Sunday, December 2, 2012

Overlooked Rules About the OSHA Workplace Notification Poster

You are probably aware that OSHA standards mandate that affected employers display the workplace notification poster (aka the OSHA poster) in their workplaces. However, many employers are not aware of some of the intricate details buried in the standards associated with the OSHA poster, and that occasionally results in their receiving a citation from OSHA. So I thought I’d cover some of those often-overlooked details in this month’s blog post.
The OSHA standards related to their workplace poster are contained in section 1903.2 of the regulations. And right off the bat you will see paragraph 1903.2(a), which requires the Federal OSHA poster be displayed at each establishment “in a conspicuous place or places where notices to employees are customarily posted.” That usually can be achieved by placing it on the wall in the break room or on the employee bulletin board next to the time clock.
But what are you supposed to do if you have employees that do not actually work at your facility, but instead report directly to some other location such as a construction site? According to paragraph 1903(b)(2), where employers are engaged in activities which are physically dispersed, such as agriculture, construction, transportation, communications, and electric, gas and sanitary services, the OSHA poster must be displayed at the location to which those employees report each day. That is why you often see OSHA posters displayed at office trailers at construction sites. The standard goes on to say that where employees do not usually work at, or report to, a single establishment, such as some traveling salesmen, technicians, engineers, etc., the OSHA poster must be displayed at the location from which the employees operate to carry out their activities. So make certain you have the OSHA poster displayed at each location required by the standard.

One other requirement that many people have never read is the last sentence of paragraph 1903(a), the one saying you must take steps to insure that your OSHA posters are not “altered, defaced, or covered by other material”. That means no more company memos about important upcoming events like the company picnic stapled over the top of the OSHA poster!  You should occasionally conduct inspections to make sure your OSHA posters are clearly visible, unencumbered, and free from damage, and replace them if and when necessary. A good idea I see implemented at several workplaces is to place the postings in a display case or bulletin board behind a clear Plexiglas cover.

During some site inspections, I have seen where the employer printed a copy of the OSHA poster off the OSHA website onto a standard piece of copy paper (8.5” by 11”) for display at their worksite. However, doing so would be a violation of 1903.2(a)(3), which mandates the poster be printed on paper measuring at least 8.5” by 14”; that standard also addresses details such as minimum font sizes . . .
And what about you employers located in those states operating their own State OSHA program? Paragraph 1903(a)(2) requires you to display the State version of the OSHA poster in those workplaces covered by a state-run OSHA program. But pay careful attention, because there are many workplaces located within states that have implemented a State OSHA program which still fall under the jurisdiction of Federal OSHA; in those cases, the Federal OSHA poster would still need to be displayed. If you are uncertain about which OSHA program (state or federal) has jurisdiction over a particular workplace, re-visit our earlier post to this blog addressing that topic (click here).

Last but not least, what are you required to do if you have employees who do not read or speak English? According to an OSHA letter of interpretation addressing that very question (click here to see the letter), the standard requires employers to post the OSHA poster which is available in English, but does not specify or require that the notice be posted in a foreign language. However, that letter goes on to explain that OSHA encourages employers that have Spanish-speaking workers to post an additional poster in Spanish, which is available on the OSHA website or through private vendors (click here). In fact, OSHA recently added a version of their poster printed in Polish (click here) and Portuguese (click here) to their website. And some of the state-OSHA websites have versions of their posters available in many other exotic languages (click here) on their websites.

As you can see, there is more to compliance with the OSHA workplace notification standards that just sticking a poster up on a bulletin board and forgetting about it. You must make sure you have the correct version of the poster displayed (federal or state OSHA), make certain posters are displayed at all sites where off-site workers report, ensure the poster meet minimum size requirements specified by OSHA, and maintain your posters so they are legible and visible at all times. And where feasible, you are also encouraged to display OSHA posters in languages familiar to your workforce.
If you need a resource offering comprehensive Labor Law Posters that include up-to-date versions of the OSHA notices for federal and state OSHA programs available in English and Spanish, visit our sister website (click here).

And if you’d like to share with our readers your stories or experiences related to your OSHA posters, please provide that information in the “comments” section below. And last but not least, please pass a link to this blog post along to others in your network who you think may benefit by this information.