This past 24th of September in Oviedo the third conference of the series Prevention of Risks on an International Scale, organized by the Asturian Federation of Employers (FADE). In this meeting, the focus was on the United States and of couse, PrevenControl attended the event.
In this post, we will summarize the key issues discussed at the conference, always in terms of OHS, on the “land of opportunity, also for the Spanish economy.”
Legal framework of OHS in the USA
The complex territorial organization in America in turn translates into legislation of powers among OHS regulations throughout the country.
First, we find the OHS Act, 1970, which constitutes the overall regulation for the country in general. It establishes the general rights and obligations imposed on the employer and workers concerning OHS throughout the 50 states and the federal district that make up the territory.
Secondly, it includes the OHS standards. Also applied nationally, these abundant standard codes represent much more specific regulationsfocused on very specific areas of regulatory activity: construction, shipbuilding, agriculture, etc.
Thirdly, we find the specific rules of each of the states that make up the country. We must point out that these rules can never be less restrictive than the OHS national legislation. Its function is precisely the opposite: complement and develop the above.
This position itself is not covered by US law, nor any requirements as to the number of technicians per workplace or concerning the academic qualifications of these technicians. CAREFUL! – WARNING Daniel Tapial, one of the speakers of the conference – this does not mean that there are not very great and numerous safety professionals with a high degree of qualification: “there are, there are many and good”. Still, this lax rule may lead to professionals being insufficiently prepared to take on the task of safety technician, resulting in an expected decline in the working conditions of the workforce.
It is mandatory to carry out a risk assessment. Still, OSHA (body as well as advisor, consultant, inspector and supervisor in the country) does not identify any methodology or basis for its development. What’s more: Any member of the company can prepare it, provided that they identify, evaluate and propose suitable and sufficient means of control. This option, which is not required by law in Spain, is a common practice in many countries beyond Spanish borders and is a good measure that integrates safety throughout the hierarchical structure in organizations.
Finally, perhaps the most surprising thing commented on during the conference is what constitutes unnecessity – always in legal terms – to assess the risks of office staff, “because they understand that the health risks are minimal.” In the case of an accident at work or a professional infirmity for ergonomic reasons in this group, an investigation must take place and the event must be recorded as required by the standard.
External Safety Services in the USA
The External Prevention Service post does not exist in the United States. The services that fall into this type of safety model are absorbed by a huge amount of consultancies and insurers established in the country.
OSHA may also serve as a safety consultant for any company that is interested. This results in a significant benefit to organizations: not be inspected for safety and health, due to the obvious reason that it is the same OSHA, the American inspection body. The exception would be reactive inspection visits, that is to say, motivated by the complaint of an individual or representation agency.
OHS training in the US is mandatory. The American government especially bends over backward with this issue, by providing domestic companies extensive training documentation on quality and without cost.
As is the case in Spain, the activities of a particular risk for the worker (exposure to agents and substances, working in confined spaces, handling forklifts, cranes … etc.) require a particular bonus in terms of training received by the worker.
Health monitoring is not a legal requirement in the United States. Compulsory examinations are limited to activities with exposure to noise and some substances or agents such as asbestos, lead, silica and a few more agents.
These were the highlights of the first part of the conference organized by FADE. Obviously there are many more and Prevencontrol has a policy guide for OHS in America in which many more details are provided.
The second part of the conference, concerning the business experience of the company IDESA with an important American company, will be published in the coming days on this blog.
PrevenControl es la firma especializada en seguridad y salud laboral que propone soluciones eficaces e innovadoras para la mejora del negocio y la reputación de sus clientes a través de la consultoría, el uso de la tecnología y la formación.