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In early October, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration released a list of the top 10 most-cited workplace safety violations during the last 12 months. At the top of the list was fall protection, followed by hazard communication, scaffolding and respiratory protection.
Fall protection, which was cited 8,241 times, involves mechanisms to protect workers from injury due to dangerous heights. OSHA requires the installation of guardrails wherever elevation poses a threat to workers. Under some circumstances, mechanisms like harnesses and safety nets are also required.
Hazard communication, cited 6,156 times, contains a wide list of OSHA standards intended to protect workers from hazardous chemicals. This includes proper labeling of chemicals, as well as training and education of workers who are exposed to these substances. Manufacturers of chemicals are also required to evaluate hazards prior to shipment and to produce labels and safety data sheets for their customers to observe.
In workplaces where unexpected release of chemicals poses a threat, employees must be trained to use toxic gas detector equipment or continuous detecting equipment must be installed to keep workers safe.
Results similar to 2012 list
The top four violations of 2013 mirrored those cited in 2012. Wiring methods and powered industrial trucks, which took the fifth and sixth spots in 2013, came in at eighth and seventh spots respectively in 2012.
One very noticeable difference between the two years was the number of violations. In 2013 about 1,000 more citations were issued in each category. A press release that explains the data will be issued at the end of the year.
The full report in 2012 featured the data, an exploratory interview and a list of the year's largest fines. The publicity, explains Patrick Kapust, deputy director of enforcement programs, is intended to raise awareness of safety standards.
"Because OSHA can only reach a small number of workplaces in the country every year, the information contained in press releases serves an important educational and deterrent purpose for other companies in the same industry and geographical area," Kapust said.
Topping the 2012 list of fines was $1.01 million to Piping Technology and Products Inc, for exposing its "workers who operate band saws and other dangerous machinery to amputation hazards," explained administrator Dave Michaels, "while misleading OSHA investigators about the use of these machines."
Following was a $758,450 fine to All-Feed Processing & Packaging Inc., for, among many other violations, failing to prevent dust accumulation even after similar issues caused a 2009 explosion. Tribe Mediterranean Foods followed on the list of top offenders after improper safety training led to the death of an employee.
"The employer knew it needed to train these workers so they could protect themselves against just this type of hazard but failed to do so," Michaels said. "The result was a needless and avoidable loss of life."
OSHA emphasized that all fines are proposed and have not yet been enforced. Financial penalties may reduced if the offending companies reach a settlement with OSHA.
Industrial Safety News brought to you by Safety Systems Technology, Inc., leaders in fire and gas detection.