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The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was created in 1971 as a means to reduce the amount of injuries occurring in the workplace. Prior to OSHA’s formation, there was little to no oversight of workplace safety conditions. Industrial workers, construction workers and other trade workers were subjected to precarious and often patently dangerous situations as a standard part of their work duties. Millions died in horrific accidents as a result of lax or inconsistent workplace safety procedures.

Now, thankfully, OSHA has our workers’ backs. They protect workers from entering a situation that will be likely to cause them great harm, and they help employers become more aware of safety issues that can easily give rise to deadly scenarios.

OSHA’s standards have made employers in all industries more aware of how an innocent-seeming or even commonplace workplace habit can be problematic to worker safety. Yet, OSHA inspections year in and year out still find work sites that are out of compliance. Here are the most common problems OSHA finds when they visit job sites and how you can avoid them:

#10 Electrical Systems

Electric shocks are often an invisible adversary. Workers may be confident that what they are doing will be perfectly safe, only to feel a sudden jolt shoot through their bodies.

Even a small amount of current can have an impact. With a 60 Hz AC current line, 16 mA is all it takes to jolt someone strongly enough that their muscles freeze and they cannot let go of the line. At 30-40 mA severe burns can occur as well as internal organ damage. 100 mA would be enough to kill any grown adult.

Prevent these incidents by ensuring that all electrical systems are properly shielded. Workers engaging directly with live voltage must wear insulated gear. Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) devices should be installed in the event of a short.

#9 Machine Guarding

Heavy machinery can easily mangle, maim and kill. While almost every worker is smart enough to be aware of the dangers, not all of them can predict just how quickly and easily a machine can grab onto a body part or article of loose clothing and pull someone towards it.

All workplace machines should be separated from the workspaces of unauthorized employees with adequate guard measures. Machines not in use must be secured properly, and machines with moving parts must have measures to prevent accidental intrusion. Heavy construction equipment teams must communicate perfectly so that nearby workers will not be in harm’s way should an accident occur.

#8 Electrical Wiring

More so than the systems themselves, electrical wiring can present serious dangers. Lines must be properly connected, grounded and insulated. All electric lines should also be inspected for integrity periodically and replaced as needed. Voltmeters can help test whether lines are live before severing or interacting with them.

#7 Ladders

Ladders are extremely useful in a pinch, but that convenient utility can often lead to carelessness. Always ensure that load limits are being heeded. Equipment like rolling ladders, stepladders and step stools should be properly secured before use. Follow best practices for extension ladders when it comes to placement and angle.

Part II of this post will cover the most common hazards OSHA encounters, including oft-cited violations that can crush, suffocate or burn. Review the standards for your industry and hire a workplace safety consultant if you feel like you need an extra set of eyes and ears to watch out for easy-to-miss violations. Carry workers’ compensation to protect your workers should an injury actually occur so that anyone who has served you well will get taken care of, no matter the cost.

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