OSHA at Your Door

Are you safe inside?

How many injuries happened in your workplace last year? If you had 15 or more that resulted in days away from work, restricted work activity or a job transfer for every 100 full-time workers, OSHA might be paying you a surprise visit.

Were your injury numbers on the low side? That might also get OSHA's attention. It will randomly select and inspect about 200 workplaces (having 200 or more employees) across the nation that reported low injury and illness rates for their industries so it can determine how well employers are complying with its safety requirements.

And if you decided to try flying under the radar screen by keeping mum, I want you to realize that mum's not the word when it comes to OSHA. Those employers who did not respond to the agency's data collection surveys might also be flagged.

By the end of the year, a total of 4,000 individual worksites will have enjoyed a drop-in visit by OSHA. For your own good — not OSHA's — review operations that might be a little rusty when it comes to safety. For example, how's your PITOT?

If you don't know what that means, it's definitely time for a review. PITOT is Powered Industrial Truck Operator Training, and it's your responsibility to make sure your lift truck operators are not only trained on the specific vehicles they're driving, but in the specific job sites as well. Jim Shephard, president of Shephard's Industrial Training Systems (www.shephardsystems.com), says that's still one of the most commonly ignored areas of training he sees.

"People will tell us, 'We know the basics of lift truck operations, the capacities, the stability, the data plate and the inspection procedures,'" Shephard explains. "But the rest of the story is how you are interacting in your plant with these machines."

Some training videos include a disclaimer that this program does not include site-specific training. Still, that doesn't keep some employers from using the tape as the basis of their training programs.

"One company I know stores material in racks, and the video they used didn't even discuss rack storage," Shephard told me.

One option might be to make your own training tape. Companies like Shephard's can walk and talk you through your operations, using your own employees for the video. It will also become part of your training documentation.

"They introduce each section of the manual, discuss the objective, and then watch the video of Bob or Fred walking the viewer through an inspection," Shephard explains. "It may take 30 to 40 minutes to play that video, but the viewer will learn something."

OSHA doesn't want to intimidate you into safety. In fact, it's forming alliances with industry groups to make safety second nature. Earlier this year, the International Warehouse Logistics Association (IWLA) joined with OSHA in an alliance to develop and make available training and education programs not only on lift truck safety, but also on material handling, hazard communication and other health and safety issues. Particular attention is being paid to increasing hard-to-reach and youth workers' access to safety and health information and training resources, including the development of material in Spanish through communitybased organizations.

OSHA and IWLA will also develop a safety and health inspection checklist and a Web-based training tool ("e-Tool") for the industry. For more information, visit www.osha.gov.

Even if you're not among OSHA's chosen people for an inspection, pretend you will be. If your industry's trade association has an alliance with OSHA, your work will be much easier. Check its Web site. You'll find that maintaining inspection-readiness will keep your plant or distribution center safer and more productive.

Tom Andel, chief editor

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