The challenges to comply with the requirements for a documented safety and health program are greater than ever. Violations for the lack of written materials and records occur frequently in spite of the proposed goals established under the "New OSHA" (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) to de-emphasize paperwork.

The lack of an accident prevention program (29 CFR 1926.20) remains among the top 10 violations for electrical contractors. A number of other paperwork-heavy standards, such as hazard communication, are among the top 25 violations. New regulations, such as those governing scaffolding, respiratory protection, and powered industrial trucks, increase the need for written material and to develop and track training. OSHA's increasing demand on contractors to make written programs more job site-specific compounds the problem.

But don't give up. Through the technology available today and the ingenuity of organizations such as OSHA and the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA), there is help. The information provided by these resources could decrease time on paperwork and increase the time you spend on the job site attending to other safety responsibilities.

Materials safety data sheets (MSDSs) can be retrieved from Web sites, such as University of Utah Material Safety Data Sheets (www.chem.utah.edu/MSDS/msds.html).

For help reviewing and interpreting regulations, the OSHA web site (www.osha.gov) offers a number of Software Advisors and online publications. Advisors are interactive programs that can be downloaded on your computer. They take you step by step, identifying your compliance responsibilities, thereby reducing the time it takes to analyze it. Advisors cover topics including the respiratory protection standard, lockout/tagout, and lead in construction. OSHA's online publications range from booklets that provide an overview of the regulation to PowerPoint presentations for training. Their content can be downloaded or cut and pasted into a software program of your choice, then edited for your needs. This reduces the time needed to compose written programs or training material.

NECA has recently developed a resource, NECA Safety Expert System Software, which can greatly reduce the effort needed for compliance. It consists of applications that provide assistance with program development, record-keeping, and training. NECA Safety Expert contains over 600 pages of written programs, checklists, safety talks, and forms that you may need for compliance. The written programs, policies, and forms can be found in the menu selection "Model Documents." Safety talks, activities, and tests are provided in the selection "Training." The text in each selection may be replaced with content from OSHA or information specific to your operation.

Electrical contractors familiar with NECA's safety resources, as well as contractors looking for compliance assistance, will find that NECA has incorporated a number of existing written manuals into the software. NECA Safety Expert includes the following NECA sample written programs:

*Excavation Standard (Index #5062)

*Confined Space (Index #5090)

*Hand and Power Tools (Index #5094)

*Bloodborne Pathogens (Index #5095)

*Fire Safety (Index #5096)

*Fall Protection (Revised) Index #5097

*Ladder Safety (Index #5099)

*Air Power Tools (Index #5101)

*Welding and Cutting Safety (Index #5102)

*Controlling Electrical Hazards (Index #5106)

*Emergency Response (Index #5111)

*Respiratory Protection (Index #5112)

*Motor Fleet Safety (Index #5113)

*Mobile Scaffold Safety (Index #5114)

*Supervisor Guide to Safety Training (Index #5028)

*Personal Protective Equipment (Index #5120)

In addition, NECA has provided the NECA Project Safety & Loss Control Manual and Risk Management & Insurance Manual (Index #8104) in the software, readily available in Word, WordPerfect, or ASCII formats.

To assist with record-keeping responsibilities, the NECA Safety Expert provides databases and reports. More than 111 different reports can be generated from the databases, which help track training, equipment, injuries and illnesses, and medical evaluations, amongst others. The queries for the reports allow you to view individual or group activity. For example, you may select and print a report for all the training received by an individual or all the individuals trained in a particular subject, such as lockout..

Whether it's reports needed to identify common injuries and track training or modifying an entire written program, computers can reduce your load. By keeping an electronic version of your company safety program and records you reduce the duplication of data entry and prevent the loss of company information. For more information on the availability of the NECA Safety Expert system software, contact David Potts, NECA, at 301-657-3110. Technical questions on the software should be referred to INTEC at 800-745-4818.

O'CONNOR is with INTEC, a Waverly, Pa., company that produces safety manuals with training videos and software for contractors. Based in Alexandria, Va., he can be reached at (703) 628-4326, or by e-mail at joconnor@intecweb.com.