ANSI Approves Workplace Falls Standard
The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) has developed updated requirements to reduce workplace falls, the second-leading cause of on-the-job deaths.

ASSE recently published the American National Standard, Safety Requirements for Workplace Floor and Wall Openings, Stairs and Railing Systems.

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) reapproved the standard A1264.1-1995 — first drafted in 1987 — acknowledging the document as a reasonable guideline for safety professionals to help reduce workplace falls in a variety of areas.

The standard establishes minimum safety requirements for entryways, including the requirements for fixed stairs, guardrails and handrails, and the requirements for protecting open-sided floors, platforms and runways. The standard also provides requirements for barriers and screens for wall openings as well as floor opening covers and treading for stairs.

In January, ASSE published an American National Standard, A1264.2 Standard for the Provision of Slip Resistance on Walking/Working Surfaces.

That standard was designed to reduce workplace slips, trips and falls. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, slips, trips and falls account for 15 percent of accidental workplace deaths.

OSHA: Restructured
Recent changes in the way the U.S Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is organized include a new office for small business and increased outreach programs.

OSHA established its Office of Small Business Assistance as a separate organization within the agency to help small businesses with safety compliance, training and education.

In addition, the Office of Partnerships and Recognition and the Office of Outreach Services and Alliances will work with businesses and employers.

Also, the agency has combined all safety and health standards development into one organization. The organization will address regulatory and nonregulatory approaches for safety and health guidelines and standards.

Ergonomics Gets Industry-Specific
In its special focus on decreasing ergonomics injuries this year, OSHA announced it will be releasing industry-targeted guidelines.

For example, contractors working in grocery stores should watch for OSHA’s new voluntary ergonomics guidelines specific to that industry. The agency released ergonomics guidelines specific to nursing homes in August.

OSHA’s recent focus on the nursing-home industry comes from high worker injuries and illnesses in the health care environment. OSHA is focusing on reducing exposure to blood and other infectious materials, and slips, trips and falls, which account for a majority of nursing-home workers’ injuries.

OSHA should release guidelines for grocery stores later this year.

Indiana Makes Safety Offer to Small Businesses
Small business owners in Indiana will be able to avoid random safety inspections if they agree to stiffer-than-usual safety standards under a new state program.

Employers with fewer than 250 workers can participate in the program offered by the Indiana Department of Labor, starting this month.

Rather than relying on fines to discourage safety violations, the state is aiming to reward businesses that voluntarily strive for safer work environments.

To be eligible for the Safety Health and Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP), businesses must have a lost-workday injury and illness rate below their industry’s national average for at least one year, which is less stringent than the state’s current program.

Under the state’s current Voluntary Protection Program, businesses must have a lost workday injury and illness rate below the national average for three consecutive years.

Under the new program, businesses must work closely with state regulators to evaluate their safety programs, correct safety hazards and pursue safety improvements.

In exchange, participating businesses no longer would be subject to random inspections by the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration. However, investigators still would investigate any worker complaints or deaths at participating businesses.

Companies can maintain status in the new SHARP program through annual reviews.

This information is intended as a summary of legal information and should in no way be construed as legal advice. Contact your attorney before proceeding with any legal action.