The ten most common workplace safety violations primarily occur in construction and heavy industry and, as a result, the majority of injuries are concentrated in those economic sectors. The United States continually measures the causes of workplace injuries and deaths to strive toward ever safer work environments.
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The government has charged the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) with investigating and enforcing minimum safety standards, in conjunction with state agencies, for 130 million workers.
Occupation Safety and Health Administration
OSHA was founded in 1971 to promulgate and enforce minimum safety standards in the private sector. Although OSHA regulations can nominally bind public sector employees in certain states, OSHA enforces safety standards either directly, through federal field offices, or indirectly, through state approved plans. OSHA’s authority extends to all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, other U.S. territories and maritime borders.
State approved plans are monitored and supervised by OSHA but run by the individual state. OSHA provides up to 50 percent of the funding for each state approved plan agency. Illinois is monitored by a federal program while Michigan has a state approved agency.
Almost every industry is regulated by OSHA except those that are monitored by a specific agency, like the Department of Energy or Coast Guard.
Ten Most Common Safety Violations
When OSHA investigates a company, it may cite them for violations of safety standards. The mandates can include many different rules, from requiring a harness for every worker that is more than ten feet off the ground or mandatory respiratory protection when engaging in certain jobs, like asbestos removal. According to OSHA, these are the ten most commonly cited areas for workplace safety violations:
- Fall protection in construction.
- Proper hazard communication policies and safety standards.
- Scaffolding safety standards in construction.
- Proper respiratory protection.
- Proper control over hazardous energy.
- Safety standards and protections for powered industrial trucks.
- Ladder safety and proper use.
- Proper safety standards for electrical work, components, equipment and wiring methods.
- Proper use of machinery and sufficient machine guarding.
- Improper electrical systems design that could lead to unanticipated electrocutions and injuries.
Construction accounted for 899, or about 20.5 percent of all serious worker injuries and deaths in 2014. The leading causes of worker deaths were related to falls, electrocution, being struck by an object and getting caught in-between things. Falls accounted for 359 construction deaths and electrocutions for another 74. Bring struck by objects killed 73 workers and being caught in-between resulted in another 12. Together, these “Fatal Four” account for 57.6 percent of all construction worker deaths or a little more than 12 percent of all worker deaths.
Tips to Stay Safe
The best safety tip is to remain alert and speak up when there are safety issues. Especially in construction, workers need to rely on each other. OSHA, generally, tells workers to report issues to their supervisor or manager who can address the matter.
Always ensure that proper fall protection equipment and harnesses are installed. Harnesses are rated for specific weight bearing loads. For any job that takes workers more than ten feet in the air, harnesses are required.
When handling electrical equipment always wear proper safety equipment, especially gloves. Even when electrical systems are disabled, because accidents happen and electrical systems are dangerous.
Always wear a respirator, even if it may be cumbersome or uncomfortable. Respirators are important in a variety of jobs from manufacturing to construction. They are critical in jobs that are indoors, with minimal ventilation. Respirators, unlike harnesses, focus on preserving long-term health and safety. These are the more insidious killers because they can take months or years to manifest but are no less dangerous.
Pay attention during safety demonstrations, seminars and sessions. All employers are required to communicate necessary safety techniques and protocols to their workers. This can include manuals, safety training, videos or any other medium that can effectively disseminate information.
Finally, if after reporting a safety issue, the employer refuses to implement proper safety procedures and equipment, then workers can ask OSHA for assistance.
For workers that believe their safety is being put at risk because their employer is cutting corners there are actions that can be taken. OSHA encourages whistleblowers to come forward to launch investigations. OSHA itself is remarkably understaffed for the job it is expected to accomplish therefore it relies upon private industry whistleblowers to focus investigations.
Once a complaint is filed, OSHA sends a site inspector to check for safety violations. The inspector then submits a report and advises the manager on best practices to implement safety procedures. The employer is encouraged to comply with these recommendations. If the employer refuses then OSHA may file a lawsuit for safety violations and an order to compel the business to implement proper safety protocols.