The first time I heard about OSHA was when I returned from my first deployment in the Marine Corps. I thought I was coming back to my company and going straight to the field. After I checked back into my company, I was told that I was the official Safety Representative of my company. I was baffled. I thought to myself, “this is the military and we go to war. It’s never safe. We are the ones who have to do dangerous things to create safety for other people.” I quickly learned how important my new job position was going to be and just like any other motivated military personnel was, I found myself giving that job 110 percent of my energy.  On the first day of the job, I was given a huge binder that had a bunch of different documents with information on them about chemicals. They were called safety data sheets. Safety data sheets are documents that include information about chemicals like health environmental hazards and protective measures. It also discusses how to handle, store, and transport the chemical. Safety data sheets are very important. Unfortunately, when I received my binder there was information missing and none of the documents were up to date. I knew that updating my binder would be my first mission.  Little did I realize I had a lot more work coming my way.  Although being a safety representative was my new job, I continued to be a food service specialist. Since I was the safety representative, I was also appointed to be the training NCO in the company office. That way I would be able to fulfill the obligations of my new job. The name of my company was called Food Service Company. We had about 6 or 7 different sections in our company and 2 different dining facilities. I had to make sure the dining facilities and our company office complied with the standard of the hearing conservation. Military bases have a partnership agreement with Osha and are exempt from Osha’s standards. The partnership includes a set of guidelines, procedures, and standards to upkeep the safety of civilian workers and military personnel.  While I was updating my binder, I had to look in our hazmat locker to see what type of chemicals we had. The safety data sheets had to align with whatever chemicals we had in our locker. After I completed this task, I updated all the dining facilities too.  Also, I had to make sure there were no trip hazards, leaky pipes, or anything that could potentially be hazardous in an office setting or warehouse. In the Marine Corps, the DoD order was called  Environment, Safety, and Occupational Health (ESOH). If the offices were not in order, I had to fix whatever needed to be fixed or place a work order to maintenance to fix the problem. After I got everything in order, we had to get inspected. Inspections were once a month. The Food Service Company passed with flying colors every time. After 6 months, Food Service Company was highlighted as one of the best to keep in compliance with the order for ESOH. We did so well that the Colonel of the Unit requested me by name to be the assistant to the unit safety representative. I was so proud of the work I did and being recognized for it. I was told by a great leader that with great power comes more responsibility.  I was super excited about the next opportunity I was going to have.  When the time came for me to work at the regiment where headquarters was for our unit, I was nervous and very anxious. I wasn’t sure if I was going to do a good job because now I was going to be responsible for over 30 companies around the base. I was also responsible for a government vehicle to drive around on base and do inspections on the companies. Last but not least I had the pleasure of giving classes to the companies on different subjects concerning hazmat safety once a month and then some other training twice a year. The best part of the job was that my schedule was flexible and I scheduled things the way I wanted to. I exercised twice a day and went to different training courses to help me understand my job, so I could properly teach the military personnel under my charge. I didn’t see any stressors, until maybe a few weeks into the job.  When I did my first inspection. I sent out emails to all the companies and their leadership. I even sent out reminders of when the inspections would be. On my first inspection, half of the companies were not in compliance with any order. There were trip hazards and chemical spills. It was truly a nightmare.  I remember maybe 2 or 3 companies complying with the order. I sent out another email after that and told the companies they had two weeks to get everything in order. I also added the Colonel on the email to let them know I meant business.  As the eve of the 2 weeks approached, I had to go to a base meeting with all of the safety representatives from each unit and the general. I was the lowest ranking person in the room. Everyone had their units up to standard except me. It was so embarrassing. I realized I was a little overconfident going into that position. I promised myself I would make sure our unit was going to be number 1.  I had to change a lot of things around. During the inspection, I set up times with each of the companies and their representative to properly go over the way their company should be and look. After 2 months, I did just that. Every unit was up to standard. I was ready to go back to the base meeting to share our results.  The morning I and my boss got to the meeting they handed out documents stating additional things that needed to be done. Although I was up to standards there was still more work to be done after that. My job truly became challenging. Although it was challenging, I truly understood the importance of why the program was put into place. So many dangerous things can happen due to one tiny little thing being out of order. Someone could trip over a wire and fall on a concrete floor in a warehouse. Another situation could happen where people are breathing in asbestos and don’t even know it. This experience truly opened my eyes. 

What is OSHA

Above was my experience in the military with OSHA but OSHA is just as important on the civilian side as well probably more important. OSHA stands for Occupational Safety and Health Administration. It ensures safe and healthful working conditions for me and women. It enforces standards by providing training outreach and education.  The Occupational Safety and Health Act was created in 1970. OSHA is a part of the United States Department of Labor. OSHA also covers a lot of private-sector employees and their workers. All states have to federally adhere to the regulations provided by OSHA there are state plans approved by OSHA for workplace safety and health programs. 

State Plans

State plans are agreements set up by states and approved by OSHA in those specific states. These plans make the regulations of OSHA more strict in the states which ultimately is in the favor of the employees in any workplace. There are 22 state plans covering both private sectors, state and local government workers. There are 6 state plans covering only state and local government workers. All together this makes a total of 28 states. The states with these plans are listed below:
  1.   Alaska
  2.    Arizona
  3.    California
  4.   Connecticut
  5.   Hawaii
  6.   Illinois
  7.   Indiana
  8.   Iowa
  9.   Kentucky
  10.   Maine
  11.   Maryland
  12.   Michigan
  13.   Minnesota
  14.   Nevada
  15.   New Jersey
  16.   New Mexico
  17.   New York
  18.   North Carolina 
  19.   Oregon
  20.   Puerto Rico
  21.   South Carolina
  22.   Tennessee
  23.   Utah
  24.   Vermont
  25.   Virgin Islands
  26.   Virginia
  27.   Washington 
  28.   Wyoming

State VS. Federal

I’m sure you’re probably thinking what’s the difference between state and federal OSHA. I’m going to break it down. A lot of companies struggle with lockout and tagout compliance which normally comes from being confused about state and federal OSHA. Well, first I’ll explain lockout and tagout. Tagouts are specific practices and procedures to keep employees from the unexpected energization or startup of machinery and equipment or the release of hazardous energy during service or maintenance activities. While lockout refers to devices that hold energy-isolation in a safe or “off” position. The reason tagouts and lockouts are so important is that employees can be seriously hurt or fatally injured if the machinery they service or maintain unexpectedly energizes or releases stored energy.  The standard does not apply to the following below (you can find more information by clicking here:
  • Exposure to hazardous energy is controlled completely by unplugging the equipment from an electric outlet and where the employee doing the service or maintenance has exclusive control of the plug. This applies only if electricity is the only form of hazardous energy to which employees may be exposed. This exception encompasses many portable hand tools and some cords and plugs connected to machinery and equipment.
  • An employee performs hot-tap operations on pressurized pipelines that distribute gas, steam, water, or petroleum products, for which the employer shows the following: – Continuity of service is essential; – Shutdown of the system is impractical; and – The employee follows documented procedures and uses special equipment that provides proven effective employee protection.
  • The employee is performing minor tool changes or other minor servicing activities that are routine, repetitive, and integral to production, and that occur during normal production operations. In these cases, employees must have effective, alternative protection.
Circling back around to state and federal OSHA. OSHA sets bare minimum requirements while the states go by their own programs that have been approved by OSHA. A lot of states who have their own plans address local concerns that aren’t provided in the regulation for OSHA such as hurricane and earthquake readiness.  Some states require additional reporting for written injuries. Other state plans set high fines and penalties for companies not complying.   

OSHA Trainings And Requirements

With all this information given to you at once, I’m sure you’re hoping there’s a class or some sort of training to get you up to speed on this information. There’s actually an abundance of training that’s available. OSHA requires companies to train their employees about working safely and avoiding hazards. For businesses that require a forklift or industrial trucks, training must be a program implementing general principles of safe truck operation. The employers must certify that their workers are evaluated every three years. Also, the employer requires refresher training when employees show deficiencies.  If you don’t work for a company like that, there are still other opportunities to learn more information. The OSHA Training Institute offers many certificates on different OSHA topics. Below is the topic you can receive training in: 
  • hazardous materials 
  • machine guarding 
  • ergonomics 
  • confined space
  •  excavation 
  • electrical hazards  
  • fall protection 
There’s also an outreach program that offers 10 hour or 30-hour classes for Construction, General Industry, Maritime, and a 15-hour class for Disaster Site Worker. After the completion of the course, you receive an OSHA card. Just a heads up, the OSHA card is not a license and not required by OSHA to have. It could be potentially already mandated by a company in your city, so it’s good to have on hand. 

Final Thoughts

If you’re inspired by OSHA training to become a trainer, then there are some extensive requirements to go through. You would first have to meet course prerequisites and attend a one week OSHA training course. After completing the course you’ll receive a card and certificate as an Outreach Trainer. The next courses you’d have to take include disaster site workers (second responders), construction, general industry, or maritime. After all of that then you’re a certified Outreach Trainer. The Outreach Program is completely voluntary. The training doesn’t meet any requirements for OSHA’s standards. Now there are ways to actually work for OSHA. Click here to see the requirements. In the grand scheme of things OSHA knowledge is very valuable and can save a life. OSHA sides with the rights of employees and hold the employers accountable for their safety. It also provides a safe workspace providing tools and guidance in case of an emergency.  Last but not least OSHA provides training, free publications, technical assistance, and tools to help you understand its regulations. To learn more about OSHA please click here.