As the year winds down, we’re taking a look this week at some highlights from 2021. Today, we’re highlighting excerpts from installments of our Ask the Expert column, which was brought to you by the team of industry experts at EHS Hero®.
April 23: Are There Safety Statutes on Home Office Ergonomics?
Q: I would like to know the state plans that address ergonomics by statute. Are there any position papers on employers providing home office furniture, IT equipment, and office supplies for employees working from home?
With the exception of patient handling in healthcare, only California has a regulation that addresses ergonomics. California’s standard on Repetitive Motion Injuries, 8 CCR 5110, applies to any job, process, or operation where more than one employee has experienced a work-related repetitive motion injury resulting from the same task or work activity that was diagnosed by a licensed physician and reported to the employer within the last 12 months. Employers subject to the standard must establish and implement a program designed to minimize repetitive motion injuries that includes a worksite evaluation, control of exposures that have caused repetitive motion injuries, and employee training.
At the federal level, it is OSHA’s policy not to inspect home offices, and it does not expect employers to do so, nor will it hold the employer liable for home office conditions. However, the General Duty Clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act still applies, and employers must provide employment and a place of employment free of recognized hazards that are likely to cause death or serious harm.
May 28: Building Sweeps After Emergency Evacuations
Q: What are your thoughts regarding employers having people conduct sweeps of a building in the event of an emergency to ensure everyone is out?
Appointing certain employees to ensure all employees have exited your building during an emergency could be a viable safety measure provided you follow OSHA guidelines.
At 29 CFR 1910.38, OSHA requires most facilities to have an emergency action plan (EAP) that, among other elements, must describe procedures for evacuation, procedures to account for all employees after evacuation is complete, and procedures for employees to remain to perform critical plan operations before they evacuate. Even if you are one of the few companies for which an EAP is not required, it’s really a very good idea and certainly a best practice to develop and follow an emergency action plan.
OSHA has often stated that accounting for all employees following an evacuation is critical. The Agency emphasizes the importance of both establishing designated assembly areas where employees are trained to go to directly upon evacuating as well as selecting responsible individuals (aka “evacuation wardens”) to lead and coordinate evacuations. You could include in your EAP detailed procedures regarding the execution of both of these methods for ensuring that the facility has been properly evacuated. You may decide that a responsibility of the evacuation warden(s) is to go through a predesignated section of the building as they evacuate to ensure that it is empty of employees and visitors.
July 16: Face Masks and Summer Heat
Q: With summer temperatures on the rise and a growing focus on heat related illness, is there any safety guidance for workers who continue to wear cloth face masks as a means of COVID-19 prevention?
The CDC and Cal/OSHA have provided some guidance on the topic. Face masks …….