June 24, 2014 | Frank MacDonald |

The Top 10 Ways to Avoid OSHA Violations

As much as employers want to create a safe environment for their workers, no one wants a visit from OSHA.

OSHA violations can set a company back thousands of dollars, not to mention generate bad press and a high risk to workers.

Efficient and compliant businesses are not only safe, they are profitable to a business and can actually help save money.

osha inspection

In order for OSHA, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, to ensure and enforce their regulations, companies must abide by their safety standards.

In turn, employers must be aware of them. Every year, OSHA publishes a list of their top cited violations. Here are some of those violations and how to avoid them.


1. Establish a Prevention Plan:

Fall protection is OSHA’s top violation and they take it very seriously.

Falls are one of the most common causes of work-related injuries and deaths.

It is an employer’s responsibility to ensure that a workplace can prevent falls from platforms, workstations or into holes in walls and floors.

Luckily, there are several things that can be done to ensure a safer work environment.

Consider all situations in which employees could injure themselves. Ensure that every floor hole is guarded with a railing, toe-board or a floor hole cover.

Provide a toe-board and guardrail around every elevated platform, runway or floor. It is the responsibility of an employer to provide the safe guards to prevent falls and injuries.

OSHA violations


2. Educate Workers About Chemicals:

Since chemicals pose a wide range of health and physical hazards, it is an employer’s responsibility to communicate the risks of working with chemicals.

OSHA issued 6,556 violations based on Hazard Communication last year, all employers with hazardous chemicals in their workplaces must prepare and implement a written hazard communication program including properly labeling containers, providing access to MSDS sheets for employees and an effective training program for hazardous chemicals.

With OSHA’s Hazardous Communication Standards, people are given the right to know the identities and hazards of the chemicals found in the workplace. 

When employees are given this information, they can effectively participate in their employer’s protective programs and protect themselves.

The Hazardous Communication Standards also provide employers with the information they need to design and implement effective programs for employees. Following these standards will help avoid visits regarding OSHA violations.


3. Build and Maintain Safe Scaffolding:

In 2009, the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries reported 54 fatalities that were caused by non-compliant scaffolds and staging.

Another study showed that 72% of workers injured in scaffolding accidents attributed the injuries to support or planking giving away or the employee being struck by a falling object or slipping. 

To avoid an OSHA violation, properly install and maintain scaffolding. Ensure that all scaffolding and components are inspected for defects before each work shift.

OSHA violations


4. Provide the Correct Protective Equipment:

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is a type of equipment worn to protect an employee from exposure to serious illnesses and injuries.

All PPE should well constructed and regularly maintained and cleaned. Having protective equipment that is comfortable and fits well will also encourage workers to use it.

When implementing your program, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the standards in addition to addressing present hazards, the selection and use of PPE, the training of employees with it and monitor the program.


5. Provide Respiratory Protection:

In 1.3 million workplaces around the United States, it is estimated that around five million workers are required to wear respirators.

These respirators protect workers against harmful environments such as fogs, dusts, insufficient oxygen environments, mists, sprays, vapors, smokes and gases.

Those companies compliant with OSHA’s regulations can help prevent thousands of illnesses and hundreds of deaths.

There are two basic types of respirators:

  1. The first type removes contaminates from the air. Within this type of respirator are air-purifying respirators and particulate respirators.
  2. Other types of respirators protect the employee by providing clean air from another source.
  3. Supplying workers with adequate respiratory protection in accordance with OSHA standards is just one way to avoid a visit from OSHA.


    6. Implement and Teach Safe Electrical Practices:

    Electricity, for obvious reasons, is one of the workplace’s most serious hazards.

    The electrical standards set by OSHA are designed to help protect employees from hazards such as electrocution, electric shock, explosions and fires.

    Violations that fall under this category are problems with flexible cords and cables, temporary wiring, boxes, extension cord problems and temporary wiring used as permanent wiring.

    In regards to electrical safety, it is important to educate all workers on the issues associated with poor electrical safety in the workplace.

    Teach workers the various types of electrical hazards such as electrical shocks and fault current. Workers must be able to not only notice a problem, but prevent potential hazards as well.


    7. Educate and Train Forklift Drivers:

    There are different types of forklifts and each one presents a different set of hazards.

    A sit-down high-lift driven by a rider has more of a risk to be involved in an accident because the truck can lift more weight and perform more functions than a simple hand truck.

    Other hazards include driving a forklift off a loading dock, falling while on elevated tines and pallets and employees being struck by a forklift.

    It is important to ensure that all forklift drivers are properly trained and certified.

    It is an OSHA violation for anyone under the age of 18 to drive a forklift.

    The type of safety that is taught and practiced depends on the type of truck being operated and the type of industry in which it is being used.

    It is important to inspect powered industrial trucks before each work shift and at least daily. Remove any trucks or equipment that needs repairs promptly.

    OSHA violations


    8. Practice Ladder Safety:

    In 2013, OSHA issued 3,524 ladder violations. Like many other OSHA violations, ladders can be dangerous if used inappropriately.

    Some of the most common OSHA violations include using an inappropriate ladder, damaged side rails, use of the top ladder step and excessive loads on ladders.

    When using a ladder in the workplace, choose the right ladder for the job. Read and follow all warnings and labels on the ladder.

    Examine the ladder for any damages or weaknesses. Inspect and look for electrical hazards including overhead power lines.

    Do not use a metal ladder around power lines or any exposed electrical equipment. Make sure the ladder is free from any slippery material and only use the ladder on a stable surface. Avoid moving or shifting a ladder when someone is on the ladder.

    An extension ladder being used on a high surface must extend for at least one meter beyond the area of support.

    Do not stand on the top three rungs of an extension or straight ladder. Ensure that all locks are properly engaged and do not exceed the maximum load of a ladder.


    9. Control Hazardous Energy:

    Also known as Lockout/Tagout, violations in this group include poor or no energy control procedures, incomplete inspections and inadequate worker training.

    Sources of energy in a workplace include mechanical, pneumatic, electrical, thermal and hydraulic. These sources of energy in machines can be hazardous to workers.

    While servicing and maintaining equipment and machines, the unexpected release of stored energy could cause injury to employees.

    It is estimated that failure to control hazardous energy is the cause for nearly 10 percent of serious accidents in many industries.

    The OSHA standard for the Control of Hazardous Energy outlines measures for controlling different types of hazardous energy.

    To prevent this OSHA violation, educate and train all employees who are authorized to lockout machines.

    Those who perform the service and maintenance operations need to be trained of the various hazards in the workplace.

    Training should also include specific procedures relating to tagout systems. All employees should be retrained of new procedures and methods once they are released.


    10. Practice Proper Machine Guarding:

    Moving machine parts are some of the most dangerous hazards in any industry.

    They have the potential to cause severe injuries such as crushed hands or fingers, burns, amputations or blindness. When working with machines, safeguards are an essential form of protection from these preventable injuries.

    OSHA’s standard states that any machine part, function, or process that can cause injury must be safeguarded. If an injury occurs, the hazard must be eliminated or controlled.

    Frequent violations falling under this category are improperly anchored fixed machinery and exposure to blades. To avoid a visit from OSHA, ensure that all machines are properly guarded paying special exception to in-going nip points, rotating parts, blades and exposed points of entry.


    (Bonus) Be Proactive:

    While there are plenty of OSHA violations in a variety of industries, one of the most effective ways to prevent citations is to be compliant.

    Read and follow every OSHA regulation relating to your business.

    Conduct reviews and self-audits on a regular basis and correct hazards immediately. During this process, keep records of all documents.

    When problems are identified, assign responsibilities for fixing the problem. Discipline any worker breaking the rules and don’t allow for any wiggle room.

    Some violations are routine and can be easily corrected such as poor housekeeping, blocked exits and lack of protective equipment. If not fixed and corrected, these small problems can easily add up to be larger problems down the road.

    Monitor every step of the audits and ensure that they are conducted completely. Any identified but uncorrected hazard could be proof to OSHA that there was knowledge of a problem but nothing was done to fix it. Good documentation is one of the first defenses against an OSHA violation.

    If an OSHA inspector finds gaps or inconsistencies in logs, there may be grounds for a full-scale inspection and safety audit of a business. Correct any inconsistencies in logs within the past three to five years and focus on workers’ compensation and personnel files.

    In most cases, OSHA will not show up to a company unless there was a complaint, injury or fatality. OSHA ranks complaints in order of harm. Workplaces that could cause imminent danger situations or fatalities and catastrophes are most likely to be visited first. Being prepared and following regulations and standards will help prevent visits from OSHA.

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    Frank MacDonald
    About Frank MacDonald