26Feb

Every worker has the basic right to a safe work environment. OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) guidelines help in assuring that safety. OSHA is formed and maintained by the United States Department of Labor. OSHA not only lays down the regulations, but also trains and assists the companies in ensuring safety.

Say, a civil engineer is building a factory. He or she has to ensure that the building parameters comply with the OSHA guidelines. The civil engineer must also be aware of the safety precautions to be taken while constructing buildings. For example, the civil engineer must be aware of how to safely use cranes during construction. The engineers can speak at the Construction Institute (CI) and American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) meetings about the OSHA regulations and other safety measures.

An OSHA report [BLS preliminary 2013 workplace fatality data] states that 4,405 workers died while they were working. To prevent such scenarios, OSHA has granted workers a lot of rights. If a worker feels that their organization is not following OSHA guidelines, they can ask OSHA to come and inspect their work surroundings. OSHA ensures that even though the worker raises a flag, he or she is not discriminated at the workplace. Employers will be checking a facility to see if it conforms to safety norms as per OSHA guidelines.  Employees have a right to view such safety reports to know if their workplace surroundings is safe.

OSHA acts as a protection for several types of employees. The employees covered under the act are from both government and private sector.

On the other hand, employers should provide real protection to their employees based on the guidelines. Just giving protective equipment such as gloves, caps, and masks is not sufficient. The employees must be trained about the safety precautions. Other aids such as alarms and labels must also be present to help employees. If there is a death in the workplace, the employer has to inform OSHA about that, within eight hours. Employers have to inform OSHA, if three or more employees have been sent to a hospital. Posters of OSHA guidelines must be posted in visible areas of the workplace.

The OSHA regulations have provided guidelines for the below factors:
  • Work surfaces such as stairs and ladders
  • Fire exits and other egress
  • Hazardous materials
  • Telecommunications
  • Power generation
  • Handling Grains
  • Different types of diving
  • Toxic materials Equipment for personal protection
  • Sanitation
  • Medical facilities and first aid
  • Protection against fire
  • Storage of materials
  • Guarding machines
  • Welding, cutting, and brazing¬†

In spite of the various regulations, some employees are not covered under the OSHA guidelines. For example, self-employed workers, domestic workers, farmers whose family members will be less than ten, flight crews, and mine workers are not covered under the OSHA guidelines.

There have been incidents of retail employees dying in a stampede during attractive sales offers. There have been deaths due to falls, asphyxiation, and fire accidents. Both employers and employees must take a pledge to ensure and work only in a safe and healthy working environment.

The NCEES syllabus for Civil PE Exam covers OSHA regulations under the Health and Safety chapter.