The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently announced the Top 10 most frequently cited workplace safety violations for 2019. What were they?
- Fall Protection – General Requirements
- Hazard Communication
- Respiratory Protection
- Powered Industrial Trucks
- Fall Protection – Training
- Machine Guarding
- Eye and Face Protection
Let’s put this in perspective. I looked at the data for the years 2014-2018. What was the single most-cited safety issue in each of those prior years. Fall Protection. That’s right – It was the top violation every single year!
What about the other listed safety issues for 2019? Year-after-year, these same safety issues comprise the top 10 violations. These other safety issues occasionally switch slots but they are all regularly present in the Top 10. What does this tell us? We need to focus on some important issues! With a little focus and effort in a few areas, we could prevent many needless workplace injuries and deaths.
Through the years, I’ve written articles on every one of these safety issues. I’ve counseled working men and women who were needlessly injured by each of them. I’ve tried personal injury cases on many these hazards in Alabama courtrooms. For today’s blog, I want to focus on two of these serious violations.
Falls Are The Leading Cause Of Workplace Deaths
Here are three prior fall prevention articles I’ve written:
- Falls From Heights — A Deadly Workplace Hazard That Is Easily Preventable
- Workplace Fall Safety Must Be Taken Seriously
- Fall Protection — A Few Simple Steps Can Save Lives In The Workplace
These are only a few of the many fall prevention articles I’ve written. Why is this such a frequent topic? We stress this safety issue because it is the leading cause of construction site fatalities. It is the top-cited OSHA safety violation year-after-year. And, because I’ve personally seen working men and women who suffered life-changing injuries from falls.
In one of the prior articles, I discussed three separate cases where I’ve represented clients disabled by falls from the same piece of equipment – an extended scissors lift. All three clients were hurt on different job sites, in different years, with different project managers. Yet, each accident had many common factors. A few common factors on each worksite led to terrible falls.
Look closely at the OSHA safety list for 2019. You will see that General Fall Protection is listed as the top violation. Fall-related issues are not just the top violation. In 2019, scaffolding issues were number three, ladders were number six, and fall protection training citations were number eight!
Year-after-year, falls are the leading cause of deaths on construction sites. They are a top safety issues on both construction and industrial sites. They are also easily preventable with just a little safety planning. Why is this issue so frequently ignored? Why do we continue to put our working men and women in needless danger? We can (and should) do better.
Lockout / Tagout Procedures Save Lives
I’ve written extensively about fall-related injuries. I’ve probably written more about that violation than any other construction or industrial safety issue. When you look at the frequently-cited safety violations each year, you understand why we regularly discuss the topic.
But, lockout / tagout procedures are also consistently a leading cause of construction and industrial accidents. So, I want to discuss them here as well. I’ll give you a couple examples from some of my prior cases.
The first case involves a welder. His company was repairing large boilers in a paper mill. The mill shutdown for the work. Or, did it? The welding company had been told all mill processes were shutdown for safety. My client began welding on a boiler. Suddenly, he heard a rumble. A cloud of gas exploded around him, burning his lungs. What happened? Although the mill had shutdown production, it did not lockout a valve used to combine several chemicals. One of the mill employees accidentally activated the process, the chemicals combined and a deadly gas formed. The accident was easily preventable. It cost my client most of his lung capacity and left him permanently disabled.
In another case, two of my clients were working on the ceiling of a plant in Decatur. They were on a platform high above the ground. While working, their platform was struck by a moving piece of equipment that should have been locked. They fell. Both suffered disabling injuries. This is an example of the common interplay by the most frequently cited OSHA issues.
A Process That Should Be Mandatory — An Activity Hazard Analysis
In this post, I’ve only discussed a couple of the most-cited issues — Fall Protection and Lockout / Tagout Procedures. How can these safety violations be prevented? How can we prevent almost all the top-listed violations? How can we make our construction and industrial worksites safer?
Safety should be our top priority. A little training and planning would prevent most serious accidents. But, management can also take another simple step. This step is frequently called an Activity Hazard Analysis. I mention this analysis in many of my prior posts, including prior posts on fall protection.
An Activity Hazard Analysis is simple. Before starting a new process or putting new equipment on site, management reviews the process (or equipment) to identify all practical hazards. Then, management plans for these potential hazards. Think of my prior scissors lift cases. Before the scissor lifts are delivered to the worksite, the project (or safety) manager will review the scene, the work to be performed and talk with the workers. The manager will review how the equipment will be used on that specific site. With just a little time, management can identify potential problems before the scissors lifts arrive. Management can document the potential safety issues and take steps for each. Simple. Since it is completed in advance, management does not need to worry about production delays. A little advance planning can prevent needless workplace injuries, deaths and claims.
At the Blackwell Law Firm, we take workplace safety seriously. For over two decades, we have represented working men and women across Alabama after serious workplace accidents. If you have questions, give us a call. We are happy to discuss a safety-related issue. Consultations are always free and confidential.