Safety 101 - Lesson 26: 10 Top OSHA Violations

Oct. 6, 2008
William Jenaway looks at the 10 most cited workplace violations by OSHA and how fire departments can prevent similar occurrences.

Let's face it, do you know what causes (or could cause) an accident in your organization?

A report by Harris Interactive, conducted for the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians (NAEMT) found that four in five medics were injured on the job. Actually, when you read the results of the study, you may not be too surprised.

  • More than one in two (52 percent) have been assaulted by a patient
  • One in tow (50 percent) have been exposed to an infectious disease
  • Almost one in two (47 percent) have sustained a back injury while performing EMS duties

What's being done? If you ask the proactive fire/EMS agencies, they state:

  • EMS protocols for understanding and dealing with the issue are being implemented
  • Standard operating guidelines (SOGs), supervision, and rule enforcement are being employed,
  • Training, personal acceptance of safety (by fire/EMS personnel) and officer enforcement of rules are in place; and they all play a role in keeping EMS personnel safe.

The Moral of the Report: How Many of your staff have been injured on the job, and what are you doing about it?

Similarly, MetLife conducted a study and found that five conditions drive 60 percent of "Lost Workdays". They found that five ailments - heart conditions, trauma, cancer, mental disorders, and pulmonary conditions - account for 60 percent of all lost workdays due to a short-term disability. MetLife analyzed over 1.5 million short-term disability insurance claims in completing this analysis.

MetLife advocates both employer and employee initiatives to prevent and mitigate injuries and illnesses in the workplace.

Employers can successfully use the relationship between medical expenditures and disability absences to develop a workplace strategy for mitigating rising healthcare costs, manage absences and ease employee concerns as they face increased responsibility for their healthcare decisions. Lost workdays for employers can cause decreased productivity with a negative impact to the bottom line, while lost income to employees can mean a negative impact to their personal finances. By understanding the link between medical expenses and disability absences, employers can leverage resources to help keep employees healthy and at work.

The Moral of the Report: What drives lost workdays in your organization, and what are you doing about it?

Yet another source for a study of safety and accident experience comes from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA provides a variety of reports, including the "OSHA Top 10 - Most Cited Violations". Violations that are known components of work accidents, yet businesses don't take the necessary precautions to prevent or mitigate the accidents. However, such lists can be used by employers, safety managers, and employees to assess the readiness of their safety programs. What are they you ask? Refer to Table 1 for the details.

Top 10 Most Cited Violations by OSHA

The Top 10 Willful Violations
Committed intentionally with disregard of or plain indifference to OSHA regulations

  • Excavation - requirements for protective systems
  • Lead in construction
  • Fall protection
  • Respiratory protection
  • Excavation - specific requirements
  • Scaffolding
  • Machine guarding
  • Lockout/tagout
  • Occupational noise exposure
  • Lead and process safety management of highly hazardous chemicals

The Top 10 Serious Violations
Substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result and employer knew of should have know of the hazard.

  • Scaffolding
  • Fall protection
  • Hazard communication
  • Lockout/tagout
  • Respiratory protection
  • Machine guarding
  • Electrical wiring
  • Powered industrial trucks
  • Ladders
  • Mechanical power transmission

So why show these items that do not apply to the emergency services and relate to OSHA, which fire/EMS say they are not responsible for? It is simply because we can learn from this information and apply it to our fire/EMS agency.

  1. The causes of accidents, injuries, and illnesses are known and there is substantial data to help us determine these causes and the actions to prevent repeated occurrences.
  2. If you don't correct hazards and accident producing situations, higher operating costs and fines can result, even if no injuries occur.
  3. Training, standard operating guidelines, personal accountability, supervision, and rule enforcement all play a key role in limiting the impact of injuries and illnesses in the workplace.
  4. Nothing gets accomplished if no one is responsible for the safety function.

It takes leadership to find out what causes accidents so that they can be prevented.

Lesson #26
Don't "write off" accidents as part of the job. Know what causes them, how to prevent or mitigate them, and do something about it!

Safety 101 - A new series from the technical and administrative perspective, designed to help you reduce emergency responder injuries, illnesses, property loss and death!

DR. WILLIAM F. JENEWAY, CSP, CFO, CFPS, a Contributing Editor, is Executive Vice President of VFIS and has over 30 years experience in safety and risk management in the insurance industry. He was named "Volunteer Fire Chief of the Year" as Chief of the King of Prussia, PA, Volunteer Fire Company, and is the author the text Emergency Service Risk Management. He has partipated the NVFC Corner podcasts on [email protected]. To read William's complete biography and view his archived articles, click here.

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