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A new study from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) estimates that over half of noise-exposed workers didn’t use hearing protection “always” or “usually” when exposed to hazardous occupational noise. Hearing protection device (HPD) non-use was only measured in workers who reported exposure to noise on the job. The study was published online October 1, 2021 in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine.

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Our last blog, OSHA’s Top Ten Most Frequently Cited Workplace Safety Standards for 2021, covered what OSHA calls the top ten serious violations for the fiscal year 2021. This list is defined by OSHA as “one in which there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result, and the employer knew or should have known of the hazard.”

There is another OSHA top ten list we don’t hear as much about, but is actually considered the most serious of violations – the Top 10 “Willful” Violations. A willful violation occurs when an employer intentionally disregards OSHA’s rules and regulations or has an indifference to employee health and safety. A willful violation is punishable by a minimum of a $5000 fine and a maximum of a $70,000 fine per violation. If there is an employee death because of a willful violation, it becomes a criminal offense and can be punishable by fines of up to $500,000 and imprisonment of up to six months.

There are three categories for willful violations:
Intentional Disregard Violations – employer was aware of the standards and regulations set by OSHA and had knowledge of the hazard but chose not to address it
Plain Indifference Violations – lack of concern for employee health and safety, which could be management knew of regulations, but failed to inform lower level supervisors or did not take preventative measures or place any importance to protect employees
Criminal Willful Violations – violations that were the result of a death that is caused by a hazardous situation

Many violations on the list are the same as the serious violations, including Fall Protection being number one as well.

Top 10 “Willful” Violations, fiscal year 2021:
1. Fall Protection – General Requirements: 155 violations
2. Machine Guarding: 27 violations
3. Personal Protective and Life Saving Equipment – Eye and Face Protection: 23 violations
4. Lockout/Tagout: 22 violations
5. Requirements for Protective Systems: 15 violations
6. OSH Act of 1970 Section: 13 violations
7. Scaffolding: 12 violations
Permit Required Confined Space: 12 violations
Grain Handling Facilities: 12 violations
10. Personal Protective and Life Saving Equipment – Head Protection: 8 violations

On November 4, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released its much-anticipated mandate-or-test workplace vaccine emergency rule (“the Rule”). The Rule requires employers with 100 or more employees to either mandate covered employees be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or require covered employees that are not fully vaccinated to test for COVID-19 at least weekly and wear a face covering. The Rule went into effect immediately on November 5 with employers expected to comply by no later than January 4, but implementation has since been halted due to pending legal challenges.

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Tagged in: covid OSHA

It’s a new year, but one thing that will most likely stay pretty much the same is OSHA’s top 10 most frequently cited workplace safety standards as they did in 2021. Fall protection continues to remain at the top of the list – 11 years running. Followed by respiratory protection and ladders. One big change is hazard communication, which has been #2 for the past several years, but moved to #5 on this year’s list.

Here’s the list in entirety for 2021 with OSHA standard number and the total number of violations for the year and a description of each:

1. Fall protection—General requirements (1926.501): 5,295 violations
- Standard outlines where fall protection is required, which systems are appropriate for given situations, the proper construction and installation of safety systems, and the proper supervision of employees to prevent falls. It’s designed to protect employees on walking/working surfaces with an unprotected side or edge above six feet.

2. Respiratory protection (1910.134): 2,527 violations
- Standard directs employers on establishing or maintaining a respiratory protection program. It lists requirements for program administration; worksite-specific procedures; respirator selection; employee training; fit testing; medical evaluation; respirator use; and respirator cleaning, maintenance and repair.

3. Ladders (1926.1053): 2,026 violations
- Standard covers general requirements for all ladders.

4. Scaffolding (1926.451): 1,948 violations
- Standard covers general safety requirements for scaffolding, which should be designed by a qualified person and constructed and loaded in accordance with that design. Employers are bound to protect construction workers from falls and falling objects while working on or near scaffolding at heights of 10 feet or higher.

5. Hazard communication (1910.1200): 1,947 violations
- Standard addresses chemical hazards – both those chemicals produced in the workplace and those imported into the workplace. It also governs the communication of those hazards to workers.

6. Lockout/tagout (1910.147): 1,698 violations
- Standard outlines minimum performance requirements for the control of hazardous energy during servicing and maintenance of machines and equipment.

7. Fall protection—Training requirements (1926.503): 1,666 violations
- Standard addresses training requirements for employers in regard to fall protection.

8. Personal protective and lifesaving equipment—Eye and face protection (1926.102): 1,452 violations
- Standard addresses appropriate personal protective equipment for workers exposed to eye or face hazards, such as flying particles and chemical gases or vapors.

9. Powered industrial trucks (1910.178): 1,420 violations
- Standard covers the design, maintenance and operation of powered industrial trucks, including forklifts and motorized hand trucks. It also covers operator training requirements.

10. Machine guarding (1910.212): 1,113 violations
- Standard covers guarding of machinery to protect operators and other employees from hazards, including those created by point of operation, ingoing nip points, rotating parts, flying chips and sparks.

Tagged in: OSHA osha standards

Severe weather is just around the corner as we head into the colder winter months. Even though OSHA may not have specific standards covering working in cold environments, employers have a responsibility to provide their employees a safe working environment, including winter weather related hazards, which could cause or likely to cause death or serious physical harm. Offering training on cold stress and other winter weather related hazards they may be exposed to is important for workplace safety, as well as implementing safe workplace practices. Here are some practices to keep in mind:

  • Cold Stress
    • Recognizing the symptoms of cold stress and preventing cold stress injuries and illnesses
    • Importance of monitoring both yourself and your coworkers for symptoms
    • Applying first aid and knowing when to call for medical emergencies
    • Knowing the proper clothing for cold, wet and windy conditions
  • Recognizing other winter weather hazards, including but not limited to slippery surfaces, windy conditions, and even downed power lines, and how workers will be protected:
    • Engineering controls, including radiant heaters, de-icing materials
    • Implementing safe work practices, including, but not limited to providing the proper tools and equipment, developing work plans to identify potential hazards and safety measures to protect workers, providing warm areas for use during breaks, acclimating new workers or those returning after time away to the cold weather work, and monitoring weather conditions and employees who are at risk for cold stress and having a way to contact them
    • Consider providing protective clothing, such as winter coats and gloves, and educating your employees on the importance of dressing properly
      • Wear at least three layers of loose fitting clothing for better insulation
      • No tight clothing as it restricts blood circulation, which helps warm blood to circulate to their extremities
      • Hat, mask, insulated gloves and waterproof boots to top it off!

Implementing these practices can help keep your employees safe (and warm) this winter!

Tagged in: winter safety tips

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