OSHA officials talk compliance assistance
Motivating agricultural retailers and distributors to have a safe working environment and employees trained in proper safety operations was the topic of two speakers at the 2013 National Agronomic, Environmental, and Health Safety School.
Nothing that two Occupational Safety and Health Administration officials talked about in August addressed any major changes in the aftermath of the West, Texas, explosion.
What they did contend is that the administration has goals of helping companies be in compliance with regulations rather than writing citations. They brought up many diverse points about training and prevention programs.
Tim Bielema, OSHA Peoria, Ill., area, director, and Brian Bothast, OSHA area compliance assistance specialist, spoke during the NAEHSS annual school. The two tried to dispel the old punch line to the joke: “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.” Bothast has been an annual presenter at NAEHSS for the last several years.
The OSHA website, www.osha.gov, is geared to national audiences and does not have a lot of specific information for agriculture, except issues such as fertilizer handling, Bielema said.
Ag-specific issues often have required being addressed through regional offices, Bielema said.
But the effort by OSHA officials is to make sure there is consistency from region to region.
Bielema said, “We are proud of being safety and health professionals and hope we motivate you.” He referred to injury and illness prevention programs as being extremely important so that common sense and proven tools are in place to fix hazards before injuries or deaths occur.
There are six core elements or principles that need to occur for a prevention program to work, according to Bielema. “You need to get six core elements embedded into your operation,” he said.
The six are:
• Management leadership.
• Worker participation.
• Hazard identification and assessment.
• Hazard prevention and control.
• Education and training.
• Program evaluation and improvement.
OSHA has conducted studies to look at how well they have worked with ag companies. There are a lot of reasons for ag companies to be paying close attention to OSHA assistance for prevention program regulations, he said. He expressed proven benefits for ag company prevention programs:
• Transform a workplace safety and health culture.
• Reduce injuries, illnesses and deaths.
• Lower workers’ compensation and other costs.
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