OSHA, EPA, and Independent Schools – Part 6

This is the last of a series of six posts regarding important OSHA or EPA rules that apply to independent schools.

Whistletblowers, Record Keeping, and Training


OSHA regulations protect workers who file complaints against employers for unsafe or unhealthy working conditions from harassment or termination. Such workers are informally referred to as “whistleblowers.” OSHA believes that the protection to workers willing to “blow the whistle” on illegal employer practices to be so important that they have established a special office to enforce regulations.

To comply with this regulation, schools must not retaliate against an employee who reports you to OSHA or the EPA for an alleged violation of workplace safety rules. It does not matter if you told the employee not to report it, or if you told them the condition was going to be fixed later, or if it was minor and to “forget about it.” Firing, demoting, or otherwise disciplining or any negative treatment of the employee could be construed as harassment and is illegal.

Record Keeping and Training
Throughout this series of posts I have referred to various regulations and guidelines. Simply said, if it is regulated, it must be documented and training must be provided. This is why so many sections contain model policies and/or guidelines for creating policies.There are companies who specialize in providing OSHA training. Much of this training is aimed at hazardous industries such as construction, oil wells, mining, and agriculture. Education is a relatively safe industry in comparison to these. Yet hazards are nonetheless present and schools must be willing to provide training where indicated. Experience suggests that many schools could be doing a better job with offering in-service workshops in this area, but time is precious and I fear that in the list of important professional education topics OSHA, EPA, and similar safety and health issues do not get the attention they deserve.

Helpful Documents

CalOSHA Safety and Health Training and Instruction Requirements, CalOSHA

EPA Record Keeping, EPA

Training Requirements in OSHA Standards and Training Guidelines, OSHA

Office of the Whistleblower Proection Program, OSHA

Example Policy
Model Employee Protection (Whistleblower) Policy, Nonprofit Risk Management Center

Among the best singe resources I have found is a document written by the EPA, Long Island University, and Columbia University entitled Environmental Compliance and Best Management Practices Guidance Manual for K-12 Schools. This is a wonderful resource for all schools.There are so many forms, records, and notices required under OSHA and EPA that it can be hard to keep them all straight. Here’s a table I have developed that you may also find to be helpful.

Standard or Best Practice What Schools Must Do
Accident Investigation investigate and document all work-related employee injuries and illnesses per OSHA forms 300
Accident Prevention Signs and Tags (Lockout/Blockout) post accident prevention signs and create a written lock-out tag-out plan (LOTO) for defective equipment and hazardous areas
Bloodborne Pathogens create a written bloodborne pathogen plan, provide training of all employees who may contact bloodborne pathogens, perform blood testing for employees who contact come into contact with possible bloodborne pathogens and and offer immunizations to at-risk employees
Chemical Hygiene create a written chemical hygiene plan, provide training to all employees who may use chemicals and school administrators who must sign off on your plan
Control of Hazardous Energy see accident prevention signs and LOTO
Emergency Action Plan create a written emergency action plan and provide training for all personnel
Ergonomics OSHA has voluntary office ergonomics guidelines; your state may have mandatory guidelines
Fire Prevention Plan create a written fire prevention plan and provide training for all personnel
First Aid and CPR provide properly equipped first aids kits and training
Hazard Communication Plan recommended that create a written hazard communication plan
Hearing (Noise) Protectors If noise is >85 db you need a written hearing protection program; see OSHA 3074
Heat Stress if employees are subject to conditions that make cause heat stress, you must create a written heat stress plan that complies with OSHA regulations
Injury and Illness Prevention Program create a written plan injury and illness prevention plan that complies with OSHA regulations
Inorganic Arsenic create a plan that complies with EPA AHERA regulations
Job Hazards create a job hazard analysis plan; see OSHA 3071
Personal Protective Equipment provide PPE for all employees at no charge to them; often accompanies the results from your hazard assessment plan and train employees on proper use of PPE; see OSHA PPE
Pesticide Safety EPA recommends that schools create an integrated pest management policy; there is no requirement that you do so
Respiratory Protection if employees are exposed to respiratory hazards, you must create a written respiratory protection plan and provide training for all relevant employees; see OSHA 1910.134
Whistleblower Protection add whistleblower protection language to your employee handbook; display the OSHA “It’s the Law” poster

Previous Posts
Part 1, Bloodborne Pathogens and Infectious Disease
Part 2, Chemicals Used in Labs, Classrooms, and Custodial Supplies
Part 3, Mercury, Lead, Asbestos, Indoor Air Quality (IAQ), Material Safety Data Sheets, Notices and Public Notices/Right to Know
Part 4, Fire Prevention, Emergency Action, Medical Services and First Aid
Part 5, Job Hazard Analysis, Injury and Illness Protection, and Personal Protective Equipment

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2 thoughts on “OSHA, EPA, and Independent Schools – Part 6

  1. Pingback: OSHA, EPA, and Independent Schools – Part 1 : Blogg-Ed Indetermination

  2. Pingback: OSHA, EPA, and Independent Schools – Part 2 : Blogg-Ed Indetermination

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