OSHA can help

As South Carolina cities look for resources and methods to keep employees safe, it's important to identify easily accessible sources of assistance. Establishing safety, health and wellness programs that promote employee engagement and training is essential in reducing injury claims.

Do what's free first
Cities should first designate an employee in a position of authority as the safety coordinator. This individual must have management support to effectively put safety and risk management programs in place. Next, cities should establish a safety committee made up of representatives from all departments and have supervisors conduct regularly scheduled safety meetings with employees.

If a safety incident occurs, supervisors should investigate to determine its causes and to establish remedial measures to prevent recurrence. Managers and supervisors are responsible for ensuring safe conditions, work procedures and housekeeping practices are in place to keep employees safe. Supervisors should take corrective actions to control unsafe acts, conditions and procedures.

The new hire onboarding process is the best time to educate employees on the city's safety program. Each year, the Municipal Association's workers' compensation program, the South Carolina Municipal Insurance Trust, reviews trends for the cities participating in the program.

In 2016, most claims were caused by employees with less than three years on the job or by employees ages 18 to 34. In terms of injuries, strains and sprains were the leading causes. Police officers continued to lead in claims frequency and claims cost.

"This trend reinforces the need to make sure employees get off to the right start and receive ongoing training," said Venyke Harley, loss control manager for the Municipal Association's Risk Management Services.

Consider using OSHA
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration can be a friend to cities. Municipal governments have the extra benefit of available resources from the S.C. Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, which runs a state-run program approved by OSHA. S.C. OSHA provides free safety training and confidential on-site consulting services to reduce worker injury rates.

Determining what personal protective equipment and other equipment should be used for the job can be challenging. Cities are encouraged to use sample plans written by S.C. OSHA to guide the development of their safety plans. The written plans are designed to help employers identify critical hazards and educate employees.

Lockout/tagout — controlling the release of hazardous energies, such as electrical, mechanical, hydraulic, pneumatic and chemical, when disabling machinery — continues to be the most frequently cited violation in South Carolina. But it's not the only high-incidence area. Violations of permit-required confined spaces regulations, electrical safety, and trenching and shoring exposures also present safety hazards in cities.

The updated OSHA general industry checklist can help identify safety concerns.

S.C. OSHA's free consultation service provides guidance to employers to establish or improve their safety and health program. The service also offers training and education for the employer's supervisors and employees. The training program includes the requirements of the OSHA standards and how the enforcement arm of OSHA interprets the regulations.

Don't be afraid to seek help
"The safety and health consultation program is completely separate from inspection and enforcement," said Harley.

"Information about the workplace, plus any unsafe or unhealthy working conditions the consultant uncovers, are typically not reported to the OSHA inspection staff."

OSHA's voluntary programs provide a variety of free training programs and presentations designed to reduce or eliminate safety and health hazards. Training is available to public employers and employees upon request and may take place at the city requesting assistance, if 12 or more city employees plan to participate.

"The obligation for the employer is a commitment to correct in a timely manner all job safety and health hazards that are found during the consultation visit," according to the S.C. OSHA website. "The commitment must be made prior to the visit by the consultant."

"The more knowledge a city has on the safety and health protocols of its operations, the better it can reduce injuries and illnesses and, most importantly, provide a safe and healthy environment for employees," said Harley.

Examples of training programs OSHA offers include:

  • OSHA Inspection Process
  • Bloodborne Pathogens
  • Lockout/Tagout
  • Trenching/Excavation
  • Hazard Communication
  • Fall Protection (Construction)

  • Personal Protective Equipment

  • Violence in the Workplace

  • Scaffolding (Construction)

  • Permit Required Confined Spaces

  • Industrial Trucks (Forklifts)

  • OSHA Recordkeeping

For more information about S.C. OSHA, call 803.896.7665, or visit their website.