OSHA safety regulations were created to protect workers from dangerous workplace conditions while also keeping employers informed of best practices. Handy safety guidelines and suggestions published by OSHA have potentially saved tens of millions of lives.
Despite these efforts, some workplaces continue to engage in habits that put their employees in danger. Part I of this post covered how electrical systems, machinery guards and ladder usage all make up some of the most commonly-seen OSHA violations during inspections. Here are even more common and dangerous violations that make up number six through number one of the most egregious practices OSHA regularly sees:
OSHA Common Violations
Lockout/tagout physically prevents unauthorized users from interacting with systems and equipment that they should not be. More importantly, lockout/tagout prevents authorized users from activating equipment or systems that could cause injury to fellow employees performing maintenance.
Prior to the procedure’s inception, maintenance on equipment or activities in the “line of fire” of systems like electrical or heavy machinery could be a gamble. In the midst of repairs or inspections, some employee who was blissfully unaware would activate the machinery and risk seriously injuring or even killing the maintenance worker.
Now, locks that require multiple keys from supervisors and other personnel are applied to prevent such incidents. Where locks cannot be used, tags visibly display cautions not to tamper with the system or equipment until further notice. OSHA often finds workplaces cutting corners when it comes to this procedure, which is a serious risk-taking habit.
#5 Industrial Trucks
Forklifts, motorized hand trucks, pallet trucks and other heavy machinery are so commonplace in some industries that operators or employees working close by forget about the danger they present.
One out of every six workplace fatalities were caused by or related to forklifts. 25 percent of these deaths occurred in the construction industry. Keep workers aware of the dangers with posted signage and consistent practices that reduce risk.
#4 Respiratory Protection
Many industries encounter harmful vapors, fumes or gases as a part of regular activities. Even more have dust, silica and other types of particulate matter that can drift through the air and get trapped by soft lung tissue. Over time, even the most harmless-seeming substances can cause permanent damage to respiratory systems. Workers must have proper ventilation and use face masks or NIOSH-certified respirators as the situation calls for them.
Scaffolding assemblies are, by nature, temporary. This quality can make them unstable and dangerous if improperly assembled or secured. Collapsed scaffolding along with falling materials can create significant injuries or even kill workers who happened to be unfortunate enough to stand in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Follow best practices for all scaffolding assemblies, especially if the structure raises higher than 10 feet.
#2 Hazard Communication
Sometimes the problem is less the workplace practices or systems themselves as much as employees not being adequately informed. Clear, visible signage must be posted near any hazards to prevent someone from unknowingly entering into a dangerous situation or triggering a deadly series of events. All workplace hazards must be marked by distinct signage, and some systems would benefit from more explicit instructions or precaution information posted nearby.
Falls are by far the most common source of workplace fatalities. Whether they are the result of improper practices or dangerous conditions, hundreds of falls occur every year that workers never get up from. In 2013 alone, 302 out of the total 828 workplace deaths were related to falls according to OSHA.
Follow practices for working in environments such as catwalks, roofing, utility pole climbing, ladder usage, scaffolding and general high altitude projects. The only way to be certain that a worker will not have a deadly fall is to secure them with a harness system attached to a strong lifeline. Keep your workers safe and keep their feet firmly planted to eliminate this all-too-common hazard.
Workplaces and job sites that are aware of these typical issues and compliance violations can take steps to make their operations safer for everyone involved. Review OSHA regulations and follow all safety guidelines. As mentioned in Part I of this post, you can also hire a workplace safety consultant to evaluate your work site for hazards and prevent problems before they have dire consequences. Also ensure that your company carries adequate workers’ compensation insurance to have their medical costs covered no matter what it takes.