The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was formed under the Department of Labor in 1970. The agency is tasked with regulating the safety and health of employees in the workplace. Many people find the regulations promulgated by OSHA to be excessive and expensive to enforce, but the fact remains, these regulations exist and are enforceable by fines and possible jail time. As part of the original OHSA Act, individual states and territories are encouraged to form their own program if desired, "states must set job safety and health standards at least as effective as comparable federal standards." In many cases the state standards exceed those specified by the federal regulations.
These states and territories have approved State Plans: Alaska, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virgin Islands, Washington and Wyoming. The plans in Connecticut, Illinois, New Jersey, New York and the Virgin Islands cover public sector (state and local government) employment only.
All typical broadcast stations have portions of the operation that could trigger potential OSHA or state scrutiny. Obviously stations with old facilities, particularly transmitter sites are the most likely areas, but even the newest facilities could have hidden issues. Here are a few areas of safety to consider.
Any construction activities that might disturb materials containing asbestos are prohibited under law. The materials must be sampled and identified by a certified person prior to working in the subject area. Typical asbestos containing materials could include: insulation, roofing materials, fireproofing, plaster, drywall compounds, floor and ceiling tiles, etc.
People involved with the removal of asbestos materials must be trained and comply with all OSHA, EPA and state regulations. The federal OSHA standard requires that personnel working with asbestos be trained, monitored for exposure and medically evaluated. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and engineering controls must be used in the removal process. There are also extensive requirements for the subsequent handling and disposal of asbestos containing material.
Lockout tagout (LOTO)
Making sure the power is de-energized from a cabinet you are working on seems obvious, but from my years in the business, that may not always be the case. Over the years, engineer fatalities and injuries have occurred when engineers were called to the transmitter site and tried to quickly fix something only to touch an energized component while grounded. LOTO takes this to a higher level, requiring a worker to physically lock and tag circuit breakers and disconnects to prevent another person from inadvertently turning it back on. Even the minimum OSHA requirement for LOTO requires this process as well as ensuring the discharge of any stored energy, such as that from a dc power supply.
Not as common in a broadcast facility but worth talking about is working in a confined space, which is characterized as a space large enough for a person to enter, but with limited egress. The space may also contain some form of hazard such and toxic gasses, electrical equipment, potential to fall or a mechanical hazard. Activities occurring in a confined space required a permit, which can be obtain upon proper showing that all conditions have been met for safe entry and that an emergency plan has been devised.
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