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Safety in the workplace workshops planned in Panhandle

November 11, 2000|By DAVE McMILLION

Safety in the workplace workshops planned in Panhandle

BARDANE, W.Va. - The Occupational Safety and Health Administration hopes to hold workshops in the Eastern Panhandle to help companies better understand workplace safety regulations.

The federal agency is responsible for enforcing those regulations.

The first workshop was held Thursday in Jefferson County. About 15 area employers took part in a day-long discussion with a OSHA representative about what the agency expects for workplace safety.

"With the county growing so big, we want to help the new employers to make sure they get off on the right foot with OSHA," said Rich Jeffrey, a safety health specialist with OSHA.

It's an issue that is becoming more important to businesses up and down the Interstate 81 corridor in the Tri-State area.


Unlike large corporations, small businesses often do not have the money to hire a safety manager, said L. Michael Ross, president of the Franklin Area Development Corp. in Franklin County, Pa. As a result, small businesses often unintentionally find themselves not in compliance with work safety regulations, said Ross.

Ross said he welcomes any workshops OSHA can offer employers.

"I think anything that can be done to strengthen that line of communication is important," Ross said.

In an inspection of the Halltown Paperboard Co. in Jefferson County earlier this year, OSHA found a number of alleged violations at the plant including excessive moisture leaking on electrical equipment, excessive noise and incorrect wiring in a flammable storage area.

Halltown Paperboard was fined $128,000 for the alleged violations.

As a result of that case, Halltown officials wanted to bring an OSHA representative to the county to help other employers understand what the agency expects for workplace safety, Jeffrey said.

During the workshop at the Jefferson County Development Authority's office building, Jeffrey explained to the employers how workplace accidents have to be reported, how OSHA conducts workplace inspections, what authority it has and how the agency can help employers put together effective safety programs.

If businesses are curious to know whether their operations meet OSHA standards, they can request a free inspection by the agency, Jeffrey said.

OHSA will not issue any fines for the requested inspections. However, companies must agree to correct any violations found, Jeffrey said.

As far as OSHA's general regulations, a company must record any accident that occurs on its premises and keep a record of each incident for at least five years, Jeffrey said.

The records must be kept that long because they can be used to track the rate of accidents and what departments in which they occur, Jeffrey said.

If companies determine accidents are occurring more often in one department than others, corrective measures should be easier to implement, Jeffrey said.

OHSA inspectors can videotape anything in a business. However, they must notify a business if they plan to make an audio tape of conversations with workers or management, Jeffrey said.

It is important that companies correct problems that lead to a serious violation allegation, Jeffrey said. Failure to address serious violations can result in a fine of up to $7,000 a day, Jeffrey said.

Failure to address a serious violation is different than having a serious violation rectified and then become "uncorrected," Jeffrey said. Penalties for an uncorrected are much lower than if the problem is not addressed at all.

Although no details have been worked out for additional workshops, employers can call the Jefferson County Development Authority at 1-304-728-3255 for information, Jeffrey said.

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