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5 Signs Your Office Is Not OSHA Compliant

5 Signs Your Office Is Not OSHA Compliant

No one should have to face injury or death to receive a paycheck. Congress created The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) from the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, to ensure healthy and safe working environments.  

OSHA compliance requirements are not exclusive to construction sites or healthcare facilities. OSHA extends safety regulations to any “person engaged in a business affecting commerce who has employees.” That means your average office can also violate OSHA standards.

 

 

5 Signs Your Office Is Not OSHA Compliant 

1. Your office does not have an emergency action or fire evacuation plan. 

OSHA requires written and oral emergency action plans that are available to employees for review. At minimum, emergency action plans must include: 

  • Procedures for reporting a fire or other emergency
  • Procedures for emergency evacuation, including type of evacuation and exit route assignments
  • Procedures to be followed by employees performing rescue or medical duties
  • The name or job title of every employee who can be contacted for more plan information
  • An employee alarm system with a distinctive signal
  • Training on safe and orderly evacuation 
  • A review of the plan when the plan is developed, when it changes, and when the employee’s responsibilities under the plan change

 

2. Your office exit route contains flammable decorations.

Christmas decorations, for example, can be highly flammable. Avoid placing Christmas trees, garland, tinsel, or stockings near major exits. As a precaution, any decorations near or blocking exit signs, fire alarms, fire extinguishers, fire sprinklers, or emergency exits, should be removed. Exit routes must be free and unobstructed at all times. Other flammable items that may be found around the office include cardboard, paper, styrofoam, gas, and disinfectants. Flammable liquids like disinfectants or drain cleaners should be stored the right way up, with the lids screwed on, in a locked ventilated cupboard. 

 

3. Your office does not have a sprinkler system (that actually works). 

Under OSHA, the employer must ensure that the office is compliant with the following rules:

  • Every automatic sprinkler system is provided with at least one automatic water supply capable of providing design water flow for at least 30 minutes. 
  • The sprinkler system piping must be protected against freezing and exterior surface corrosion. 
  • All dry sprinkler pipes and fittings must be installed so that the system can be totally drained. 
  • All sprinkler systems with 20+ sprinklers must include a sprinkler alarm that sounds upon water flow through the system. 
  • Sprinklers must be spaced to provide maximum protection area per sprinkler.

 

4. Your office contains air contaminants like asbestos or vinyl chloride. 

While air contaminants are more likely to be found at construction sites, factories, or laboratories, they can also be found in office environments. 

Asbestos, for example, can be an issue if your office building is under renovation and the asbestos is disturbed. Asbestos is most commonly used for insulation and fire protection, and can be found in pipes, floor tiles, coatings on ceilings and walls, and roofing. According to The Mesothelioma Center, Asbestos is dangerous because it “causes cancer and pulmonary diseases.” 

Vinyl chloride is another example of an air contaminant you could find in your office space. Vinyl chloride is found usually near industrial facilities that work with it, but can also be found in tobacco smoke. Under OSHA, “No employee may be exposed to vinyl chloride at concentrations greater than 5 ppm averaged over any period not exceeding 15 minutes.” 12 states– Alaska, Wyoming, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Mississippi, Alabama, Kentucky, Georgia, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia, still do not have smoking laws. To avoid costly OSHA compliance violations, it can be helpful to prohibit smoking in your office building or on your worksite. 

For a full list of air contaminants that violate OSHA Standards, check out OSHA’s list of special provisions. 

 

5. Your office contains exposed wiring. 

The Office of Congressional Workplace Rights states that both OSHA and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) require “insulation and protection of wiring energized at 50 volts or higher if the wiring is equal to or below eight feet off the ground.” 

Wiring is considered “exposed” when the insulation around electrical cords is damaged, revealing the wires. Exposed wiring is a very dangerous hazard as it can cause injury due to electrocution, electrical shock, or fire. Exposed wiring can be caused by typical wear and tear, and it can easily go unnoticed, so it’s important to check your wires periodically. 

In the workplace, electrical hazards can also be found in light fixtures. An uncovered fluorescent light or light fixtures hanging by wiring can all be very dangerous. 

OSHA also requires that outlets and switches remain covered by their plastic or stainless steel coverings. It’s especially hazardous to place an uncovered outlet next to a light switch. If an employee or worker is trying to find the light switch in the dark, they could easily get electrocuted because of the missing outlet cover.   

Check out the Training Requirements in OSHA Standards document for information on OSHA mandated compliance training. Keep in mind that some states provide their own OSHA compliance rules. Your organization is required to adhere to whichever laws are more stringent.

 

Additional Resources

You can stay informed, educated, and up to date with important HR topics using BerniePortal's comprehensive resources: 

  • BernieU—free online HR courses, approved for SHRM and HRCI recertification credit

  • BerniePortal Blog—a one-stop shop for HR industry news

  • HR Glossary—featuring the most common HR terms, acronyms, and compliance

  • Resource Library—essential guides covering a comprehensive list of HR topics

  • HR Party of One—our popular YouTube series and podcast, covering emerging HR trends and enduring HR topics

  • Community—the HR Party of One Community forum, a place devoted to HR professionals to ask questions, learn more, and help others

 

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