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All about OSHA

Sunday, April 25th, 2010
Building owners should view OSHA as an important partner instead of as an adversary.

Through the course of business, it is likely both tenants and building owners will eventually interact with the Occupational Safety & Health Administration. While some employers or building owners might cringe upon hearing the word “OSHA,” the agency offers benefits and safeguards for the workplace. In existence for 40 years, OSHA has played a critical role to ensure that workers are treated as important assets and are provided with reasonable safeguards from harm.

Building owners should view OSHA as an important partner instead of as an adversary. Compliance with OSHA regulations, even those that require capital spending, will result in tangible benefits. A clean compliance record can also be used a selling point to help attract tenants who are rightly concerned about the safety of their employees. Most folks are weary about residing or working in a building that is known for receiving lots of citations.

History:

  • Established by Congress under the Occupational Safety and Health Act in 1970
  • Inconsistent enforcement during the administration’s early years resulted in criticism
  • The agency first focused on enhancing the safety of physical machinery with retrofitting and other safety apparatuses.
  • During the Carter Administration, the focus was on hazards such as industrial chemicals
  • The administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush pushed to weaken the enforcement powers of OSHA, which included some voluntary compliance initiatives and other industry-friendly regulations.
  • The administration under President Clinton saw a marked increase in OSHA investigations and power.

OSHA’s Responsibilities:

  • Reviews ergonomic standards of businesses to prevent ergonomic-related injuries and stress such as carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Conducts research and gathers data regarding workplace issues and tactics for minimizing safety risks.
  • Protects employees by alerting their employers about the existence of safety violations.
  • Performs inspections to ensure that employers are following health and safety regulations.

Benefits of compliance:

  • GAO studies on voluntary OSHA programs showed cost reductions in workers’ compensation premiums along with increases in overall workforce productivity.
  • Safe employees and office visitors are less likely to be injured at the workplace, resulting in decreased exposure to liability.
  • OSHA funds free consultations through many state agencies that will come to places of employment to identify safety risks.
  • Healthy employees utilize healthcare and insurance benefits less than those exposed to dangerous situations.

Some criticisms have been levied at OSHA because of the low number of criminal prosecutions and severity of fines. It should be noted that many of the administration’s enforcement and penalties have been restricted in the past; however, recently, stiffer penalties were introduced. The Obama Administration is becoming more involved in investigations and working to keep pace with quickly emerging technology and processes used by a variety of employers.

For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact Allied Universal, Inc. Our e-based system offers the best emergency training available, with automated and integrated features. Allied Universal, Inc. is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council, a non-profit trade organization that promotes sustainability in how buildings are designed, built and operated. Visit rjwestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.

Time to Review Your Property Insurance Coverage

Monday, February 22nd, 2010
Make sure your insurance is sufficient to cover your commercial property.

Make sure your insurance is sufficient to cover your commercial property.

With the recent earthquake in Haiti and hurricane in New Orleans, people are keenly aware that disasters can and will happen. And when they hit, they can wreak havoc on residential and commercial property. But never fear. The best way to deal with an emergency is to prepare for it in advance.

So, in light of the Haitian earthquake and Hurricane Katrina, take time to review your disaster-related evacuation planning and tenant safety issues. And then, review and evaluate your insurance policy to make sure you have adequate coverage. Although people often groan about paying high insurance premiums, covering them beats the alternative of facing an uninsured disaster that could literally ruin your business as well as your reputation.

The primary type of insurance for commercial property owners is commercial property insurance which covers the physical structure from various types of natural or manmade disasters.  Here are some tips for choosing or renewing property insurance coverage:

  • Make sure your building is current with regard to all safety codes before you apply for new coverage or try to renew an existing policy. If the insurance agent who reviews your property finds evidence of safety violations, he or she might fail to recommend the property to underwriters.
  • Remember that insurance companies are not code enforcers. Their concern is for the building and the potential loss of value. Ensuring the safety of tenants is a shared responsibility between the building owner/manager, the tenant/employers and every individual person in the building. There is a proven correlation between individual training and preparedness and life safety.
  • Find out if the policy provides reimbursement for alternative work accommodations. If your building is severely damaged, would you be able to offer temporary facilities for displaced workers?  Remember that securing building permits for repairs can take weeks or months. So make sure that your insurance is sufficient to cover construction and code-approval time.
  • Carefully review whether the policy allows for “actual cash value” or “replacement value?” Actual cash value factors in depreciation of the insured object, while replacement value reimburses policy-holders for the current cost of replacing the lost or damaged item.
  • Watch out for “Exclusions,” which are big in the world of insurance. Check the policy carefully for anything that might not be covered. Are you in a flood plain? If so, make sure flood-related disasters are covered. Vandalism coverage should also be considered since manmade damage can lead to costly repairs. Some policies cover every type of disaster. In other cases, you might find it necessary to add a la carte coverage.
  • Look at what the policy covers beyond the building. Are furniture, equipment and electronics included? All of these items can be costly to replace.
  • Make sure you take time to read the “fine print” in your property insurance coverage. Proper coverage today can save your business tomorrow.
  • Consider other types of insurance such worker’s compensation, liability, and vehicle coverage.  Insurance is such a comprehensive subject that we’ll cover more about it in future blog posts. So be sure to check back in the weeks ahead.

For the latest emergency management training for property owners and facility/building managers, contact Allied Universal, Inc. Our e-based system offers the best emergency training available, with automated and integrated features. Visit rjwestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.