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Getting Away with it Doesn’t Work

“I’ve been doing it like this for 30 years and never had a problem!”

Gabriel (Gabe) Garcia
Safety and Health Consultant

I can’t tell you how often I hear that statement from workers. Unfortunately, more than 50 percent of the companies we assist today are seen by OSHA first. And far too frequently, employers tell me how OSHA got to them before we did.

The reason OSHA visits these businesses is simple. Their work practices have been performed incorrectly for so long and, therefore, workers become numb to doing things wrong, not realizing hazards are right underneath their own noses. To me, this form of complacency is incomprehensible and preventable.

The University of South Florida has an outstanding--but often unheard of--safety and health consultation program. We help businesses understand OSHA regulations and identify hazards that can be costly if OSHA visits you.

I want to ensure you are well-informed about work practices and spotting hazards so that this is top-of-mind for you, not an afterthought. Let’s begin by discussing a common root cause: training.

Training is one of the four critical elements needed for an effective safety program along with management commitment and employee involvement, worksite analysis and hazard prevention and control.

No training, limited training, inconsistent training, irrelevant training and outdated training are some of the problems we as consultants encounter in the field. In order for a company to prosper and avoid OSHA fines, a company must establish a comprehensive safety training program.

Training is divided in three general areas--orientation, on-the-job and refresher training. Training can range from informal, such as toolbox topics, videos or OSHA’s eTools, to formal, including OSHA’s 10-hour, 30-hour and 500 series courses. Formal training courses are always a good way to stay on top of OSHA standards and revisions.

Training also should be pertinent and consistent. Having an OSHA 10-hour course from 10 years ago is good, but a refresher course every couple of years is even better. Remember, training, like everything else, is perishable. If you don’t use it, you lose it and you start forgetting what you learned after a while. Also, advancements in technology and safety equipment are always changing, so you need to stay current with the latest knowledge.

Training should be for everyone, across the chain of command. Employees, supervisors and management need to receive appropriate safety training based on their responsibility. Where problems can occur is when flawed work practices or “we-always-do-it-this-way” procedures are followed. Always remember, supervisors and managers must lead by example. If the chain is broken, it could be a recipe for disaster.

The USF OTI Education Center (www.usfoticenter.org/) offers a wide variety of training opportunities to help you advance and enhance your training program and make you aware of the latest OSHA standards, which will help you better identify workplace hazards. Take advantage of this or any other training opportunities in your area.

In summary, “don’t just get away with it”, be aware of it. Develop a comprehensive training program to include informal and formal training; be aware of updates in technology, safety equipment and regulations; and last but not least lead by example.

To learn more about safety training and hazard recognition, contact us to request a free and confidential on-site safety and health consultation. Visit www.usfsafetyflorida.com.