“No one should have to sacrifice their life for their livelihood…”
-Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez
Every year, more than three million workers are seriously injured and thousands more are killed on the job—and these numbers were once much higher, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Prior to the establishment of the agency in 1970, federal oversight of workplace health and safety was minimal. In recent years, the threat to workers’ safety has escalated again as budget cuts diminish OSHA’s capacity to protect workers through compliance inspections. Typically exposed to more hazards on the job than other employees, skilled trades workers are perhaps at the greatest risk.
OSHA Health and Safety Compliance Inspections
Impromptu OSHA inspections are central to the agency’s strategy for protecting workers, as they force employers to continually adhere to health and safety regulations. Failing to pass these inspections results in fines and penalties. An article that appeared on SkilledTrades.com1 listed some of the measures employers should regularly take to prepare for an unannounced inspection:
- Never wait until inspectors show up to prepare for a compliance inspection.
- “Walk the walk” through daily practices of safety procedures that satisfy OSHA regulations.
- Send appropriate staff to OSHA classes and seminars to learn about workplace safety measures to stay compliant with the agency’s rules.
- Prominently display the OSHA poster titled “Jobsite Safety and Health: It’s the Law” in areas of high employee traffic.
- Document potential hazards, implemented safety measures and evidence of OSHA compliance.
- Record every injury that occurs in the workplace, regardless of seriousness.
Diminishing Resources at OSHA
In recent years, budget cuts have limited OSHA’s ability to enforce health and safety rules. Citing an August 2013 report by the Center for Effective Government, ScienceBlogs.com reported that OSHA conducted fewer onsite compliance inspections in 2011 than in 1981, although the number of U.S. workplaces doubled to 9 million and worker numbers grew from 73 to 129 million over the 30-year period. During that time, the ratio of inspectors per worker declined from one per 31,000 employees to one per 62,000 workers. Additional austerity measures predicted for the future could further reduce the agency’s impact on workplace safety.
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Importance of Safety Training at Vocational School
While OSHA has been augmenting its regulations—for example, a new rule requires that employees notify OSHA of work-related injuries involving fatalities within eight hours and of in-patient hospitalizations or amputations within 24 hours—dwindling resources could limit the agency’s enforcement efforts. Historically unmotivated to implement safety measures unless legally required, employers may become less compliant with OSHA rules in response to the lowered threat of impromptu inspections, an outcome of the budget cuts that could compromise the safety of skilled trades workers. This makes it even more imperative for skilled workers to learn proper safety techniques from an accredited vocational school.
Because the work of skilled tradesmen, such as welders, electricians and linemen, is inherently more dangerous than that of the average office employee, specialized technical training is necessary to equip these workers with best practices to avoid injury on the job. Welders learn important safety techniques from Tulsa Welding School as a part of the hands-on training. A quality education from TWS prepares trainees for the potential hazards of the workplace, so that graduates are equipped to handle the requirements of a professional job. After completing a series of welding courses and entering the industry, welders will often continue their safety education by taking additional OSHA courses for skilled workers. Safety is a lifelong practice that begins with a quality education.