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OSHA Standards Can Make Public Works Safer

​The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has standards which promote safe, healthy workplaces when enforced. A number of these standards help guard against the hazards found in public works jobs.

Employers should be sure to fully understand these standards and that more information can be found at OSHA's website as well as the South Carolina OSHA website. Here's a quick description of some to review:

Fall Protection (Standard Nos. 1910.28 and 1910.29)
OSHA's guidance on preventing injuries and deaths from falls focuses on planning, providing equipment and training. These standards cover everything from guardrails to ladders, scaffolding, roof work, open holes, floorspaces, harnesses and anchor points.

Confined Space (Standard No. 1910.146)
Confined spaces — manholes, tunnels, trenches and sewer stations, among others — have limited or restricted means of entry and exit and they are not designed for continuous occupancy. They bring such hazards as limited airflow, hazardous gases or the potential for cave-ins.

Working safely in confined spaces means that there should be a team outside monitoring the work and those involved should have confined space entry training. There should be a proper confined space entry permit and workers should determine atmospheric conditions before entering.

Trenching and Excavation Safety (Standard No. 1926.651)
Appropriate trenching safety means that workers locate all underground utilities before beginning work. It also means providing safe entry and exit points. Trenches that are 4 feet or deeper should have ladders located every 25 feet and trenches 5 feet or deeper should have cave-in protection. With trenching, everything needs to be sloped, shielded or shored.

Lockout/Tagout (Standard No. 1910.147)
Controlling the release of hazardous energies, such as electrical, mechanical, hydraulic, pneumatic and chemical, when disabling machinery, has been one of the most frequently cited safety violations in South Carolina. The OSHA lockout/tagout standard protects against the release of these hazardous energies and employees who work in areas where these hazards exist must be trained in these procedures.

Hazard Communication (Standard No. 1910.1200)
OSHA's Hazard Communication Standard requires that employers must provide information identifying hazardous chemicals and why they are hazardous in a way that employees will be able to understand. The standard involves labelling, safety data sheets with a specific format, training, protective equipment and measures to reduce exposures as much as possible.

Motor Vehicle Inspections (Standard No. 1926.601)
This standard calls for the inspection of vehicles before they are used and at the beginning of each shift. It also advises that vehicle operators use a safety checklist to verify the safety of everything from rearview mirrors to wiper blades, fluid levels, headlight adjustments, brakes, lighted signals, fire extinguishers and others.

Personal Protective Equipment (Standard No. 1910.132)
Personal protective equipment minimizes exposure to hazards that cause serious workplace injuries and illnesses. Personal protective equipment may include items such as gloves, safety glasses and shoes, earplugs or muffs, hard hats, respirators, coveralls, vests and full bodysuits.