Indiana Announces Launch of Major Workplace Safety Initiative

The Indiana Department of Labor has launched a program that aims to reduce the number of workplace injuries and deaths in the state -- a number that "disturbed" the agency's commissioner when he stepped into his post at the beginning of the year.

INSafe, a safety initiative launched by the agency in May, will provide safety information to Indiana workplaces through training seminars, free consultation services and downloadable educational materials and other online resources.

Indiana Commissioner of Labor Miguel Rivera, who said he has been "disturbed by the number of workplace injuries and deaths in Indiana" since taking his post, hailed INSafe as a vehicle that will "move the Department of Labor away from being a reactive ticket-writing agency."

"Through data analysis, interaction with customers and industry experts and partnerships with local community groups, INSafe's proactive, strategic effort will bring us to a point where we can prevent hazards and injuries before they occur," Rivera said.

Although the agency established the Bureau of Safety Education and Training in 1985 to achieve a similar objective through safety education, Rivera said that program has been "grossly underutilized" despite its merits. State officials say INSafe will differ in that it will offer "unprecedented instant access to safety resources" via its Web site, http://www.IN.gov/labor/insafe/index.html.

Free publications currently available on the INSafe Web site include a sample bloodborne pathogen exposure control program, a sample hazard communication written program, a list of Indiana OSHA's (IOSHA) top 25 violations and a link to federal OSHA's guidelines for preventing workplace violence for health care and social service workers. The site also includes links to a number of other OSHA resources and contact information for publications offered by OSHA, the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety and the American National Standards Institute.

Employers also will be able to request and schedule health and safety consultations through the Web site.

Those consultation services will be "the heart of our proactive efforts," Rivera said, and Indiana Deputy Labor Commissioner N. Davey Neal, who oversees the initiative, said the agency will aggressively promote them to Indiana employers.

"We will get out to all Indiana communities to let small businesses know what resources are available to them," Neal said. The agency notes that 120,000 of the 125,000 employers in Indiana are small businesses, employing 97 percent of the work force.

A staff of experienced safety and industrial hygiene consultants will provide free, confidential, on-site services to employers who request them, according to the Indiana Department of Labor. The agency stresses that a request for consultation services will not result in citations or proposed penalties or a referral to IOSHA as long as employers agree to correct any serious hazards discovered during a visit.

Consultants will be able to conduct comprehensive evaluations for employers or focus on specific areas of the workplace, the agency says.

"Getting our consultants into workplaces to directly intervene in hazardous situations is the best defense against injuries," Rivera said.

INSafe training seminars will focus on maintaining safe work environments, and several will be offered statewide, according to the agency. Currently on the training course list are seminars on accident investigation, electrical safety, lockout/tagout safety, machine guarding and workplace violence.

Other elements of INSafe will include:

  • The Indiana Safety Health Award Recognition Program (INSHARP), which will help small and medium-size businesses create a detailed safety plan. Successful completion of INSHARP grants employers a 1-year renewable exemption from IOSHA inspections.
  • Strategic partnerships with business, labor and trade organizations to gain greater access to its customers. Rivera on May 24 announced a partnership with the Indiana Chamber of Commerce to coincide with the launch of INSafe.
  • Cross-cultural outreach. Non-English-speaking workers are at greater risk for on-the-job injuries because they may not be able to read or comprehend safety instructions in English. INSafe plans to develop bilingual and culturally sensitive training information. (For example, training materials and programs will be available for download in English and Spanish.) In conjunction with INSafe, Rivera announced he has formed the Hispanic Advisory Board, which "will provide strategic and tactical advice for getting information into the hands of Hispanic workers."

INSafe will phase in its initiatives over the next 6 months.

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