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.
EPA Record Keeping, EPA
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|
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