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OSHA rule seeks to protect equipment maintenance workers

A proposed rule by OSHA intended to protect employees is drawing criticism from business owners and equipment manufacturers who state that the revised rule does not improve safety and that it places an unfair economic burden on manufacturers and business owners. However, OSHA's intent is to increase workplace safety in Louisiana and the rest of the country.

OSHA's lockout/tagout rule requires machinery and equipment to be disabled while employees are servicing or maintaining the equipment so that the machinery and equipment does not begin operating or moving while the work is being performed. These rules are necessary to prevent tragic accidents because, in many instances, workers have all or a portion of their bodies inside the machine's moving parts when they are servicing or repairing machinery. These workplace accidents can lead to death or serious injury.

The lockout/tagout rule, as originally written, stated that workers had to be protected from "unexpected reenergization". Under this standard, an employer could comply with OSHA safety requirements if a worker received a warning that the machine was going to begin operating. The proposed rule eliminates the word "unexpected," which means that a simple warning to a worker is not enough. Instead, the machinery and equipment must be removed from a power source and can only be turned back on by the employee performing service or maintenance.

While OSHA's proposed revision has not yet taken effect, it does signal an awareness by OSHA of the significant and sometimes catastrophic consequences of unsafe workplaces and equipment. The impact of an on-the-job injury can be economically devastating to the employee and family members as well, and an attorney who has workers' compensation experience could assist in filing a claim for benefits that could help ease the resulting financial burden.

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