The United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA, releases a list of the top 10 violations in industrial safety compliance infractions every year. In 2018, the top ten were:
- Fall Protection — General Requirements
- Hazard Communication
- Respiratory Protection
- Powered Industrial Trucks
- Fall Protection — Training Requirements
- Machine Guarding
- Eye and Face Protection
Pay particular attention to violations 1, 3, and 6. Fall protection, scaffolding and ladders relate directly to lighting maintenance on fixtures in elevated locations.
Violations can occur for several reasons. They include:
- Lack of proper equipment
- Equipment in disrepair from poor maintenance
- Worker neglect or refusal to use safety devices
- Lack of management supervision in enforcing safety rules and regulations
Regardless of the reason or cause of the violation, full responsibility sits squarely on the employer. Infractions found during an OSHA inspection can result in fines, plant downtime and even jail time in instances where loss of life has occurred.
OSHA takes safety violations very seriously.
Noncompliance fines can multiply
According to the OSHA Code of Federal Regulations, Section 17. Penalties, fines for serious violations can be from $5,000 to $7,000 for individual, serious infractions. At first glance, that may not seem a lot. However, there’s a catch. Repeated violations of the same infraction can kick the penalty up to $70,000 per each infraction.
In effect, if OSHA finds one fall protection infraction, it’s $7,000. But if two instances of the same infraction are found, the penalty fine could be as much as $140,000.
Poor safety practices get expensive quickly.
Safety violations are often caused by human error
The most common reason for any safety violation or accident is failure of the worker to use safe work practices.
Remember that three of the top 10 OSHA violations were infractions in fall protection, scaffolding and ladder use. These all present potential violations in routine lighting maintenance when the task is carried out in elevated locations.
According to OSHA Ladder Safety publication, OSHA 3625–02R 2014:
Falls are the leading cause of death in construction and every year, falls from ladders make up nearly a third of those deaths. These deaths are preventable. Falls from ladders can be prevented and lives can be saved by following the safe work practices described in this booklet. For more information about how to prevent fatal falls, visit: www.osha.gov/stopfalls. For more information about OSHA’s standard for ladders in construction, see 29 CFR 1926.1053
Dangers exist even when elevated work platforms or caged lifts are used. If the proper fall protection is not used, or is used improperly, workers could fall to their deaths. OSHA has stringent regulations concerning fall protection:
OSHA requires that fall protection be provided at elevations of four feet in general industry workplaces, five feet in shipyards, six feet in the construction industry and eight feet in longshoring operations.
In addition, OSHA requires that fall protection is provided when working over dangerous equipment and machinery, regardless of the fall distance.
In industrial settings, any platform, walkway or catwalk where a worker can fall more than four feet to another surface requires fall protection. Open sides of these surfaces must be outfitted with OSHA approved handrails and toe boards.
And if work — including maintenance activities — causes the worker to lean over, work through or above handrails on these surfaces, then additional fall protection, such as harnesses, lanyards and tie off point are to be used for worker protection.
Some workers may balk at wearing bulky, uncomfortable harnesses. Or when they do wear them, they may not tie off properly, if at all. Scaffolds that are hastily assembled may not be secured properly.
Ladders are very easy to misuse. Leaning too far to the side, standing above the recommended rung to get a little more reach, and improperly ascending or descending a ladder are common errors.
Avoiding potential violations comes down to putting steps in place to avoid the possibility of human error.
How to avoid or diminish human error
In a previous article, we talked about the various ways that hazards can be abated. If the total elimination of the hazard is not feasible, then engineering controls are the next best option.
Using our Swivelpole™ lowering pole solutions, ladders can be entirely eliminated in many cases.
One of our clients has said the main place where they utilize our product is on platforms, catwalks, etc. This saves the electricians from either having to haul a ladder around, having to build scaffolding or having to tie off with a harness to access the lights.
Lowering the light fixture to a comfortable level inside the guardrail with the Swivelpole™ product not only made the maintenance task safer, but also more ergonomically sound.
Keep your workers and your business safe
Many business owners cringe when they hear OSHA or any other regulatory agency is in town. But these organizations exist to protect both the employee and the employer. It would be extremely difficult to determine the number of lives saved and injuries avoided because of their standards and regulations.
But it’s a fact. Compliance saves lives.
Keeping your employees safe on the job is important. Not only will it save you from disciplinary action and fines. It could increase your productivity as well.
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Swivelpole™ lowering pole technology is recognised globally for providing simple, fast and affordable access to light fixtures and equipment. The innovative access solutions eliminate the risk of working at heights, through the controlled lowering of light fixtures and equipment to a safe and comfortable working position.
Existing non-lowering poles can easily be converted to lowering poles, allowing upgrades to the latest lighting technologies.