New federal standards to protect Defense Department employees from exposure to hazardous chemicals and material went into effect the first of the year,and Defense Depot Ogden is implementing its compliance plan.
"It's brand new," said DDO safety and health office chief Allen Tingey of the Occupational Safety and Health Act Standard that went into effect Jan. 1."At first we thought this wouldn't affect us. But it's something we have to do. We don't have any leeway. The federal government mandated it and left nobody out," Tingey said.
The new standard has two objectives: to ensure chemical hazards in the workplace are evaluated and to make the information available to employers and employees.
The objectives, Tingey said, are based on the concept that informed employees are less prone to workplace injuries and fatalities.
Tingey said DDO's compliance will have five aspects:
-A written communication plan, including a list of all hazardous chemicals that employees may be exposed to.
-Hazard determination procedures.
-Material safety data sheets and a procedure to make them available to employees.
-Labeling chemical containers in the workplace.
-A training program for employees who work with or could be exposed to hazardous chemicals.
"This is going to be a big effort, the biggest will be in the training of our employees," said Tingey. "We are investing hundreds of hours in training.
"Certainly the workers need to be informed of the risks involved with their jobs. It's going to be a forever thing. It won't go away," he said.
Long-term benefits of the new program include fewer accidents and increased productivity, Tingey said. Trained employees are less likely to have accidental chemical exposures, and that leads to fewer accidents in the workplace, less down time and higher productivity, he said.
"The program allows us to be up front with the workers," said Ryan Shaw, a safety and health office industrial hygienist. "They need to know what the potential risks are.
"This will primarily affect workers using chemicals in the industrial area. The program keeps them aware of the hazards of the chemicals they work with," he said.
"It shouldn't be much different than the way we've operated in the past, Shaw said. "The standard was initially directed at private industry."
In December, 22 DDO personnel were trained as program trainers and are now, in turn, working with other DDO employees.
"Employees should ask a lot of questions," said Shaw. "The material won't do them any good if they misunderstand the information or if it is used incorrectly."
Shaw said by the end of January, 125 people had been trained and the DDO goal is 450 people by the end of May.