropriate primary storage products such as steel drums or IBCs, for example, as well as secondary measures like platforms, sumps, an IBC storage locker, or a HazMat station. With the proper safety and handling equipment on hand and policies that require employees to adhere to safety procedures, you're well on your way to meeting and maintaining OSHA standards.
You may think that the chemicals or hazardous materials used in (or produced by) your business are non-negotiable. However, OSHA has developed a substitution guide, complete with a toolkit that provides information, tools, and guidance related to safe alternatives.
In truth, it may turn out that there are no viable alternatives that will work for your business. However, this information will give you the opportunity to make an informed decision. It may also be the case that one or more hazardous substances in your operation could be replaced by safer options. It's certainly worth researching.
Emergency Response Planning
You can't necessarily plan for every possible hazard in the workplace. However, part of maintaining a safe work environment is planning for common hazards, such as slips, trips, and falls in the workplace, and having appropriate emergency response procedures in place.
In regards to hazardous materials in the workplace, the main threat is likely leaks and spills that could compromise the health and safety of workers and the safety of your facilities. You can create emergency response protocols on your own or you can get information and guidance from OSHA.
You may also want to coordinate with emergency responders in your jurisdiction, especially if your business operation deals with a high volume of hazardous materials. It is your responsibility to comply with federal and state regulations and maintain a safe and healthy work environment. OSHA can offer you all kinds of information and tools to help you meet your goals.