A Hazcom Program Is Not Required Because We Don’t Haul Hazardous Materials ...What?

Believe it or not, this is a response provided by a company we recently prospected. This company is not alone. Similar comments and OSHA unawareness are routinely the case with motor carriers at no real fault of their own. Motor carriers are naturally focused on FMCSA Compliance and vehicle safety performance, with general workplace safety and OSHA knowledge being secondary. Even though most don’t realize it, vehicle safety practices are off to a great start to OSHA compliance and reducing worker injuries and fatalities because they reduce exposures to vehicle collisions. Even though it is off to a great start, it is just a very small beginning to OSHA compliance.

Despite the fact that FMCSA and OSHA are concentrated on regulatory issues and safety, both have distinctly different focuses that take specialized training, knowledge, and expertise to identify and correct hazards. There are numerous motor carrier safety conferences offered to help you gain the experience for vehicle safety and compliance with many having curriculums that are centered on your specific operations. Therefore keeping on top of continuing education for reducing vehicle crashes is relatively easy. When it comes to OSHA, many safety directors may learn OSHA compliance the hard way, when OSHA knocks on the door and says, “Hello, I am from OSHA and I am here to help.” This is not the time to be going through “on the job training.

The early stages of the audit will start with a review of the OSHA 300 and 301 logs. OSHA will request these documents almost immediately to identify loss trends so they can make a quick evaluation of where some of the problem areas may be. Do not be surprised if they also ask to review work comp insurance loss runs. In the long run, they will be looking to determine what initiatives you have established to address your exposures and will evaluate if these measures are effective.

One of the next steps will be for them to conduct a walk through OSHA inspection. This is where many motor carrier safety directors become aware of numerous OSHA workplace regulations. Being a motor carrier, the first area for their inspection will most likely be the maintenance shop and any of its peripheral operations. Finding violations in a maintenance shop is similar to FMCSA reviewing driver logs; these are both areas that have a great deal of activity and it is easy to find violations, many of which can carry very expensive fines. Violations can occur with items such as: emergency exits; fire prevention; slips/trip and fall hazards; overhead load storage capacity; jack and jack stand capacities; electrical violations; emergency eye and shower washes; sanitation; flammable material storage; welding and torch cutting; personal protective equipment; machine guarding; safety data sheets; first aid; and the hazard communication program. These generalized areas are just the tip of the iceberg for the areas they will be inspecting. There are numerous regulations and ANSI Standards associated with each of these that your facility will be evaluated against, not to mention the General Duty Clause which is a catch-all for a safety exposure that is likely to cause injury or death for which no specific regulation exists. Even tools and equipment that are personally owned by mechanics can and will be part of the inspection. These too can be included in the OSHA list of violations with fines attributable to them. Other areas of the property will be audited as well such as the general office and grounds. These areas carry their own exposures. Safety and executive management may not recognize these exposures without proper OSHA training.

An OSHA inspection can occur at any time, announced and unannounced. They can also occur because of a recent injury, illness, valid complaint, or fatality. Just like FMCSA audits, OSHA may also visit your company because you were randomly selected or because you were due for an inspection. Regardless of the reason, work with them, cooperate with them, and learn from them.

OSHA compliance can no longer be a secondary responsibility for safety or executive management. Even though your company may have very few or even no workplace injuries, OSHA will still make you accountable for any violations they find. So where can you receive help and training?

  • OSHA has a Voluntary Protection Program where they will come and conduct a regular OSHA inspection of your company and provide you guidance and training along the way. This program is designed to help you make safety corrections in a controlled format versus an official inspection that carries fines. Contact your local OSHA office for details and visit the OSHA website at www.osha.gov
  • There are several organizations that are approved to conduct OSHA compliance training for 10- and 30-hour courses. The 30-hour course is recommended because it provides the detail that you will need. At a minimum, those that should be considered to receive this training include the maintenance or shop manager, safety director, and safety committee members.
  • Many states have safety council organizations that focus on OSHA and workplace safety. They may have regular training programs and annual conferences where you can learn and polish OSHA skills.
  • The National Safety Council (NSC) has numerous training resources plus an annual conference that will provide you with training and resources regarding most areas of loss exposure with your company. Even if a session does not directly address motor carrier workplaces, much of the material and presentations can be easily applied to your environment. The NSC also has a Transportation Safety Division comprised of safety professionals from all across the country that are eager to network with you and share their expertise to help prevent workplace and vehicle crash injuries. NSC also focuses on Community Safety which helps to prevent injuries to workers while they are off duty which helps prevent employee absenteeism.
  • There are also numerous credible safety training resource companies that have quality training and OSHA reference products.
  • Leverage the knowledge and skills of your workers’ compensation insurance carrier.

Take advantage of any workplace safety training you can attend to help you round out your safety profession. Encourage your state and industry motor carrier associations to include workplace safety in their regular training sessions. OSHA compliance is not really complicated, but it is comprehensive.

In addition to having safety training for your drivers, provide safe worker training for all of your employees to keep them safe on the job regardless if they work in the maintenance shop or the office.

  • Categorized in:
  • Transportation Safety
  • Regulations