The Well Workplace

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.

OSHA:

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]

Conclusion: 

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.

(1] https://www.dol.gov/newsroom/releases/osha/osha20221017

[2] https://www.osha.gov/consultation/

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How ComputerVision AI Helps Companies with OSHA Compliance

Posted by Deborah Lechner
Oct 24, 2022 8:39:24 AM

How ComputerVision AI Helps Companies with OSHA Compliance blog graphic

What is ComputerVision AI?

 

ComputerVision AI is a broad category of technology that applies to everything from facility management to targeted ergonomic assessments. For this blog post, I will refer to ComputerVision AI for targeted and detailed ergonomic assessments. In this niche application, the software builds complex 3D models of the human body moving through space from standard videos – videos recorded through a mobile app or uploaded on web-based software. With this information, the system completes Industry-standard ergonomic assessments that quantify risks with a standard methodology that prioritizes interventions to prevent workplace injury.

 

After a video is uploaded, the system automatically determines the hazardous postures in a job, the frequency of movements, and the duration of postures held. Then the AI recommends which postures and parts of the body the Industrial Athlete should adjust to mitigate the risk of injury.

 

Benefits of ComputerVision AI. There are many benefits to using ComputerVision AI in the field of ergonomics:

  • The user obtains more objective ergonomic hazard analysis data
  • The hazard data covers the entire task, not just one brief snapshot of the task
  • The resulting data indicates the limb segments that are creating most of the risk
  • The program also predicts how much the industrial athlete can mitigate risk by addressing each limb segment.

ComputerVision AI Helps with OSHA Compliance.

Another huge side benefit of using ComputerVision AI is that it can help organizations remain in compliance with the requirements of OSHA 29 CFR 1910.269(a)(2)(iv). Paragraph 1910.269(a)(2)(iv) states the following: "The employer shall determine, through regular supervision and thorough inspections conducted on at least an annual basis, that each employee is complying with the safety-related work practices required by this section."

It's important to note that OSHA changed the word "and" in the paragraph above from "or" in 2014. In other words, employers can no longer claim compliance with OSHA 29 CFR 1910.269(a)(2)(iv) with just regular supervision. This change is significant. Conducting inspections of field personnel has become a regulatory compliance issue. Supervisors should perform a second observation after the industrial athletes implement any corrective action to ensure they follow through on the AI's recommendations.

Ergonomics is essential in any field inspection where workers handle materials, maintain their positions for extended periods, or perform repetitive movements. Of course, ergonomists can conduct field inspections without ComputerVision AI. BUT… they're more subjective, cumbersome to complete, and often employees are disengaged with the process. In addition, supervisors and managers are hesitant to do them because ergonomics isn't their expertise. ComputerVision AI does a lot of the work for the management team and provides them with the expertise they need.

ComputerVision AI Focuses on Leading Indicators.

OSHA requires employers to record their injury and illness statistics. But these statistics are lagging indicators. They often have little to no impact on the safety practices of an organization and the prevention of future injuries.

In contrast, regular field inspections provide leading indicators because they show whether employees apply safety principles in the field. In the case of ergonomics, field inspections show whether employees are lifting and carrying materials safely. They also identify situations where employees reach beyond the safety zone to obtain materials and supplies and get into unnecessarily awkward positions. Or when slightly changing work practices would minimize unnecessary risk. AI can prevent many, if not most, injuries by identifying these ergonomic hazards and evolving work practices, workstation setup, or using tools and equipment differently. 

ComputerVision AI helps managerial staff and safety managers conduct these inspections with confidence that they are basing their recommendations on objective data and not just subjective opinions.

ComputerVision AI engages frontline employees in the field inspection process.

Field inspections are not always well received by employees. But ComputerVision AI changes employee attitudes even within one inspection session.

How? Employees are curious about the technology. Evaluators can show them a previous example with their cell phones or tablets. Then employees start to wonder what they would look like if they improved their technique. What would their scores be? And at that point, their engagement pivots. They are more eager to be videotaped. In addition, the software can block their faces for privacy concerns. Once they receive feedback, are videotaped again, and see the dramatic changes in their scores, they are motivated to change.
When the session concludes with praise for a job done well and safely, observer-employee-employer relationships grow.

Reassessment with ComputerVision AI.

ComputerVision AI helps to determine the effectiveness of training, ergonomic modifications to tools and equipment, and workstation modifications. Performing observations with ComputerVision AI helps companies track data and analyze trends to determine future ergonomic-related needs, such as training, modifying workstations, and purchasing new PPE, tools, or equipment.  

Before You Begin Using ComputerVision AI

Starting a ComputerVision AI ergonomic inspection program at your company requires purchasing software or hiring ergonomic consultants specializing in ComputerVision AI inspections and training. Naturally, you'll have to get buy-in from leadership which means explaining the importance of meeting OSHA's requirement for field inspections, explaining the role of ComputerVision AI ergonomics in injury prevention, and, last but not least, presenting a projected return on investment.

OSHA and the National Council on Compensation Insurance's (NCCI) Workers Compensation Statistical Plan Database have statistics that can support your projections. Since the average direct and indirect costs of a lost time workplace injury are over $80K, it's often easy to justify these programs.

Once they sign on to the ComputerVision AI program, leadership should regularly participate in field observations. Regular observations will support field personnel's acceptance of the inspection program and help to strengthen the safety culture of the organization.

Corrective action policies are essential to consider before developing the inspection program. If you have a policy that reprimands employees based on the inspections or is otherwise negatively focused, it will be tough to get buy-in regardless of the technology used. You may need to negotiate a new policy or an addendum to the existing approach to allow for inspections and coaching without reprimand.

Conducting Inspections with ComputerVision AI

Safety management personnel, operations supervisors, and managers can conduct the ComputerVision AI ergonomic inspection program. ErgoScience experience has shown us that even though the technology is extremely user-friendly, those implementing ComputerVision AI will likely need some training in basic ergonomic principles, use of the technology, and field practice under supervision to maximize the success of the program. In addition, we provide a hotline for questions regarding the use of the technology or the appropriateness of recommendations.

One of the benefits of having supervisors or managers perform field inspections is that they can connect with frontline personnel, hear any concerns, and give positive feedback for correcting unsafe work practices. An advantage of having safety personnel conduct the field inspections is that they typically have a little more experience and knowledge, depending on their backgrounds, in the field of ergonomics.

For managers and supervisors to be effective in performing the inspections, they need training in the following:

  • The basic principles of ergonomics and safe work practices in manual materials handling
  • The use of the ComputerVision AI software and interpretation of the scores.
  • Coaching, explaining the software outputs to employees, and providing corrective feedback.
  • Providing sincere, positive feedback for improving safe work practices.
  • How to address concerns regarding equipment or workstation setup.

When a non-ergonomic infraction occurs during an ergonomic inspection, it presents an opportunity to find out why it happened. For example, perhaps a worker isn't wearing the appropriate PPE because of poor fit and discomfort. The solution would be to provide the worker with better-fitting PPE. Managers and supervisors should address major life-threatening safety infractions more firmly.

Scoring and Tracking

Once the videotaping is complete and uploaded into the software, the software calculates an overall task hazard score. It indicates which body segments contribute the most to the overall hazard score. The software also notes the percent improvement in the overall hazard score expected if the employee changes that body or limb segment position. Management can share the scores with the employee, and together the manager and frontline worker can problem-solve the best work practices to address the hazards. It might make the most sense for the organization to change the workstation setup or positioning of materials altogether to further aid in improving the scores.

Managers/supervisors need to recognize good work practices whenever possible and then offer feedback about what needs improvement to achieve a better score in the future.

After the audit is complete and supervisors share the results with employees; management can add notes to the reports stating what advice the employee received and attach another video of the worker using the recommended work practices. The safety team can use this method to provide a comparison report documenting change from pre to post-feedback.

Summary

OSHA requires field inspections, and ComputerVision AI can help make the process easier, more efficient, and more objective. Managers and supervisors are more willing to conduct the audits. Frontline workers get significantly more engaged than with standard ergonomic assessments and feedback. ComputerVision is a valuable tool that can help a company determine if evaluations and feedback have been effective. Maintaining documentation of these inspections keeps organizations in compliance with OSHA.

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EJF'S or Essential Job Functions: Are Your Job Descriptions Up To An OFCCP OR EEOC Audit?

Posted by Deborah Lechner
Aug 26, 2022 11:03:47 AM

Compliance with federal regulations is high on most organizations’ priorities. No one wants the distraction and hassle of a federal audit, and when one occurs, they want to be found to be in compliance. Not to mention the desire to avoid lawsuits or costly fines.

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