You’ve probably heard this many times, but the truth remains that employees are the heart of any company. No matter what industry you operate in or how big your business is, your team will play a key role in your company’s success. They’re the ones acting to help reach your organization’s goals, so it’s only fitting that you give them a safe environment to work in.
Ensuring safety compliance in the workplace is key to protecting your people and keeping them away from injury or harm. By taking care of your employees, your employees can take care of your company in return. To help you achieve this, here’s a guide outlining safety compliance and important OSHA regulations you should follow to protect your workers.
OSHA Compliance: Laws and Regulations
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is the governing body in charge of establishing workplace safety and health regulations. It provides general rules for all employers and more specific OSHA standards for certain industries. If you’re unfamiliar with these provisions, here’s a list of the main laws and regulations you need to follow.
OSH Act of 1970
The OSH Act of 1970 marked the establishment of OSHA, which led people to become more aware of the importance of workplace safety. According to its General Duty Clause, business owners must give their employees a work environment that’s free from hazards and risks that can cause injury, illness, or death. As an employer, here are your general responsibilities:
- Examine the workplace to ensure compliance with OSHA standards
- Provide employees with appropriate safety tools and equipment
- Create safety training programs that employees can follow and understand
- Use color codes, signs, labels, and posters to mark workplace hazards
- Develop a hazard communication plan (HCP) for workplaces with chemical hazards
- Authorize a company representative to guide the OSHA compliance officer during inspections
- Update standard operating procedures (SOPs) for health and safety
- Put up a poster outlining your employees’ workplace health and safety rights
- Maintain records for work-related injuries and illnesses
Color Coding | 29 CFR 1910.144 and ANSI/NEMA Z535
OSHA has a standard color-coding system you should use to mark workplace hazards. These rules can be found in the OSHA Laws & Regulations, Standard 29 CFR 1910.144. However, since the OSHA standards only provide guidelines for the safety colors red and yellow, you can also use the ANSI Z535.1 standards for other hazards.
Here’s a summary of the color-coding rules based on the two national standards:
- Red: Red denotes the presence of fire protection equipment or provides warning for stop and danger signs. Some scenarios that call for red signs would be safety cans, containers with flammable liquids, and emergency stop buttons and switches.
- Orange: You should use orange for warning signs to state the presence of dangerous equipment that can injure workers. Much like how orange is a “less intense” color than red, the machines that get a warning sign will be those that may still have serious hazards—but not as severe as those with the red danger sign.
- Yellow: Yellow is used to signal caution and mark physical hazards like tripping, falling, striking against, and stumbling. In short, this color is for hazards that can cause injuries if workers are not careful. Examples of when to use a yellow sign are around wet floors and moving equipment.
- Green: In contrast to the previous colors, green denotes safety. You’ll often see this color in general safety signs like eye wash foundations, first aid kits, and sanitation guidelines.
- Blue: Blue is also not used to mark hazards but to relay information, usually for safety precautions or maintenance notices.
29 CFR 1910 (General Industry)
OSHA’s general industry standards apply to all businesses that aren’t in the construction, agriculture, or maritime industries. These are the general safety requirements applicable for the majority of businesses:
- Design training for employees using fall protection systems
- Provide protective equipment whenever necessary
- Implement administrative or engineering controls to reduce exposure to occupational noise
- Follow proper storage and handling of hazardous materials
- Ensure proper drainage in all sites used as temporary employee housing
- Guard machines to prevent contact hazards
- Maintain safety of tools and spaces used by employees
29 CFR 1926 (Construction)
Construction workers are vulnerable to many work related injuries due to hazards like falls and broken bones. So if you run a construction site, you’ll need to follow more specific OSHA standards to ensure that your workers get maximum protection. Here are the key provisions mandated for the construction industry:
- Provide fall protection for employees working on walking surfaces with unprotected edges
- Train employees to use stairways and ladders safely
- Stabilize and secure ladders on slippery surfaces
- Provide a fire extinguisher with at least a 2A rating for every 3,000 square feet
- Assign competent people to conduct routine inspections of the worksite and materials
- Use ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) for all 120-volt outlets
- Follow requirements for spacing and numbering of wire rope clips
29 CFR 1928 (Agriculture)
Agriculture is another industry that OSHA monitors closely since workers are more exposed to hazards, especially due to the use of chemicals. Statistics from the US Bureau of Labor recorded 574 fatalities in the industry in 2018, indicating a high risk for occupational injuries.
Given this, the 29 CFR 1928 outlines these standards to strengthen safety among agricultural workers. Here are main regulations to follow, including OSHA general industry standards that are applicable for farm safety:
- Implement roll-over protective structures on tractors and other equipment
- Provide adequate water, toilet facilities, and handwashing stations for field workers
- Follow proper rules on the use, storage, and handling of anhydrous ammonia
- Label toxic and hazardous substances like fungicides and pesticides
29 CFR 1915, 1917, and 1918 (Maritime)
Finally, maritime is the last industry where OSHA has specific standards for safety compliance. Like construction, maritime workers are also susceptible to hazards like trips and falls, machine risks, and hazardous chemicals. So here are the maritime regulations mandated by OSHA:
- Provide suitable respiratory protective equipment for workers exposed to toxic vapors
- Maintain safety of working surfaces, ladders, and access to vessels
- Provide adequate mechanical ventilation for welding, cutting, and heating activities
- Ensure that scaffolds are all capable of supporting their designated load
- Provide employees with carriers for tools, materials, and equipment
- Guard danger zones for machines and equipment
- Inspect all parts of the cargo handling gear
The Importance of Safety Compliance in the Workplace
On the business side, OSHA compliance translates to many financial benefits. By taking precautions and implementing safety programs for your employees, you can prevent accidents and the costly bills that come with them.
To give you some perspective, businesses can save $4 to $6 for every dollar they invest in health and safety programs for their employees. You can also save a significant amount from workers compensation insurance due to reduced work injuries and illnesses. Moreover, you won’t need to worry about possible fines or downtime from OSHA violations.
That said, beyond the monetary benefits, OSHA compliance ultimately allows you to promote a culture of safety. By emphasizing workplace safety and health, you and your team will better recognize hazards and take action to prevent injury and illness.
In doing this, you not only increase safety but also improve employee morale. Employees who see your efforts to provide a workplace free of hazards will feel happier, at ease, and more motivated to work. In effect, these will translate to higher productivity.
How to Improve Your Company’s Health and Safety Compliance
It’s important to understand that safety and compliance are two different things. It’s not enough to simply be aware of the OSHA standards and regulations. You’ll also need to ensure compliance. So whether you’re designing a new safety and health program or improving current protocols, here are actionable tips to improve workplace safety compliance.
- Provide Safety Training
Safety compliance is a joint effort between employers and employees. Thus, you need to train your employees on how to use different tools and equipment, how to handle materials, and what protective gear to use. From time to time, it’s also important to give refresher courses to remind your staff of the safety regulations.
- Display the OSHA Poster
Find a visible area in your worksite to display the OSHA poster. This should outline your employees’ health and safety rights, so they’re aware at all times. By doing this, you can promote transparency and show your team that you care about their welfare. Likewise, employees can give proper feedback on how well your workplace is complying with the regulations.
- Install Safety Signs
As highlighted in the OSHA regulations, using safety signs is critical to mark different degrees of hazards. They act as visual cues to warn your employees of dangers and instruct them on what to do to avoid accidents on the job.
- Invest in High-Quality Industrial Printers
If you have a large workplace, you’ll probably need to print out many signs to display all around. In such cases, it would be more economical to invest in a high-quality industrial printer to create your signs.
- Conduct Regular Compliance Audits
It’s important to conduct compliance audits regularly to know how you’re faring in terms of OSHA compliance. To do this, you’ll need to go through all the applicable OSHA standards and check to see if you’re following all the practices. Document the results of your audit and work with your safety team to come up with an action plan from there.
- Collect Employee Feedback
It’s always helpful to get feedback from people on the ground—your employees. They’re the ones with first-hand experience in your workplace, so their input will be highly valuable. By having a feedback system that they can turn to, you can identify gaps in your safety program.
How Cobra Systems Can Help Your Company Comply With Safety Standards
We know how important the safety of your team is. Allow Cobra Systems to help the pressure off of yourself as you work to enhance safety compliance. We offer a range of workplace safety solutions to help, no more combing through catalogs to try to find the right solution and then waiting for shipment. Our industrial signage and safety labels are designed to be clear and durable, allowing you to ensure your workers’ protection and send the message that safety is a top priority.
Cobra Systems also has products like the VNM industrial printer, which you can invest in to create your signs with a quick touch of a button. The printer is designed with various OSHA-compliant colors, so you can easily follow the color-coding rules.
Ensuring safety and safety compliance in the workplace doesn’t need to be challenging. With the right tools and equipment in place, you can keep your workers out of harm’s way. To get started, contact Cobra Systems today at 805-243-3683 or through our website.