Loss prevention and loss reduction are important parts of a camp risk management plan. Considerable progress has been made toward creating a safe environment for campers and staff. American Camping Association standards add further emphasis to the importance of employee safety and health, and a multitude of other regulations create certain duties and obligations. The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) is one of the laws that created a set of comprehensive standards for employers to follow. Their focus of these standards is entirely on employee safety and health.
A Brief History
The OSH Act was passed in 1970. It directed the Labor Department to establish and enforce safety and health standards to protect employees. It obliges all employers and employees to be familiar with the standards that apply to them and follow them at all times. The Labor Department established the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), under an Assistant Secretary of Labor, to write and enforce the standards. Particular attention was to be given to industries with exposure to hazardous working conditions. These industries have specific standards promulgated for each unique circumstance. Other industries, including organized camps, are subject to the general industry standards.
Record Keeping Is Mandatory
One of the obligations created by the OSH Act is that all employers with eleven or more employees at any time during the reporting year are required to keep records of occupational injuries and illnesses. The information must be kept on an OSHA 200 form. The camp is required to post the form from February first through March first of each year at a location where employees generally read notices. This is a moot point for seasonal camps, but those that operate year-round, have secondary operations such as a day care center or school, or are affiliated with a parent organization, must comply. Furthermore, a separate set of records is required for each establishment or location.
A person called a volunteer can be deemed an employee under certain circumstances.
Are Volunteers Employees?
Some camps utilize volunteers in lieu of employees in certain circumstances. Does this law apply to them? The answer is both yes and no. The status of an individual is almost always determined at the time and under the circumstances surrounding an injury or illness. A person called a volunteer can be deemed an employee under certain circumstances. These include situations where volunteers are given free room and board or transportation, which are considered remuneration. Likewise, volunteers may be considered employees if they are under strict direction and control of the camp or come without tools or equipment and are provided these by the camp. Considering the potential for sizeable fines for noncompliance, keeping accurate records is recommended.
Another requirement for employers is to prominently display an OSH Act poster. This is in addition to a state workers' compensation compliance poster, which you may already have posted for employees. If you don't have one of the red, white, and blue OSHA posters, contact your state Labor Department for the address of the OSHA regional office nearest you. While you are in touch with OSHA, request a supply of OSHA 200 forms and order publications outlining the general industry standards. Before ordering the materials from OSHA, check with your state Labor Department. Sometimes they will have a summary or digest of the general industry standards free of charge. OSHA will charge you for the materials if you order them from the government printing office.
The OSHA Hazard Communication Standard
OSHA requires that employers disseminate information about employee rights. For example, under OSHA's Hazard Communication standard, employees must be told if they will be exposed to toxic substances. Most camp directors are familiar with this because of the issue of blood-borne pathogens.
Other hazardous substances should be a part of the OSHA communication plan as well. Consider your pool and the use of chlorine. In addition, many substances used for cleaning, especially in the kitchen, may be considered toxic or corrosive. Hazardous substances should come with a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), which provides important safety information. OSHA standards require that these MSDS forms be easily accessible to employees. Keep a copy with the hazardous substances, as well as in a central place such as the office.
A Safe Work Environment
Another important issue is providing personal protective equipment. In the pool area, for example, OSHA requires a respirator, rubber gloves, and eye protection in the filter room. An eye wash station is also needed when chlorine is handled by employees. Camps rarely have this equipment.
In addition to informing employees of regulations and providing personal protective equipment, employers are expected to examine workplace conditions to ensure they conform to applicable health and safety requirements. This is often accomplished through an employee safety committee.
Employers are also required to remove or guard hazards; use signs, labels, and posters to warn employees of potential hazards; and establish and periodically review operating procedures. Other expectations include, under certain circumstances, preparing emergency plans, providing employees with medical examinations or immunizations, thoroughly investigating accidents, and keeping appropriate records. These records must be accessible. Employers must also cooperate with an OSHA inspection.
Sources to Answer Your OSHA Questions
What is your OSHA IQ? Where can you go for help if some of this information is new to you? A variety of resources are available.
While organized camping is not one of the industries targeted by OSHA because of a poor safety record, camp directors should continue to monitor the safety standards set at their camps and become familiar with the OSHA guidelines. Camps across the country are being inspected. Are you prepared?
Originally published in the 1998 March/April issue of Camping Magazine.