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Watch out! Green job creation comes with OSHA ‘help’

December 22, 2009 by Tom Guay
Posted in: Cost Cutting, In this week's e-newsletter, Latest News & Views, News, Technology

Watch out if your company promotes itself as creating green jobs. You might be attracting some unwanted help from federal job safety cops.

That’s the warning clearly stated by the new head of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), David Michaels.

Sworn in just this month, Michaels wasted no time in raising the specter of more safety inspections and likely fines for up-and-coming green companies.

When Michaels hears talk of “green jobs,” he translates that into “OSHA will have to inspect all these new jobsites.”

In a speech to say hello to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, Michaels worried about the current rush to create a green economy. While creating green jobs is a great idea, he’s also worried that “employers who race into this green economy without paying attention to worker safety will blunder into many preventable injuries and deaths.”

Since green jobs are not inherently safer than any other type of job, Michaels warns that when he hears:

  • “weatherization and renovation,” OSHA sees exposure to lead and asbestos
  • “insulation,” OSHA thinks exposure to toxic materials like isocyanates
  • “rooftop solar power,” OHSA sees fall hazards, and
  • “wind energy,” OSHA’s worries about lockout hazards.

Take-home for green companies: Make sure you provide workers with personal protective equipment, that they wear it on the job site and that your company conducts regular safety meetings to discuss ways to avoid job-related injuries.

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2 Responses to “Watch out! Green job creation comes with OSHA ‘help’”

  1. Safety Sonja Says:

    A more useful “Take-home” for green companies is a recommendation to contact OSHA Consultation, the training and education arm of OSHA. The suggestions in the article take-home would simply not be enough to prevent injuries and illnesses and avoid OSHA penalties. OSHA CONSULTATION SERVICES ARE OFFERED AT NO COST TO EMPLOYERS. OSHA Consulation is geared to help small businesses that don’t have the resources, for example, of a full-time safety professional. They can help in a focused or comprehensive way. OSHA Consultation can help develop programs, provide training, inspect the workplace for potential hazards, and even sample the air to check for health hazards. Employers have to agree to fix serious hazards identified. OSHA Consultation can only refer a company to OSHA enforcement if there is an imminent danger situation that the Employer refuses to correct: in our state, Consultation has never referred a customer to enforcement. IF AN EMPLOYER IS IN THE PROCESS OF A FULL SERVICE OSHA CONSULTATION, OSHA ENFORCEMENT IS NOT ALLOWED TO INITIATE A PROGRAMMED INSPECTION. If your company does not have safety programs and documented training, if your company is paying out too much in WC claims…call OSHA Consultation today!
    http://www.osha.gov/Publications/3357consultation.html

  2. Evelyn Says:

    Another more useful “Take-home” for green companies is that giving employees PPE is the last resort (and least dependable).
    Try eliminating the hazard first (planning and thought can often eliminate hazards). If that doesn’t work, see what can be done to engineer the hazard out or reduce it. Administrative controls, such as rotation of workers for short periods to reduce the exposure to each, is the next step and lastly, giving them PPE to wear.
    This choice is last because you are depending on the employee to #1 – remember to wear it, #2 – wear it correctly, and #3 – the PPE be protective enough or to not fail. If PPE fails, the employee is then exposed to the hazard with no protection.

    -From an OSHA state plan consultant-


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