Any company whose employees come in contact with any hazardous material is subject to a new ruling by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) that goes into effect Dec. 1.
The ruling requires companies to conduct safety training for employees who have contact with hazardous materials or chemicals.
That would include hair salons, dental offices, roofers, maintenance and janitorial staff, window installers, importers, chemical manufacturers and more, said Teresa Holbert, owner of Safe Objectives, a company that conducts training.
The rule also applies to safety training for new labels that identify hazardous materials or chemicals.
“You can’t say it includes everyone, but a lot of people,” Holbert said. “This is the largest OSHA change in 20 years.”
“Companies in Colorado Springs need to know it’s coming,” said Rodney Dunn, whose company, Occupational Safety Consultants, has conducted trainings to comply with OSHA requirements for more than 30 years.
“If they’re proactive, they may be able to ward off OSHA,” Dunn said.
The goal is to educate employees properly on the hazards of working with chemicals or materials so they can protect themselves in the workplace.
“It’s best to have your company trained than to have to pay the fine.”
– Teresa Holbert,
Office workers who encounter hazardous chemicals in isolated instances are not required to be trained.
However, an employee who handles the chemicals to service office machines or who operates them for long periods of time would need training, Holbert said. Also, office workers who are routinely in an area that has chemicals would need to be trained, she added.
Training includes instruction on how to read the new labels. Labels will have the following elements:
Signal words, such as “danger” or “warning.”
Pictograms (symbols) on a white background in a red diamond. Workplace labels may use a black diamond. An example of a pictogram is the skull and crossbones.
Hazard statements, describing the nature of a chemical, such as “highly flammable liquid and vapor.”
Precautionary statement, describing what actions to take in the event of contact with or ingestion of the chemical. This would include first aid instructions.
Name, address and phone number of the chemical manufacturer, distributor or importer.
Training also includes how the employee may use the labels in the workplace.
There are now eight pictograms for health hazards that range from flame (signifying flammable materials), to an exclamation mark, a gas cylinder, exploding bomb, a flame over a circle, and the skull and crossbones, which still signifies a fatal chemical if ingested.
The hazard and extent of the hazard must be communicated to employees for their own safety, Holbert said.
“If it’s not your job to necessarily work around chemicals, but if you’re near chemicals, you would need to be trained. It’s best to have your company trained than to have to pay the fine,” Holbert said.
OSHA fines businesses that are not compliant; other agencies do as well, including the Environmental Protection Agency, and the state of Colorado, she added.
The Englewood area office of OSHA, which handles inspections in southern Colorado, will not conduct unannounced inspections as a direct result of this new rule, said Assistant Area Director Steve Yellstrom.
“I haven’t heard anything about any new inspections related to this revised standard,” Yellstrom said. However, OSHA will review compliance with the new rules as a matter of its regular inspections, he added.
All OSHA inspections are unannounced, and “we look at hazcom (hazardous communications) on many, if not all, the inspections we do,” he added. The Englewood OSHA office employs 14 full-time inspectors.
“Every industry, a vet clinic, a doctor’s office, a car repair shop, dealerships,” Dunn said, “there is no industry that is exempt, if they have a chemical and one employee.”
Companies must have written manuals that include sections of the laws that have been updated.
Dunn and Holbert will assist companies in complying with OSHA’s written requirements, including providing accident record books and writing safety manuals.
“We try to help employers satisfy OSHA regulations to the best of their ability,” Dunn said. Safety manuals are required for companies with ten or more employees, he said.
Some large companies have a safety instructor, but “very few have a competent instructor,” Dunn said. “That’s what they have me for.
“I can probably go to ten businesses a day, and maybe one knows what’s going on. Maybe.”
The requirement was announced Jan. 1, 2013, so companies have had nearly a year to become trained, Dunn said.
Both companies also offer the training classes.
“We are expecting a crashload of people,” Holbert said. “They don’t realize there’s OSHA regulations that affect them. “It affects over 5 million companies,” intending to protect some 43 million people, she said.
“If people have been trained in the past, there’s not a lot to it,” Holbert said.
Fines for violating the rule can be up to $70,000, higher if it’s a willful violation, Holbert said.
“OSHA will tell you not knowing is not an excuse,” said Holbert, who is in the process of scheduling classes.