OSHA Workplace Safety Report: a Look Back at 2017

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (“OSHA”) recently released its annual workplace safety violations report for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2017.

Overall, the number of safety violations is down across the board as employers continue to focus on improving safety. Understanding where problems are likely to arise based on the violations found during fiscal year 2017 can help employers better focus their efforts to improve safety going forward.

The top ten (10) sited violations as recently announced by OSHA are as follows:

  1. Fall protection. There were 6,072 fall protection violations in the construction industry. While the number of “falls” dropped by more than 12% from 2016, this is critical for employers to give heightened attention to in the next year. See Item 9 below.
  2. Hazardous communication. OSHA found 4,176 violations in 2017. Employers who use hazardous chemicals must have a written hazardous communication program, are required to label all containers, provide safety data sheets, and train employees. The failure to comply results in violations.
  3. Scaffolding. There were 3,288 scaffolding violations in the construction industry, which is down by more than 15% from 2016. Safety violations here include issues with scaffolding construction, employee access to scaffolding surfaces and lack of guardrails.
  4. Respiratory Protection. There were 3,097 violations in 2017. Violations in this category include failing to have a written respiratory protection program and failing to conduct required medical exams for workers who use respirators.
  5. Lockout/Tagout. Lockout/tagout producers are meant to safeguard employees when machinery starts up unexpectedly or when hazardous energy is released during maintenance activities. Failing to train workers or to conduct periodic inspections accounts for many of the 2,877 violations found in 2017.
  6. Ladders. Improper use of ladders resulted in 2,241 citations in 2017.
  7. Power and Industrial Trucks. Forklift drivers must be trained, certified and re-evaluated every three (3) years. Improper forklift use and training account for many violations. There were 2,162 violations in 2017.
  8. Machine Guarding. There were 1,933 violations in 2017. Machine guarding protects workers from point of operation hazards and dangers caused by ingoing nip points, rotating parts, flying chips and sparks. Point of operation hazards account for most violations.
  9. Fall Protection Training Requirements. There were 1,523 fall protection training violations in 2017 which was the one category where there was an increase in the number of violations over 2016.
  10. Electrical Wiring Methods. Faulty electrical wiring methods accounted for 1,405 violations; frequent violations include violations improper use of extension cords.
A number of these violations relate to a lack of training. For this reason, employers must develop an effective system that ensures all employees are receiving appropriate training for the hazards they will encounter in their daily jobs, and the training is being reinforced periodically.

A recent SHRM article provided several suggested activities to improve safety and avoid violations. These are solid suggestions for businesses of all sizes who strive to maintain an accident-free work environment:

  • Hold weekly safety talks. Employers should review all applicable OSHA standards and talk to employees for about 15 minutes on one topic each week. After a year, an employer should have touched on those relevant topics at least once.
  • Post a list of safety rules and enforce them. Employers should make sure that workers are familiar with the rules and understand that violations will not be tolerated.
  • Look at OSHA 300 logs. Conduct an independent analysis for each entry to figure out the root cause of the incidents and ways to eliminate future risks.
  • Investigations. Perform an accident investigation and a root cause analysis for near misses as well. These are incidents that could have easily resulted in a serious injury but did not.

When workplace safety issues, worker’s compensation concerns, or related employment issues arise in the construction industry or in other sectors, Gentry Locke has broad experience to help. Please contact attorneys in our Construction, Employment or Worker’s Compensation groups as appropriate.

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