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OSHA updates guidelines for assessing workplace hazards

Changes have been sweeping across the workplace, including the integration of computers, robotics and other technology; a transition from a manufacturing to a service base; the rise of the gig economy; and a more diverse workforce. To respond to these changes, OSHA has updated the publication "Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs", which should be of interest to employers in Georgia.

Fortunately, OSHA provides six action items to help employers implement the updated practices. The first is to collect information on all present and potential workplace hazards; employers could even conduct surveys to get employee input on safety concerns. The next step is to identify all health hazards, chemical, physical or biological. OSHA's On-Site Consultation Program can provide specialized advice at no charge and confidentially.

Employers should then conduct regular inspections spanning equipment, work areas and all operations. They should record all safety hazards on photographs or video and share them with employees. Fourth, there must be a clear procedure for incident investigations. Even near-misses should be investigated.

The last type of hazard to identify is linked to non-routine and emergency situations: for example, fires, explosions and chemical spills. Employers should evaluate those hazards based on potential severity and likelihood of occurring, addressing those with the greatest risk. When permanent solutions are lacking, interim control measures should be set up.

Deficiencies in workplace safety can lead to employers facing workers compensation claims. Victims, for their part, simply need to tell their employer their intentions and show that the accident was indeed work-related; they may then receive compensation through the workers comp program. If they do not receive benefits, they may request a hearing before the workers comp board. A worker might benefit from legal assistance. A lawyer may even help mount an appeal as a last resort.

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