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Thursday, April 7, 2011

OSHA's Top Ten for 2010

Top 10 Most Frequently Cited Standards
for Fiscal 2010 (Oct. 1, 2009 to Sept. 30, 2010)

The following is a list of the top 10 most frequently cited standards following inspections of worksites by federal OSHA. OSHA publishes this list to alert employers about these commonly cited standards so they can take steps to find and fix recognized hazards addressed in these and other standards before OSHA shows up. Far too many preventable injuries and illnesses occur in the workplace.

1. Scaffolding, general requirements (29 CFR 1926.451)

2. Fall protection, (29 CFR 1926.501) 

3. Hazard communication standard, (29 CFR 1910.1200) 

4. Ladders, (29 CFR 1926.1053) 

5. Respiratory protection, (29 CFR 1910.134)

6. Control of hazardous energy (lockout/tagout), (29 CFR 1910.147) 

7. Electrical, wiring methods, components and equipment, (29 CFR 1910.305) 

8. Powered industrial trucks, (29 CFR 1910.178)

9. Electrical systems design, (29 CFR 1910.303) 

10. Machines, general requirements, (29 CFR 1910.212)

The above was taken directly from the OSHA website. I'd like to discuss what this means to employers and employees.

I addressed PPE in an earlier discussion, now we need to move on to workplace safety. The employer and employee are both responsible for workplace safety. A well written safety plan is only as good as the people who follow it. Take a look above, 2 of the top 10 are electrical related and the other 8 still affect most companies. 

Scaffolding goes together like grown-up Legos or erector sets. The pieces fit together in varying configurations, mixing and matching to suit our particular needs. We can assemble them to great heights, spanning over holes or obstacles. The problem is, these systems were designed as systems, not as individual pieces to be haphazardly thrown together. They must be erected under the watchful eye of a competent person. They must be inspected daily prior to anyone climbing on them. Training your employees to properly assemble scaffolding will save your company money in the long run. OSHA fines are stiff. Lawsuits from injured workers are even stiffer. 

I touched on fall protection in an earlier post. There's really no good excuse not to use proper fall protection. There are numerous designs and systems for every application. 

Hazard communication is one that slips through the cracks all the time. MSDS sheets get forgotten or misplaced. Employees need to be taught to interpret the information contained in them. Depending on the types of materials used, you will need extra precautions to handle them safely and equipment/materials to handle an accidental exposure. Employees have the right to know what hazards they are going to be exposed to while performing their jobs. 

It seems to me that ladders would have been number 2 on the list. This is the most common infraction I encounter on every jobsite. I always see workers on the top rung or next one down. It takes too much time to find a taller ladder, or we didn't bring one with us, or I will only be up there for a minute are the excuses I hear for this. I also see workers overreaching while on ladders, which leads to them walking the ladder instead of climbing down and properly relocating the ladder. Facing backwards happens all too often. Employers drill it into employees' heads that production is the number one priority. The company needs to make a profit to stay in business and keep it's workers employed. So workers start taking shortcuts to be more productive than their competition. Why climb off the ladder when I can scoot it along or reposition the ladder when I can just spin around and finish my task quickly. The answer is "it only takes that one time for an accident to occur". There are still more ladder infractions to be counted - leaning an A-frame ladder against a wall or something else, not extending an extension ladder to the proper level above the walking platform, not tying off the top of an extension ladder, improper foundation for any ladder, and on and on. How many people actually inspect their ladders daily?

Respiratory protection should be a no-brainer. When working with dust, flyings, chemicals, or fumes wear the right respirator. Train employees to pick the right one for the application intended and how to wear them properly. Quality of life goes down when you can't breathe.

Lock-out/Tag-out has gained ground over the past 20 years. It should be slipping off the top ten list, yet it persists in making it every year. Every company should know how to implement a lock-out/tag-out program.  All government installations have banned working on live equipment, whether these rules are enforced or not depends on each individual facility. Private sector should follow suit. Facility maintenance personnel need to be educated on every aspect of lock-out/tag-out, not just their particular trade. Hydraulics, pneumatics, electrical, mechanical, etc. pose different hazards and require specialized lock-out equipment. Using the right lock-out device is critical also. Just hanging a tag up doesn't provide the level of safety required.

How much is your life worth? How much would you be willing to pay for the life of one of your employees? Employers need to spend the time and money to train their employees and employees need to pay attention during training and learn how to work safer. In construction your safety doesn't depend on just your knowledge and habits but the knowledge and practices of others on the jobsite. What if the crane operator didn't follow the hand signals and swung the load into a group of workers not associated with his lifting operation? Being alert and keeping up to date with training will insure that we all get to go home at the end of the day. 

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