Occupational safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

Employees working at the union carbide corporation’s (now owned by The Dow Chemical Company) pesticide plant in Bhopal; and the residents staying near the plant experienced extreme hazards. Lack of adequate safety measures had caused tons of deadly methyl isocyanate gas to be released into the open. Within the next few hours, thousand of people died in the city. The accident was termed as one of the worst industrial disasters in the world. The Bhopal tragedy highlighted the importance of maintaining safety and health standards at the workplace and the long term effects.

OSHA standards and record keeping:

The agency created within the department of labor to set safety and health standards for almost all workers in the United States.

OSHA operates under the general standard clause that each employer shall furnish to each of his [or her] employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his [or her] employees.

To carry out this basic mission, OSHA is responsible for promulgating legally enforceable standards. These are contained in five volumes covering general industry standards, maritime standards, construction standards other regulation and procedure and a filed operations manual.

The standards are very complete and seem to cover just about every conceivable hazard in great detail. (Figure presents a small part of the standard governing handrails for scaffolds). And OSHA regulations don’t just like specific chemical or structural type standards for employers to adhere to. Example, OSHA’s respiratory protection standard also includes standards for program administration work site specific procedures, requirements regarding the selection use cleaning, maintenance, and repair of respiratory employees training respirator fit tests, and medical evaluations of the employee who use the respirator.

Occupational illnesses

Any abnormal conditions or disorder caused by exposure to environmental factors associated with employment.

Under OSHA employers with 11 or more employees must maintain records of and report certain occupational injuries and occupational illnesses. An occupational illness is any abnormal conditions or disorder caused by exposure to environment factors associated with employment. This includes acute and chronic illnesses caused by inhalation, absorption, ingestion, or direct contact with toxic substances or harmful agents.

What the Employer must Report

As summarized in Figure employers must report all occupational illnesses. They must also report most occupational injuries, specifically those that result in medical treatment (other than first aid), loss of consciousness, restriction of work (one or more lost workdays) restriction of motion, or transfer to another job. If an on the job accident results in the death of an employees or in the hospitalization of five or more employees, all employers regardless of size, must report the accident in detail to the nearest OSHA office.

OSHA’s latest record keeping rules streamline the job of reporting occupational injuries or illnesses. The rules continue to presume that an injury or illness that resulted from an event in or exposure to the work environment is work related. However, it allows the employer to conclude that the event was not work related (and needn’t be reported) if the facts so warrant – such as if a worker breaks an ankle after catching his foot on his car’s seat belt when parked on the company lot.

However, OSHA’s record keeping requirements are still broader than you might expect because OSHA’s definition of occupational injuries and illnesses is so broad. Examples of recordable conditions include : food suffered by an employee after eating in the employer cafeteria colds compounded by drafty work areas, and ankle sprains that occur during voluntary participation in a company softball at a picnic the employees was required to attend.

OSHA pursues record keeping violations during investigations so it behooves employers to carefully record injuries or illnesses.

Guardrails not less than 2” x 4” or the equivalent and not less than 36” or more than 42” high, with a mid rail when required of a 1” x 4” lumber or equivalent and toe boards shall be installed at all opens sides on all scaffolds more than 10 feet above the ground or floor. Toe boards shall be of 4” in height. Wire mesh shall be installed in accordance with paragraph [a] (17) of this section.

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