Construction employers are fined millions of dollars each year for OSHA violations. The citations that result in fines are often overlooked by supervisors. Although employees usually receive generic information about OSHA standards in most workplaces, it's important to implement training procedures that make OSHA's rules clear.
Both employees and employers should be aware of the penalties. To make the workplace more efficient and reduce OSHA penalty risks, consider the following changes.
1. Provide Ergonomic Support. Companies that find ways to prevent repetitive motion disorders help avoid penalties and citations from OSHA. Another benefit these employers may realize is a lower workers' compensation premium. The best way to implement one of these low-cost changes is to analyze how workers perform tasks, look for strain reduction techniques and implement new changes. Focus on strain reduction techniques for backs, necks and joints.
2. Keep Better Records. Good documentation is one of the best ways to avoid OSHA penalties. When OSHA inspectors note gaps in the 300 log, they usually implement a full safety audit. If there are log deficiencies in the past few years, be sure to invest the necessary time to fix them. Employee files and workers' compensation records can usually supply the missing information.
3. Implement A Disaster Plan. It's important to have an effective plan. Earthquakes, hurricanes, fires, pandemics and terrorist attacks in history have taught businesses and individuals that preparedness is the key to surviving any disaster. Be sure that all emergency disaster plans include the following:
Safe building evacuation procedures;
Training for employees regarding what to do during emergencies;
Proper sanitation and hygiene procedures;
Arranging for business operation from remote locations;
Stocking emergency supplies, food and first-aid kits; and
Communication methods and procedures for customers, vendors and families.
4. Remedy Routine Violations. Some of the most costly safety violations are easy and cheap to correct. The following violations result in costly fines but are easy to fix:
Exits that are partially or fully blocked.
Dirty or hazardous work areas due to poor housekeeping.
Lack of goggles, gloves, covers and other required safety equipment.
Flammable and dangerous materials that are stored improperly.
Although these are simple problems to prevent initially, they're on a list of the most common OSHA violations and are often easy to overlook. It's important to implement procedures and checklists to ensure they're never an issue.
5. Consider Safety As A Profit Instead Of A Cost. The cost of implementing and maintaining proper safety procedures can be viewed as a profit or a cost. Those who view it as a cost are more likely to find themselves with a handful of OSHA citations. They may also find that those citations are far more expensive than the cost of preventing the problems. Employers who view the safety standards as a profit are more likely to implement strict procedures and have a good system for maintaining them. The small cost of keeping safety procedures in operation is considered a wise investment.
Another important issue to consider is that insurance doesn't always cover the cost of workplace accidents that result from employee negligence. Most OSHA standards are in place to prevent negligence. With that thought in mind, it's important to remember that any accident resulting from failure to comply with OSHA may not be covered by insurance. This is another good reason to follow the standards set by the federal agency. Your insurance agency can answer questions about your workplace insurance policies and the specifics of what is covered.
OSHA Fatal Facts
This list illustrates some of the ways accidents can happen. They describe actual fatalities reported to OSHA, along with the type of operation involved. They were selected by OSHA "as being representative of fatalities caused by improper work practices."
Fall from a different level (demolition contractor)
Struck by nail (general contractor)
Explosion (removal/ installation/ junking of gasoline pumps and underground tanks)
Struck by collapsing crane boom (general contractor)
Caught in or between objects (street paving contractor)
Fall from elevation (painting contractor)
Crushed by falling wall (demolition)
Struck by falling object (transmission tower construction)
Trench cave-in (pipe laying)
Crushed by falling machinery (general contractor)
Electrocution (wet ground, remodeling)
Fall from elevation (exterior renovation)
Collapse of shoring (boring and pipe jacking excavation)
Fall from a different level (painting contractor)
Crushed by dump truck body (general contractor)
Fall from elevation (plumbing contractor)
Electrocution (steel erection)
Caught by rotating part (telephone line installation)
Crushing (paving contractor, bulldozer tipped over in snowy conditions)
Fall from elevation (mason contractor)
Fall from roof (painting contractor)
Cave-in installing pipe in a trench 3 feet wide and 12-15 feet deep (excavator)
Fall from tower (painting contractor)
Fall from six-inch plank laid between two adjacent I-beams (general contractor)
Fire/ explosion (installing water line)
Fall through stairwell (general contractor)
Fall through scaffolding (masonry contractor)
Electrocution (power line work)
Fall from tubular welded frame scaffold (general contractor)
Electrocution (electrical contractor)
Cave-in (trenching and excavation)
Falling from excavator bucket (plumbing contractor)
Electrocution (geothermal engineering core)
Caught in machinery (well drilling)
Struck by timber, which was struck by a falling piece of equipment (road construction)
Asphyxiation (sandblasting/ painting contractor)
Crushed by steel beam (installation of power plant equipment)
Caught in or between front-end loader (highway, street construction)
Asphyxiation (boring, jacking in a 21-foot deep manhole)
Electrocution (chain link fence construction below 7200-volt energized power line)
Trench cave-in (mechanical contractor)
Fall from elevation (masonry contractor)
Fall 24 feet from elevation while connecting X-braces at the end of bar joists (steel erector)
Electrocution (telephone pole setting)
Crushing while digging trench for new sewer line using a backhoe (trenching and excavation)
Fall from elevation (pouring concrete)
Fall from elevation (construction demolition)
Struck by nail fired by another employee on the other side of a wall (remodeling)
Electrical shock (masonry contractor)
Caught between backhoe superstructure and concrete wall
Struck by a pound piece of grain spout (construction maintenance)
Cave-in while hand grading the bottom of a 9-foot deep trench (general contractor)
Explosion of a 55,000 gallon oil storage tank (structural steel erection)
Fall more than 50 feet from roof (construction roofing)
Trench cave-in (sewer line connection)
Fall from scaffold around water tank (sandblasting)
Electrocution (window shutter installers)
Fall and drowning (bridge construction)
Struck by falling brick wall (trenching)
Electrocution (installing and troubleshooting overhead lamps)
Trench collapse where there were no exit ladders or protective system (excavation work)
Fall (structural steel, erecting I-beams 54 feet above ground)
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