The Well Workplace

Justin Shepherd

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OSHA, Boogeyman, or Helping Hand? Demystifying OSHA Compliance

Posted by Justin Shepherd
Nov 1, 2022 12:46:23 PM

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If you're involved in the safety industry, you're familiar with the acronym OSHA. But do you know what OSHA is or what they do? Is OSHA the boogeyman, constantly hiding behind the next corner, waiting to pounce on your next mistake?

Well, information cancels out fear, so let's do some education.


The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, more commonly known by its acronym OSHA, is responsible for protecting worker health and safety in the United States. Congress created OSHA in 1971 following its passage of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 to ensure safe and healthy working conditions for workers by enforcing workplace laws and standards and providing training, outreach, education, and assistance. In 1970, when the Government enacted the OSHA Act, there were 14,000 worker deaths and 2.5 million disabled workers in the United States. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that by 2017 the workforce in the U.S. had almost doubled, but the number of worker deaths had decreased to 5,000, which, when adjusted for workforce growth, amounts to a nearly 80% reduction in workplace deaths. And it's not just deaths; recordable instances have dropped from 10.9 per 100 workers in 1970 to 2.8 per 100 workers in 2017.

OSHA Coverage:

OSHA coverage extends to most, but not all, private-sector employers and their workers. OSHA rules cover most non-public workplaces, including construction, logging, manufacturing, and many others. The agency also covers some public sector employers and their workers, usually through state OSHA agencies that regulate public sector employers. However, OSHA does not protect self-employed workers or immediate members of farm families who do not employ non-family workers. OSHA extends throughout all U.S. states, territories, and jurisdictions. States can have their own federally approved occupational safety and health regulatory programs (currently, 22 states do), called state plans. The State-Plan States must have regulations as stringent as federal OSHA regulations, but they can also implement stricter rules if they choose.

OSHA Standards: 

OSHA determines which standards and requirements apply to workplace environments and then enforces employer adherence to those standards and requirements. OSHA sets these standards and conditions based on workplace research and input from subject matter experts and other stakeholders. To help employers adhere to its standards and requirements, OSHA offers training and consultation to educate employers and employees. OSHA must explain the procedures, equipment, and training that employers and workers must use to reduce hazards and ensure safety measures specific to the employers' workplace and workers' jobs.

OSHA Enforcement:

In addition to education and training, OSHA is tasked with enforcement. OSHA officials can issue fines ranging into tens of thousands of dollars for violations (even more for repeat violations) and refer violators for criminal prosecution if they deem such action warranted. Recently, OSHA has even referred workplace safety violations to state district attorney offices in fatality cases, allowing individuals (owners, safety managers) within an organization to be charged when willful negligence is found.

OSHA is also tasked with identifying possible causes of job-related injuries, deaths, and illnesses. According to a U.S. Department of Labor release, just last week, OSHA cited Dollar General with four willful and ten repeat violations for "failing to keep receiving and storage areas clean and orderly, and stacking materials in an unsafe manner. These violations exposed workers to hazards associated with slips, trips, and being struck by objects." [1] The company faces $1,682,302 in proposed penalties after these inspections, a portion of the more than $9.6 million total initial penalties the company has received since 2017. To date, OSHA's most significant action has been against B.P. Products of North America Inc., following a 2005 explosion and fire at the B.P. Texas City Refinery, which killed 15 workers and injured 170. The proposed penalties totaled $87.4 million.

OSHA Compliance:

To comply with OSHA requirements, employers must take several specific actions; those include inspecting the workplace for potential hazards, eliminating or minimizing hazards, keeping records of workplace injuries and illness, training employees to recognize safety and health hazards, and educating employees on precautions to prevent accidents. OSHA also requires employees to follow the rules, such as complying with all applicable OSHA standards, following OSHA safety regulations, wearing required protective equipment, reporting hazardous conditions, and reporting job-related injuries and illnesses. OSHA also protects employees by guaranteeing a host of rights. Those include the right to have copies of OSHA regulations and request information about workplace hazards, precautions, and procedures. To request OSHA inspections if they believe hazardous conditions or violations exist in their workplace and to refuse to be exposed to the danger of death or serious physical harm.

Additionally, OSHA and federal laws protect workers who complain or report possible violations to their employers, OSHA, or other agencies against retaliation. Employers are prohibited from taking adverse personnel action against a whistleblower. Employees who feel their legal rights have been infringed upon can file a complaint to OSHA alleging employer retaliation.

Why you need OSHA's help:

Just because OSHA has regulatory and even punitive capabilities doesn't mean they are the bad guy. We all want our team members to go home in the same condition they showed up to work in, and OSHA wants the same thing. Because of this, OSHA offers "no-cost and confidential occupational safety and health services to small- and medium-sized businesses in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and several U.S. territories, with priority given to high-hazard worksites. On-Site Consultation services are separate from enforcement and do not result in penalties or citations. Consultants from state agencies or universities work with employers to identify workplace hazards, provide advice for compliance with OSHA standards, and assist in establishing and improving safety and health programs." [2]


So, use the tools that OSHA has provided, and when you need additional help identifying and remediating the issues, contact ErgoScience. With 30 years of experience in ergonomics and injury reduction, we can help you identify and fix the problems. And if you've engineered out the ergonomics issues but still have injuries, you're hiring the wrong people. We can help with that too. Let us show you how a legally defensible pre-hire physical ability testing program can help you put the right people in the right jobs, and you sit back and watch your injuries drop by an average of 73%.

HURRY! Contact us today for more information.



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Wearable Sensors & Ergonomics: The Perfect Marriage

Posted by Justin Shepherd
Oct 4, 2022 12:30:14 PM

Wearable Sensors Blog Image

Ergonomics In The Workplace

As long as physically demanding jobs exist, there will be efforts to make them safer and less risky for both the employee and the employer. According to the National Safety Council, work-related injuries cost US companies nearly 164 billion dollars in 2020; that's almost half a billion dollars per day!

While the cost is increasing, work-related injuries have always been an unfortunate part of the landscape of physically demanding jobs. Until the robots completely take over, they will remain so. This fact, combined with data that shows our workforce is getting older and, therefore, more susceptible to musculoskeletal injuries, pushes us to identify new technologies to reduce, or better yet prevent, these incidents from occurring.

Injury Prevention

As injury prevention experts, we're constantly searching for ways to recognize the hazards of physically demanding jobs so we can attempt to decrease the risk of injury. We're all familiar with the hierarchy of controls when it comes to job safety:

  1. Elimination – Physically removing the hazard
  2. Substitution – Replacing the hazard
  3. Engineering Controls – Isolating workers from the hazard
  4. Administrative Controls – Changing the way people work
  5. PPE – Providing workers with proper Personal Protective Equipment

These are listed in order of most effective (removing the risk) to least effective (providing PPE).

Removing all hazardous activities from every job would be fantastic, but that's unrealistic. Some jobs are inherently risky; hopefully, employers will do their best to make them as safe as possible.

What happens when a job, or one of the tasks required to perform that job, can't be eliminated?

Preventing Injuries With Wearable Sensors & Ergonomics

Ergonomists have historically been called upon to observe job-related tasks, identify the risky behaviors involved with performing the task, and give suggestions on decreasing the risk. There are limitations, however. It is challenging to observe every aspect of every job; some hazardous tasks infrequently happen under normal circumstances, and some only occur in emergencies. An action that isn't observed can't be improved or removed.

What if there was a way to "observe" an employee and collect biomechanical data on movements and postures the whole time they were working? It would cost a fortune to have an ergonomist on site all day following each worker, and it would likely cause a massive disruption to production.

Thankfully, technology allows us to do just that without physically following an employee's every move.

Wearable sensors have been developed that track joint angles, postures, and repetitions of movements, not to mention heart rate, location in a facility, proximity to heavy equipment, temperature, light, humidity, decibels… Everything informs us about preventing injuries without needing a human following the worker and with much greater detail than an ergonomist could provide.

For example, an ergonomist can observe a worker performing a lifting task and approximate the angle of bend for the trunk, shoulders, and knees. They could count the number of repetitions that worker performs that specific task while observing and then extrapolate to come up with an approximate total for a whole day.

Put a wearable sensor on that same employee, and you'll collect exact angles for the involved joints and the precise number of repetitions of each task. In addition, you can identify trends like days of the week, or even times during each day, when employees are exerting themselves maximally, which makes industrial athletes more likely to get injured. Also, you can recognize specific periods when biomechanics begin to break down (do behaviors become riskier later in the week when fatigue may be more of a factor?).

You can use the data to identify workers with good body mechanics and use that information to inform other workers on proper techniques.

You can collect data specific to each individual to know precisely what coaching method will effectively reduce the risk for that employee.

Changing Behavior With Wearable Sensors

Another benefit of wearable sensors is that often you don't even need to wait for a "coaching" opportunity face-to-face. Many sensors can provide immediate haptic feedback (a light but noticeable vibration) to indicate when a risky posture or activity is taking place. This type of immediate feedback can be much more effective at changing behavior than traditional one-off coaching that occurs randomly after the behavior occurs.

Once behaviors have been addressed and changed, sensors allow employers to track those changes to see if they stick and revisit them when necessary.

Contact ErgoScience Today!

So, how do you implement this technology? At ErgoScience, we've partnered with some of the world's leading wearable sensor companies. Not only can we help you get the technology into your facility, but we also have the expertise in ergonomics and biomechanics to help you make sense of the data to bring your injuries down and give you the greatest possible return on investment.

Contact us today to find out how easily you can bring your ergonomics program into the 21st century!

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What is PAT? (Pre Employment Physical Abilities Testing)

Posted by Justin Shepherd
Aug 1, 2022 2:09:46 PM

 Hint… It’s not that weirdo from procurement who steals your Cheetos and then wipes their hands on your chair

You’ve probably heard or read the term PAT in relation to hiring, especially for physically demanding jobs. But, what does the term PAT stand for, and what does it really mean? This blog will help you better understand what PAT is and hopefully inform you how a well-designed pre-hire, post-offer PAT can help you identify candidates who are less likely to end up on your OSHA recordables log and help keep production at your facility running at full steam.

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Nuclear Verdicts: How Trucking Companies can reduce their Risk

Posted by Justin Shepherd
Jun 29, 2020 2:20:18 PM

Nuclear Verdicts

Nuclear verdicts are a hot topic in the trucking and transportation industry, and for a good reason. In 2010 there were less than 10 cases against trucking companies with a verdict over $1 million; in 2011, there were nearly 60, and there haven’t been less than 30 in a year since then. And it’s not just the number of cases that is increasing, but the amount of the verdict. The average verdict in 2010 was $2.3 million; in 2018, it was $22.3 million 1.
A single finding against a trucking company can be catastrophic, sometimes even forcing their closure. With that in mind, is there anything a company can do to reduce the risk that one of their drivers will be involved in one of these cases? The answer is: Absolutely!

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