Opinion

What Are OSHA’s Top Safety Violations?

Opinion

By Associated Industries of Massachusetts

Employers often call the Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) Employer Hotline to ask what happens when an inspector from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) comes to their job site. While every workplace is unique, OSHA’s list of top 10 workplace safety violations provides an insight about what the inspectors are looking for.

Read the list and ask yourself: “would OSHA find any of these to be a problem if they inspected my workplace?”

The OSHA workplace violations list for FY2016 drew on information obtained from about 32,000 inspections of workplaces by federal OSHA staff. The categories on the list rarely change. OSHA inspectors see thousands of the same on-the-job hazards year after year. OSHA also notes that more than 4,500 workers are killed on the job every year, and about 3 million workers are injured.

The top 10 are:

1. Fall protection. Fatalities continue to plague the construction industry. OSHA’s data shows that 39.9% of deaths in the industry are fall-related, yet this category continues to be the most common violation found every year. Roofing, framing, and home contractors were the most cited employers. Employers can minimize fall risks with training, stand-downs (taking a break to discuss safety risks with employees), and using OSHA’s fall-prevention campaign.

2. Hazard communication. OSHA saw numerous instances of inadequate training, lack of updated data sheets, and not having a program to address hazard chemical exposure.

3. Scaffolds. Fall protection and scaffolding go hand-in-hand. Framing, roofing, siding, and masonry contractors were among the most commonly cited employers for this violation. Improper assembly and access to scaffolding were often noted.

4. Respiratory protection. Companies were cited after employees wore respirators but were not medically evaluated, were put in situations with overexposure to contaminants, or were not properly fit-tested for respiratory protection. Protection is essential for preventing long-term and sometimes fatal health problems associated with breathing in asbestos, silica, or other toxic substances.

5. Lockout/tagout. The top three instances for which companies were given citations for improper lockout/tagout were employees not trained in proper lockout/tagout procedures, lockout/tagout procedures were nonexistent, and employers failing to perform periodic inspections of lockout/tagout procedures. OSHA reported that proper lockout/tagout procedures make certain that machines are powered off and cannot be turned on, reducing the risk of workplace death.

6. Powered industrial trucks. The agency saw operators who lacked certification, were not trained on the hazards associated with the facility, and did not maintain safe use when operating the vehicle.

7. Ladders. The most common hazards associated with ladder use involved improper use of portable ladders. The ladders were not being used according to their design specifications. Injuries occurred when workers used the top rung as a step and when the ladder had a structural defect. Also, employees were not trained on proper ladder use.

8. Machine guarding. OSHA’s National Emphasis Program on Amputations is an effort to reduce the hazards associated with machine and equipment hazards. In addition to machine guarding, investigators saw machinery that was not anchored/fixed as it should be and the use of tools that cause cause hazards.

9. Electrical wiring. Investigators noted unsafe substitutes for permanent wiring and incorrect use of extension cords. They also cited employers for using inappropriate extension cords in places such as wet locations.

10. Electrical, general requirements. The most common offenses include electric equipment not installed properly or not used in accordance with recommended uses. In addition, working space around electric equipment should be unobstructed.

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