Four letters—O-S-H-A—have the power to make warehouse and DC operators mighty nervous. They stand for Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the agency within the U.S. Department of Labor that's charged with improving workplace health and safety. Almost everyone associates OSHA with investigations and penalties for safety violations. But there's another—and some say healthier—way to view the agency: as a guide and reference point for improving one's business.
"OSHA gets a bad rap a lot of times," says Bill Pedriana, chief marketing officer of Lombard, Ill.-based lift truck maker Big Joe. Too often, he says, people think about the agency in relation to any potential violations they could be cited for. But it's far more beneficial to think about how OSHA's guidance could help a warehouse or DC become "an exceptional place to work," he believes. "Keeping people engaged, healthy, and productive is more important than ever, and that is really OSHA's mission."
One of OSHA's general principles is that if there is a safer way to do a work-related task, then employers should consider adopting it, Pedriana notes. It's worthwhile following that approach not only because employees are entitled to a safe workplace, but also because, more often than not, safety is good business. A safe work environment that adheres to safety standards shows employees that they are valued, empowers them with the proper tools for their jobs, and seeks their input on how processes can be improved, he points out. "The pursuit of safety can be key to making employees vested in the mission of business, more productive, and less likely to leave," he adds.
Bottom line? "If I had one overarching suggestion [pertaining] to OSHA, it would be to use the agency and the large number of resources it makes readily available as a baseline for what good operations look like," Pedriana says. In some cases, he suggests, OSHA's regulations can serve as the foundation of continuous improvements and the development of a company safety culture that "goes far beyond just checking a box" and meeting the minimum requirements.