In early FY 2011, Bill Doan and Lynn Lechner, two consultants from the Missouri Safety and Health Consultation Program, had an idea for educating small employers and workers in Missouri about identifying safety and health hazards. The idea was to develop a "Hazard Lab," where actual hazards would be put on display and attendees would be invited to walk through the lab to identify them. Consultation Program Manager, Daniel Stark, liked the idea and agreed to launch this innovative approach to occupational safety and health education.
The primary goal of the Hazard Lab would be to educate workers and employers. However, the lab would also be used to promote the On-site Consultation Program, which is a federally funded program supported by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and administered in Missouri by the Missouri Safety and Health Consultation Program (part of the Missouri Department of Labor). The Hazard Lab would give employers an idea of some of the hazards typically found at worksites by the consultants. This glimpse into an actual consultation would demonstrate the value of a consultation visit, and help employers feel more comfortable requesting a full service visit.
On May 13, 2011, the first Hazard Lab was held at the Mid America Safety and Health Conference. Because of the session's popularity, three additional sessions were held at safety and health seminars that year. In 2012, staff from the Missouri Safety and Health Consultation Program assembled the Hazard Lab on four occasions to educate workers and employers about workplace hazards.
According to Daniel Stark, situations demonstrated in the Hazard Lab initially included electrical hazards, machine guarding, hazard communication, bloodborne pathogens, compressed air, and Lockout/Tagout. In 2012, additional safety and health hazards were added involving welding in confined spaces, oxygen-fuel cutting, and forklifts. Construction hazards focusing on scaffolding and construction work zone safety also were added. Upon completing the walkthrough of the lab, attendees are encouraged to attend a presentation and actively participate in a discussion of each hazard found in the lab, with identification of specific OSHA standards violated by the observed hazards.
To help transport the Hazard Lab equipment, the Missouri Safety and Health Consultation Program purchased a trailer in August 2012. The Program is now considering adding a decal on the side of the trailer, so that it can serve as a "moving billboard" to promote the On-site Consultation Program and encourage small employers to utilize this valuable resource.
As of March 12, 2013, the Hazard Lab has already made three appearances at various venues in Missouri for the current fiscal year. Since May 2011, over 900 employers and employees have experienced the Hazard Lab. The mobile occupational safety and health laboratory is scheduled to make its next appearance at the Missouri SHARP Association Meeting (Rolla, MO, March 22, 2013).
The Missouri Safety and Health Consultation Program is part of OSHA's On-site Consultation Program that offers free and confidential safety and health advice to small and medium-sized businesses in all states across the country, with priority given to high-hazard worksites. OSHA's On-site Consultation services are separate from enforcement and do not result in penalties or citations. Consultants from state agencies or universities work with employers to identify workplace hazards, provide advice on compliance with OSHA standards, and assist in establishing injury and illness prevention programs. In FY 2012, responding to requests from small employers looking to create or improve their injury and illness prevention programs, OSHA's On-site Consultation Program conducted nearly 30,000 visits to small business worksites covering over 1.5 million workers across the nation.
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