Thursday, August 2, 2012

OSHA Training: The "Invisible" Employees

Hello – can you see me? I must be invisible when it comes to OSHA training. Or maybe I am just exempt from all safety training regulations? Surely not!

I mean, if there was a fire or explosion in our building, I am curious to know what the company expects me to do. Is there some kind of alarm or signal to warn us to evacuate, or a place where I am expected to assemble? How would they know I got out safely? I wonder, but yet I have never been trained about this sort of thing.

And if a nearby co-worker suffered a heart attack or other serious medical emergency, I am not sure exactly how I should react. Does our company have a procedure in place? Maybe I just call an ambulance? Does anyone here know first aid or CPR? I have no idea, as our company’s safety manager never trained me about this sort of thing either. And while I’m at it, what am I supposed to do if a tornado is reported to be headed in our direction? Do I go get in my car and drive away? Or crawl under a table somewhere? I don’t know what the company expects of me, as I have never been instructed on what to do in this situation, either. I guess maybe I’m on my own.

I have also wondered on occasion what to do if there was ever a small fire break out in my work area. I mean, it is possible. In fact, there is a portable fire extinguisher hanging on the wall just 20 feet away from my work station. I guess I could grab it and try to extinguish the fire, but I’m not sure if I would be doing it right, or maybe I am not supposed to try to use it. You’d think our safety manager would provide me with some information on how to use those things, but I guess it’s not important.

Also, when I have to walk through a certain work area in our facility, I often wonder what that strong odor is that I smell. It makes my eyes water and my nose run. Is it coming from one of those drums back there? Is it something that I should be concerned about? I see other employees over there wearing facemasks sometimes, and I wonder if I need one, or maybe I should not be walking back there. But I don’t have a clue, as I have never been included in a safety meeting at work. And you would think the company would have some kind of papers available that tell me what I’d like to know about all those chemicals.

There is a hardhat hanging on a hook next to my workstation. It was given to me by a guy who works in a certain work area that I occasionally have to walk through to get to the manager’s office; he once scolded me for not wearing one, and told me I had to wear it whenever I go back there, just like everybody else. But it does not fit me very good, and I think the headband might be broken, but I’m not sure. So I just put it on my head every time I walk through there so I don’t cause a stir. I wonder if I should also be wearing a pair of those safety glasses like they all do, too, instead of my regular prescription glasses.

And one last thing I’d like to bring up. There is one of the maintenance guys working on a piece of equipment right over there, near my workstation. I really need to use that equipment to get some work done because my boss says she needs in a hurry. Oh look; the maintenance guy is gone right now, probably on a break or something. Certainly it would be okay just to walk over there and flip on the switch and use that piece of equipment until he gets back. I guess that could not hurt anything. Besides, if it wasn’t okay, surely someone would have given me some training telling me I shouldn’t do that.

I am the most overlooked employee at your facility; in fact, when it comes to OSHA safety training, I must be invisible. I heard our company has a safety manager on staff that spends a lot of his time training the other employees. But I guess workers like me are not to be concerned about all that safety stuff, since we are never called together for safety training. Or like I said, maybe we are invisible.

Who am I? Just walk into the office and look around, you’ll see me there. I am your office receptionist, or maybe I am the accounting clerk, or even the assistant sales manager manning the phones all day. Maybe I’m the young intern working in the drafting department. Or I could be the project manager’s assistant who works in the office trailer at your construction site. We are employees too, but when it comes to safety training, people like me who work in the office might as well be invisible.

There are OSHA regulations that require information and training for affected workers in these situations, even if they work in the office. And for you readers who are not sure which OSHA standards could be applicable, check these links:

Hopefully this blog post will give you reason to pause and think about any “invisible” employees that may be working for your company or organization who might have been overlooked when it comes to OSHA training. So open your eyes and take a good hard look around.

If you’d like to make a comment about this blog post, please do so in the “comments” section below. Also, list any other hazards that office workers are required to receive OSHA training on, if any come to mind. And last but not least, please pass a link to this blog post along to others in your network who you think may benefit from this information.


  1. Excellent article. I have seen this before. We have a yearly employee meeting that everyone is required to attend no exception we have the meeting broken down by departments. If you do not attend a make up meeting is schedule everyone signs in.


  2. Thanks for the insite. I did have a companywide safety meeting and addressed almost all of the items. But I think there could be other things that most don't think about in the office environement. Such as using the kitchen and those dangers. Using and maintaining machines has certain potential hazards. I guess I am going to have another safety meeting with the office psersonnel just to assess the possible Hazards in thier work areas. Thanks again! Betty

  3. Great article Curtis. I think that "Invisible Employee" ties right in with the "I could have save a life today" story. Even with an effective safety program, we must not over look the fact that not everyone has been trained properly.

  4. Remember fire drills in school? something as simple as that could save a life and it is the perfect opportunity to have a "tail gate" with everyone and raise awareness as well as answer questions. Great article!

  5. It is a sad fact that some employees are not considered when a company sets up employee safety training, some are not included because the supervisors or the head honchos do not believe that they need to be trained. Receptionists and personal assistants come to mind as those that are not "in danger". I trained one company who asked me if their office staff needed HazCom training. I asked them one question. Do these staff members have contact either direct or incidental with hazardous materials. Of course the oblivious answer was yes, if only "toner." But it is hard to get companies willing to train everyone with every OSHA requirement because of employee "down Time." Thanks for the quoted OSHA regs that you put down.

    Posted by Claude Hine


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