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OSHA's updated guidance for identifying workplace hazards

Some Pennsylvania workplaces have inherent hazards due to the nature of the job. However, these employers are still responsible for ensuring that the workplace is as safe as possible for employees. This includes identifying and remedying workplace hazards. To help employers with this process, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration provides guidance publications with recommended practices.

The Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs document was originally published in 1988. A first update to the document was published in October 2016. This revision noted that major changes had taken place in workplaces across the U.S. As a result, changes were made to reflect hazard identification and assessment. The guide offers six steps or action items that employers can take to make the workplace safer.

First, employer should collect information about hazards the workplace may have. Second, the workplace should be inspected regularly for safety hazards that could become apparent down the road. Third, chemical, biological and physical hazards should be identified. Fourth, incidents that occur in the workplace should be investigated immediately. Fifth, employers should identify any potential hazards that could occur in the event of emergency or other non-routine situations. These may include fires, hazardous spill and equipment shutdowns. Finally, if hazards are identified, they should be controlled until more permanent solutions can be put in place.

Even when employers do their best to reduce the risk of injuries from workplace hazards, an employee could still suffer a serious injury. In these types of cases, the worker may be eligible to seek workers compensation benefits to cover the cost of any medical fees; the benefits may also cover a portion of the worker's wages if he or she cannot work. An attorney may help a worker navigate the process of filing a claim and even represent the worker in court if the benefits are denied or cut off.

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