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Adopting digital tools to ensure OSHA compliance

By The Fulcrum Team
December 1, 2021

Regardless of industry, OSHA compliance is an ongoing challenge for any company. While agreeing that regulations are necessary to ensure worker safety, people can still note that complying with them can be an incredible burden as companies’ responsibilities include:

  • Providing the policies and training that comply with OSHA requirements
  • Documenting their safety training and inspection efforts to prove they are compliant
  • Producing this documentation on demand for both scheduled and unscheduled OSHA visits

Companies also bear the burden of interpretation – determining from OSHA guidelines what it means to be compliant for their specific operations – a task that can be far more challenging. While OSHA provides extensive guidance, it’s broadly written to apply to as many situations as possible. Because of this, interpreting guidelines can be an ordeal of guesswork and ambiguity.

As we’ll see, the use of digital checklists can help inspectors avoid the challenges of interpreting OSHA directives on the spot, since the company’s chosen interpretations (including variations as needed) can be made explicit in the checklists themselves. With a baked-in consistency and flexibility, digital checklists can clarify guidelines and adapt your inspection process to the exact requirements needed to demonstrate rigorous compliance.

Interpreting OSHA guidelines for consistency and flexibility

OSHA cannot cover all safety issues, so guidelines are broad for flexibility. Each company must interpret and implement guidelines and demonstrate compliance. Every detail of a company’s operation can interact with OSHA requirements. Companies have unique facilities, equipment, and workforces across various conditions.

Given the sheer number of variables at play, companies need to be consistent in application of policies. In addition, inspection methods must flexible enough to accommodate unique operational circumstances.

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A quick example

Let’s say a seasonal worker in your distribution company performs a safety check on order pickers. Order pickers are listed under “Powered Industrial Trucks” on the OSHA website. The employee must wade through checklists for many different types of trucks before being able to choose order pickers. In addition, OSHA’s vague “if this, consider that” scenarios can aggravate the issue. The new employee wastes time navigating guidelines that don’t apply to your operations. Worse, they may even generate irrelevant or incorrect data.

OSHA demands rigorous proof of compliance no matter who undertakes an inspection. Inspection data must be both consistent – to demonstrate the history and reliability of your safety compliance – and flexible – so that you can tailor the inspection process to your company’s specific operational needs. The data and documentation you gather and submit to OSHA require you to answer its questions clearly and unambiguously. And if workers don’t have the kinds of streamlined checklists that can complete critical safety inspections in this way, the company risks running afoul of OSHA compliance.

Digital checklists: consistent and flexible

Digital data collection platforms such as Fulcrum help safety managers to create and manage custom digital checklists. These serve to help companies meet the challenges of OSHA compliance head-on in a powerful and data-driven way.

If they’re cloud-based and updated in near-real time, digital checklists have everyone working from the same updated information. These features guarantee a precision and consistency of data collection in a streamlined, efficient way that reliably demonstrates OSHA compliance.

Digitizing also lets you build and modify checklists as circumstances change, from new projects or updated OSHA regulations. With drop-down menus, multimedia options, and the ability to hide extraneous fields, digital checklists can also adapt.

Once integrated into workflows, these checklists become the standard-bearer for inspections, producing more consistent, reliable data while becoming a feedback loop upon which to build a better, more efficient safety program reducing the burdens of OSHA compliance burden – a course of action that, like mobile inspection apps, checks all the boxes.

For a comprehensive look at how digital inspections improve OSHA compliance and safety outcomes, check out our blog, “Working Safer, Working Smarter.”