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Fall Protection Tops List of OSHA Violations

The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently issued its list of top 10 workplace safety violations for the fiscal year 2017, a list that rarely changes from one year to the next. 
 
The one change this year is the appearance of “Fall Protection – Training Requirements” at number nine. The category of Electrical, General Requirements, fell off the top 10 list.
 
The list gives employers an indication of what OSHA inspectors are looking for when doing on-site inspections. Employers would do well to look at their own workplaces and pose the question, “Would OSHA find any of these to be a problem if it inspected my workplace?”
 
OSHA noted that more than 4,500 workers are killed on the job every year, and about three million workers are injured. 
 
The top 10:
 
Fall protection (construction)- 6,072 violations cited. OSHA's data shows that 39.9 percent of deaths in the industry are fall-related, yet this citation continues to be at the top of most common violation list every year. Frequently violated requirements include unprotected edges and open sides in residential construction and failure to provide fall protection on low-slope roofs. Roofing, framing and single-family contractors were the most cited employers. Employers can take steps to address this problem by training, stand-downs and using OSHA's Fall Prevention campaign.  More information is available here.
 
Hazard communication - 4,176 violations cited. Not having a hazard communication program topped the violations, followed by not having or not providing access to safety data sheets. During investigations, OSHA saw numerous instances of inadequate training, lack of updated data sheets and not having a program to address hazard chemical exposure. More information is available here.
 
Scaffolds - 3,288 violations cited. Frequent violations include improper access to surfaces and lack of guardrails. Framing, roofing, siding and masonry contractors were among the most commonly cited employers for this violation. Improper assembly and access to scaffolding were noted. More information is available here.
 
Respiratory protection - 3,097 violations cited. Failure to establish a respiratory protection program topped these violations, followed by failure to provide medical evaluations. 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. This protection is essential for preventing long-term and sometimes fatal health problems associated with breathing in asbestos, silica or a host of other toxic substances. More information is available here.
 
Lockout/tagout - 2,877 violations cited. The top three instances where companies were given citations for improper lockout/tagout were: OSHA reported that one of the key benefits of proper lockout/tagout procedures is to make certain that machines are powered off and cannot be turned on while someone is working on them, reducing the risk of workplace death. More information is available here
 
Powered industrial trucks - 2,162 violations cited. Violations included inadequate worker training and refresher training. The agency encountered many operators who lacked certification, were not trained on the hazards associated with the facility and workers who did not maintain safe use when operating the vehicle. More information is available here.
 
Ladders - 2,241 violations cited. The most common hazards associated with ladder use involved the 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. More information is available here.
 
Machine guarding - 1,933 violations cited. Exposure to points of operation topped these violations OSHA's National Emphasis Program on Amputations is an effort on the agency's part 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 to operate machinery which causes hazards. More information is available here
 
Fall Protection—training requirements 1,523 violations cited. Common violations include failure to train workers in identifying fall hazards and proper use of fall protection equipment. More information is available here.
 
Electrical wiring - 1,405 violations cited. Violations of this standard were found in most general industry sectors, including food and beverage, retail, and manufacturing. 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. The most common violations included electric equipment not installed properly or used in accordance with recommended uses. In addition, working space around electric equipment should be unobstructed. More information is available here
 
While this serves as a useful checklist and resource reference for any employer interested in a self-audit, there are other resources available to help identify and correct problems. They include asking your workers compensation insurance carrier to do an on-site safety inspection, the OSHA On-site Consultation Program, and the Massachusetts OSHA on-site consultation program.

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