Michigan OSHA initiative sets a good example for Nevada
Michigan, like Nevada, operates a state-run safety and health program approved by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration. OSHA approves state proposals to take responsibility for administering the provisions of the OSH Act in their states. If approved, states are given much latitude to administer the safety and health programs in their respective state with the only caveat being that the state administration must be “at least as effective” as the federal program.
The problem most Nevada employers that I have talked to have with Nevada OSHA is that they feel that NVOSHA is only concerned with whether or not they can find a way to issue a citation and levy a fine, even for minor safety and health violations that employers may not even be aware of. It is a cat-and-mouse game that keeps employers on edge, and quite frankly, seems to run contrary to what OSHA’s mission is supposed to be.
When Congress passed the OSH Act in 1970 OSHA’s purpose was to assure every employee in the nation safe and healthful working conditions “by encouraging employers and employees in their efforts to reduce the number of occupational safety and health hazards at their places of employment, and to stimulate employers and employees to institute new and to perfect existing programs for providing safe and healthful working conditions.” I’m sorry, but fines and citations issued to employers, in and of themselves, are counter-productive to that mission.
Michigan OSHA has instituted what they call their Consultation, Education and Training Grants program (CET Grants) where employers can apply for matching grants to carry out approved programs that are designed to improve workplace safety and health. The matching grant awards are for amounts up to $5,000 and open to qualifying employers to purchase safety and health-related equipment. The program has been implemented “to create safer and healthier work environments and reduce the risk of injury and illness to workers in Michigan.” Sounds like the original Congressional mandate to me.
In order to qualify and employer must meet the following conditions:
Have 250 employees or less
Come under the jurisdiction of MIOSHA
A qualified safety professional or a safety committee must have conducted a site-specific evaluation, and there must be a written report with recommendations based on the evaluation unless the project is for lifting equipment in residential care facilities, or fall protection equipment in residential construction. (emphasis mine)
The grant project must be consistent with the recommendations of the safety and/or health evaluation and must directly relate to improvements that will lead to a reduction in the risk of injury or disease to employees.
The employer must have the knowledge and experience to complete the project, and must be committed to its implementation.
The employer must be able to match the grant money awarded and all estimated project costs must be covered.
MIOSHA has set aside $1 million in grants to fund the program. Because the program is targeting areas where the most injuries and/or fatalities are occurring, the program specifically states “[p]lease note that requests for residential fall protection and lifting equipment for in-home care or residential care facilities do not require a hazard evaluation to be performed.” Some examples MIOSHA gives for appropriate grant requests are:
Residential fall protection systems
Lifting equipment or portable lifting equipment for in-home care or small nursing/residential care facilities
Monitoring equipment for confined space entry
Noise reduction engineering controls
Lock out/tag out systems
Cooling systems for agriculture-based worksites
Eyewash stations for the accommodations industry.
The Michigan program will obviously create a better working relationship with Michigan employers. I am not saying that there is not a place for citations and fines for employers that simply refuse to work toward providing a safe and healthful workplace for their employers, however, issuing citations and burdensome penalties with the stated purpose of “intimidating other employers” from similar conduct is not only counter-productive, but runs afoul of the original Congressional intent. NVOSHA (and federal OSHA for that matter) would be wise to follow Michigan’s lead.
John Skowronek is an OSHA authorized trainer and safety consultant with Square One Solutions in Reno. Contact him at http://www.worksq1.com.
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