This fall, OSHA released a list of top safety violations for 2017 at the National Safety Council’s Congress & Expo. The final list was published in Safety+Health magazine last month. The agency releases the list so that businesses can address common problems and develop plans for accident prevention.
Topping the list — as it has since 2010 — is fall protection, and a new addition to the list are violations for fall protection training requirements. Seems like a pretty good sign that it’s time to pay extra attention to keeping your employees on their feet in 2018!
The number of violations issued this year and statute information is via Safety+Health magazine.
These citations mean that a business hasn’t put fall protections in place that adhere to OSHA regulations in 29 CFR 1926.501. Essentially, this section of the CFR requires employers to protect employees from falls of six feet or more. The law specifies specific measures that can be taken to be compliant, depending on the kind of fall risk that’s present. Those measures include installing guardrails around an excavation area or fitting employees with harnesses when they’re on a roof. Falling poses a high risk of injury and is one of the leading causes of death in construction — make fall protection a priority.
29 CFR 1910.1200 details employers’ responsibility to notify employees of chemical hazards and protection methods. Chemical containers need to be labeled and employers need to provide safety training and safety data sheets for employees. Lack of training and failing to alert employees to hazards were common reasons for citations this year.
The high number of scaffolding and fall protections violations this year is a good reason to take another look at how you’re protecting your employees when they’re in danger of falling. Workers need to be protected from falling if they’re more than ten feet above the lower level, and scaffold platforms need to “fully planked or decked” and have a supported guardrail. The legs or posts of scaffolding need to be supported with a firm foundation. See 29 CFR 1926.451 for full guidelines.
The new silica dust rule took effect in September, but respiratory protection violations are no stranger to the annual top 10 safety violations list. If respirators are necessary at any time, employers need to have written safety procedures in place. Employees’ respirators need to be fit-tested and their ability to use respirators needs to be medically evaluated beforehand. 29 CFR 1910.134 details respiration safety measures and OSHA’s website is extremely helpful. Pay extra attention to respiratory safety in the coming year — the silica dust rule means there a few more regulations to follow.
29 CFR 1910.147 sets procedures for protecting employees when they’re at risk of being exposed to hazardous energy. Machines and any devices that could store potentially hazardous energy — which can be seriously harmful if it’s suddenly released — need to be de-energized and locked or tagged out. Energy-isolating devices prevent hazardous energy from being released, and a lockout device “locks” those into place while employees work on equipment, keeping it from re-energizing unexpectedly. The person who engaged the lockout device must also remove it. Employers are often cited for failing to properly train employees on lockout/tagout procedure, and for failing to develop a procedure in the first place.
Did you know that ladders have to extend three feet over the surface you’re climbing up to? If the ladder doesn’t extend that far, it needs to secured at the top. You can get cited for using the top step of a step ladder and for using the ladder for anything other than its intended purpose. Ladder violations are up this year from 2016, so it can’t hurt to take another look at 29 CFR 1926.1053 and make sure your employees are safe.
Almost half of these violations of 29 CFR 1910.178 occur because employers aren’t verifying that their drivers are properly trained and evaluated on their skills every three years. This is where a platform like ES Track can help your safety compliance — driver scorecards let you see which of your drivers are being reckless on the road. You can also avoid maintenance citations by setting alerts so you’re notified when it’s time for an oil change or new tires, before it becomes a problem.
Machine guarding refers to protections that prevent machines from harming employees. Your employees need to be protected from rotating parts and flying chips or sparks from the machines. Any exposed fan blades less than seven feet above the floor need to be fitted with a guard. If a machine is designed to stay in place, it must be secured to the floor. See 29 CFR 1910.212 for full machine guarding rules.
Looking at this list, falling is clearly one of the biggest hazards on the jobsite, so OSHA issues citations when employees aren’t properly trained to avoid it. Further, employers need to keep written certification records of employee training, showing the date of training, the employee’s signature, and the signature of the trainer or the employer. Failing to conduct this training puts employees in serious danger, so double check federal regulations and make sure you have a training program in place.
Understandably, OSHA sets some strict rules for electrical wiring. Most citations are issued for misuse of flexible cords — they can’t replace fixed wiring and can’t be spliced. If an opening is made for wiring and isn’t used, it needs to be covered. Electricity can be seriously harmful and even fatal, and sidestepping any regulations in 29 CFR 1910.305 puts your employees at risk.
On a construction jobsite, there are plenty of opportunities for safety to fall by the wayside, but it’s important to make it a priority for your business. Injured workers and OSHA citations are problems you don’t want to have, and they can be avoided with proper precautions. So keep up with changing laws, stay on top of your OSHA compliance requirements and keep your workers safe in the coming year.
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