As OSHA cracks down, health and safety training moves up priority list for employers

Sheet Metal Occupational Health Institute Trust helps sheet metal workers get prepared

ALEXANDRIA, Va. Employers can consider themselves warned. OSHA is coming.

In its March 2010 letter to 15,000 U.S. employers identified by an OSHA survey as having high Days Away from work, Restricted, or Transferred (DART) rates, OSHA warned that inspections are on their way and could be done at as many as 4,500 general industry workplaces. 

The Obama Administration is considering requiring OSHA 10 certification for all construction workers, with OSHA 30 requirements for supervisors and safety personnel. OSHA 10 certifications require 10 hours of training on OSHA standards and OSHA 30 certifications require 30 hours.

While that kind of news could instill panic in the hearts of some, it’s good news to those at the Sheet Metal Occupational Health Institute Trust (SMOHIT).

Since 1986, SMOHIT has been developing and promoting health and safety resources for more than 123,000 members of the sheet metal industry, thereby creating a safer, injury-free workforce. The organization is strongly encouraging its members, which include sheet metal journeymen and apprentices as well as contractors, to be proactive and obtain their OSHA certifications now.

Why? In addition to creating a safer work environment, which should always be top priority, it also helps workers avoid losing time and wages, says SMOHIT administrative director Gary Batykefer.

To name a few of its nearly 40 health and safety training and certification programs, SMOHIT offers OSHA 30, job site safety, scaffolding safety, lead exposure training and confined space safety. In addition to ensuring its members receive top health and safety training, SMOHIT provides health screenings, including asbestos screenings, cholesterol screenings and prostate cancer screenings, to its members nationwide.

While industries across the board have suffered from the economic downturn, the construction industry, which has faced unemployment numbers upward of 20 percent, has arguably been one of the hardest hit. However, tough times or not, Batykefer says, health and safety procedures should not, under any circumstances, be cut to save costs.

“The Obama Administration’s ‘New OSHA’ is something we’ve been waiting a long time for,” Batykefer said. “Hilda Solis is going to take OSHA in a completely new direction regarding enforcement, and our industry welcomes it. We’ve been offering OSHA certification for years because it includes information anyone in the construction industry should be well-versed in.”

Solis, Secretary of Labor, has made it clear that the Obama Administration will be cracking down on those who aren’t OSHA compliant. In a June 2009 speech at the American Society of Safety Engineers’ annual conference, she said: “There is a new Sheriff in town. … Make no mistake about it; the Department of Labor is back in the enforcement business.  We are serious, very serious.”

To do this, OSHA is placing a high emphasis on prevention, which David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, outlined in his March 10 American Bar Association Occupational Safety and Health Law Committee 2010 Midwinter Meeting.

OSHA’s proposed FY 2011 budget calls for $573 million – an increase of $14 million over the current operating budget – to help OSHA protect 109 million workers nationwide. The budget request also calls for OSHA to hire an additional 25 inspectors in 2011 and to move 35 personnel from compliance assistance activities to enforcement.

Originally established to address issues of asbestos exposure through screenings and education, SMOHIT has since expanded its mission to include health and safety training products, health and safety training curriculum, and health and safety services.

SMOHIT works directly with the International Training Institute (ITI) to offer the training programs. SMOHIT, ITI and the National Energy Management Institute (NEMI) are members of the Sheet Metal Industry Resource Alliance (SMIRA), which is dedicated to providing support, education, information and other resources to the sheet metal and air conditioning training community.

For more information on SMOHIT visit or call 703-739-7130.