Employers should be extra vigilant in controlling the workplace safety and health hazards that peak during the summer months, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Region 7 office in Kansas City, Missouri, urged.
“Employers are required to provide workplace safety training to improve employees’ ability to identify, evaluate, and effectively prevent safety and health hazards on the job,” Regional Administrator Kimberly Stille said in a statement.
“OSHA encourages employers to develop safety and health programs, hold safety stand-downs and toolbox talks, and conduct daily safety meetings to discuss common hazards,” Stille said.
Peak Summer Hazards
The agency pointed to hazards that have reached their highest levels over the past 3 years during July, August, and September in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska. The peak summer hazards include:
- Electrical hazards, which include electric shock, electrocution, fires, and explosions;
- Falls off of overhead platforms or elevated work stations or into holes in floors and walls;
- Grain engulfment in bins and silos and other risks in agricultural operations, such as animal-acquired infections, exposures to pesticides and other chemicals, and musculoskeletal injuries from repetitive-motion tasks in both crop and animal production activities;
- Struck-by hazards posed by mechanical equipment and motor vehicles;
- Excavation and trenching hazards like cave-ins or a trench collapse;
- Workplace violence committed by clients or customers, coworkers, or other individuals; and
- Heat exposure that can result in illnesses ranging from heat rash and heat cramps to heat exhaustion and heat stroke, which can be fatal.
A bill that would require OSHA to establish a federal standard for indoor and outdoor heat exposures was introduced last week in the House of Representatives. Employers would be required to develop written plans for heat exposure and provide hydration and paid rest periods in shaded or climate-controlled environments if the bill becomes law.
Summers also see many young, temporary workers on their first job, sometimes operating equipment for the first time. Young workers are more likely to be injured due to less experience.
Employers must ensure young workers are trained to recognize workplace safety and health hazards and understand the need to comply with the employers’ safety policies and rules.
Agency Resources for Employers
Employers can take advantage of agency resources to develop their safety and health management programs. Agency resources for employers include:
- OSHA’s Safe + Sound Campaign—the agency’s Safe + Sound Week, which is August 12–18 this year—encourages every workplace to have a safety and health management program.
- Participants in Safe + Sound Week can download a copy of the agency’s Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs or Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs in the Construction Industry, which offer practical advice on how employers can create safety and health management programs and integrate them into their employee management procedures.
- Compliance Assistance and On-Site Consultation Program for small and midsize businesses, which are confidential, provided at no charge, and separate from OSHA’s enforcement program.