4 Crucial Steps to Ensuring Safety and Avoid OSHA Citations

Man Looking at OSHA Safety Checklist

OSHA exists with the intention of protecting employees as they do their work. It is important that workers are safe, so that we can continue to support ourselves and loved ones. There can be a lot of rules to follow, but knowing and understanding them is crucial to workplace safety. However, we find that simply knowing the OSHA standards isn’t enough. One must be actively pursuing a culture of safety and ensuring proper procedures are being used. Unfortunately, when this doesn’t occur, fines, injuries, and even fatalities become a reality.

“…recommended the citation be classified as willful based on Martin Mechanical’s knowledge of the existence of the uncovered skylights on the roof, that work would be performed near the skylights, and its failure to provide any type of fall protection…”

A recent citation and the finding of “willful violation” from OSHA brought about specific feedback on how to best enforce OSHA standards. According to OSHA the employer, Martin Mechanical Contractors, Inc., was aware of the hazards and knew what was required to protect their workers. Unfortunately the hazard, in this case a skylight, was not properly addressed and a worker fell on the job and died due to his injuries. The owner of this company was fined by OSHA, however no amount of money will allow this employee to see his family again. This is the reality of why OSHA exists.

So, what can we learn from this citation? How can we go from simply knowing the OSHA standards to creating a safety conscious workplace culture and verify the safety of our employees?
Below are 4 steps OSHA listed in the citation to ensure you are doing everything you can to keep your people safe and in compliance.

1. Establish work rules designed to prevent violations

Step one is all about identifying potential hazards in your facility or on the job site. Once these have been identified, you can then look to OSHA and find how to best protect your people while work is being done. With a thorough understanding of the dangers, and the knowledge of OSHA’s requirements of each hazardous area, you can then create rules specific to these areas to enforce safety. This will assure appropriate rules are created to the specific work being done and will align with applicable standards.This must be done with every foreseeable work area.

2. Adequately communicate those rules to your employees

Once rules have been created, then one must communicate these to your employees. You will first need to train your people on the hazards themselves. You may understand risks, but that is not to be assumed of everyone else. With the knowledge of this risks, you can begin to instruct on proper procedures. These are going to be the rules you have created specific to the hazard/s to either eliminate the danger or protect your people while exposed to the hazard. Lastly, but still crucial is to confirm understanding with each individual. They must comprehensively know and understand the risk and the rules before beginning work.

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3. Take steps to discover violations

You have now successfully created rules specific to the threats in your work area, communicated them clearly and thoroughly to your workers, isn’t that good enough? Not quite, our third step is the follow through. Here are some simple steps you can take to help discover violations. You could conduct briefings before and after the work being done to receive feedback from those directly impacted. It would also be wise to have a supervisor available to oversee the operations (this person should have strong knowledge of the hazards and rules). It is also important to ensure safety systems are installed and being used correctly. This will give you ample opportunity to discover violations, if any.

4. Effectively enforce the rules when violations have been discovered

It is inevitable that rules will be forgotten, lines will be blurred, and mistakes will be made. Our final step addresses when this happens. The key here is to speak up IMMEDIATELY when you see or hear of violations occurring. If you find the rules are intentionally not being followed, you should remove insubordinate workers from hazardous areas for theirs and others safety. And when rules are not being followed due to ignorance, then retrain on the hazards and rules when necessary. People will never be perfect, it is your duty to be a constant reminder of safe working practices.

If you don’t know what OSHA says about common hazards in your industry, find out right away. There are hundreds of resources and training opportunities to educate you. Tap into safety officers, take an OSHA training course, or do some research online. These days, there is no excuse for being naive. People’s lives are at risk every day in the workforce. Do your due diligence to protect them.

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