Disseminating information about safety in the Wisconsin workplace is one duty of the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. At a recent gathering of business officials, an OSHA representative spoke about the latest priorities within the government’s safety watchdog organization.

Federal safety inspectors have prioritized on-the-job hazards that cause employees to fall and claim workers’ compensation benefits for back and neck injuries. Also among government concerns are tree-trimming dangers, toxic chemical labeling and isocyanates — chemicals used by auto body shops.

Employers are expected to train employees to use tools like ladders properly. The security of a ladder plays a significant role in an elevated workers’ safety.

Ideally, ladders should extend a yard beyond the area against which they’re propped. Recommendations include using building-secured ladders and a “1-to4 angle” rule. The height of a ladder should not be any longer than four times the width between the ladder’s base and the structure against which it rests.

Tree trimmers are subject to ladder falls and other dangerous challenges like excessive noise, active power lines and falling tree limbs. Chain saws and woodchippers require separate safety training and precautions.

Isocyanates mixed with polyurethane in auto body paint products contribute to worker illnesses. The chemicals, when used improperly, cause respiratory reactions that mimic asthma.

The OSHA official also announced that chemical containers will soon have new hazard classifications and labeling. Pictograms used for chemical identification worldwide will help workers know at a glance which chemicals are irritating, explosive, toxic and flammable.

The transition to new hazardous chemical labeling will be complete by the summer of 2015. OSHA rules require employers to train affected workers about the label changes by December of next year.

Wisconsin employers who fail to maintain and update safety practices and make sure workers understand and abide by safety rules are negligent and often subject to a greater number of workers’ compensation claims or possible injury or wrongful death lawsuits.

Source: news-gazette.com, “OSHA focusing on height-related hazards,” Don Dodson, Oct. 19, 2012