Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, employers have the responsibility to provide their employees a safe and healthful workplace that is free from serious recognized hazards. A big part of protecting workers involves workplace controls including:
- eliminating or substituting hazards
- engineering controls
- administrative controls
- and work practice controls
Elimination (including substitution) involves removing a hazard or substituting a hazardous material or machine with a less hazardous one. For example, using nontoxic products over more toxic products to prevent harmful effects or using solid, intact forms of products over powders or gases that are more easily inhaled to prevent workers from breathing-in harmful materials. Removing hazards altogether or replacing hazards with less hazardous materials or machines can promote worker health and safety.
Engineering Controls include design or modification to work areas, equipment, ventilation systems, and processes that reduce exposure to hazards. Examples of process controls might include using wet methods when drilling or grinding to prevent particulates releasing into the air; decreasing temperature of a process to reduce vapors; or adopting more automation to reduce worker exposure to hazards. Design and modification of work areas may include enclosures such as machine guards or just isolating certain processes geographically from the majority of workers to minimize risks.
Administrative Controls alter the way work is done, including the timing of work, policies and other rules, and work practices such as standards and operating procedures including training, housekeeping, and equipment maintenance, and personal hygiene practices. Employers play an important role in reducing workplace injuries and fatalities.
Work Practice Controls boils down to ensuring that work is carried out in the prescribed manner. For example, employers must not only provide training, but oversight to ensure workers are using personal protective equipment as required. PPE including respirators, protective clothing such as gloves and hard hats, eye and ear protection or footwear – can prevent injuries and fatalities on the job if they are used.
Unfortunately, workers can get hurt if an employer fails to plan, implement and ensure compliance with engineering, administrative, and work practice controls. The health and safety of workers should be job number one. We have helped thousands of injured workers maximize their benefits. Contact the Iowa workers’ compensation attorneys of Stoltze & Stoltze, PLC for immediate assistance at 515-244-1473.