Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

OSHA Web Site Provides Ease for Managers

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

OSHA Web Site Provides Ease for Managers

Article excerpt

For years, the OSHA regulations that kept construction and industrial workers safe also kept managers tearing their collective hair out as they waded through hundreds of pages of dense bureaucratic prose, trying to decide how the labyrinth of rules applied to their job sites.

But that was before the Occupational Safety and Health Administration decided to take advantage of what the Web does best - - disseminating information -- by creating a handful of interactive software programs that turn construction workers into health and safety experts.

On paper, the programs sound esoteric and about as interesting as a box of nails -- Cadmium Biological Monitoring Adviser, Lock Out/ Tag Out Adviser, Asbestos Adviser and the Confined Spaces Adviser. But think of them as number-crunching with words. Because OSHA regulations have to cover any dangerous situation workers might find themselves in, they're mind-numbingly complex. Not only that, but each time a question comes up, the agency releases a Letter of Interpretation or a Directive to the Field. There's not just one book to consult, but a sheaf of clarifications to factor in. All of which a manager must wade through to find out if a specific work site is -- or even needs to be -- in compliance. Enter the expert system, an interactive software program that simulates the decision-making process of an expert in the field and is available for free on OSHA's Web site. Say the owner of a brew pub has a 2,000-gallon tank on the premises. Someone's got to clean it out before the next batch of beer gets made. He runs a check of it through the Confined Spaces Adviser, which asks him a series of questions: "Can a worker enter bodily into the space? Do workers perform work in that space? Does it have physically restricted entry? Was it designed for continuous use?" In effect, he's just worked his way through a logic tree, without having to read 200 pages of regulations. And the answer that pops up is, yes, those tanks constitute a confined work space, and yes, they are covered by OSHA regulations, and here's what he needs to know about them. …

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