Given that serious workplace injuries are now costing US businesses more than $1 billion a week, it’s time to redouble our efforts in promoting workplace safety. We take a look at how you can use OSHA regulations as the starting point for creating an effective safety and health program at your manufacturing facility.
Unscrupulous owners of the Triangle Shirtwaist garment factory in Greenwich Village, New York City had locked the doors to the stairwells and exits, purportedly to prevent unauthorized breaks and theft.
When the fire broke out on March 25, 1911, there was no escape for 123 women and 23 men who either died inside the building from smoke inhalation or fell to their deaths from jumping out of the windows in a vain attempt to escape the burning building.
While there was widespread anger and rage at this unnecessary loss of life, there was no immediate change in Federal regulations. It wasn’t until nearly 60 years later (during the Nixon administration), Congress established the 1970 Occupational Safety and Health Act, which established a federal agency, commonly known as OSHA, to oversee workplace safety and to help prevent worker injuries.
(You can read the full OSHA act here.)
While some decry the need for OSHA – claiming that it is an example of unnecessary governmental red tape – recent ongoing investigations by federal and workplace investigators tell a different story.
Let’s take a look at these three examples, a worker in Cusseta, Alabama was crushed to death while clearing a sensor fault on robotic conveyor belts at an automotive metal stamping factory. In Boston, two workers drowned during a trenching operation; the employer did not provide basic safeguards or training against the collapse of excavation works. In St. Augustine, Florida, workers were found on the roof of a one story building without using proper fall protection.
Top Causes of Workplace Injuries and Most Common OSHA Violations
Did you know that US businesses spend more than $1 billion a week on serious, nonfatal workplace injuries?
That’s according to the 2018 edition of the Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index, which tracks nonfatal workplace injuries and their direct costs to employers.
These top 10 injury categories are responsible for $51.4 billion in direct costs alone:
Top 10 OSHA Violations
OSHA also publishes its own list of the top 10 most frequently cited standards so that employers can become familiar with these common violations and take steps to fix and find these hazards before OSHA pays them a visit.
The following is a list of the top 10 most frequently cited standards following inspections of worksites by federal OSHA. OSHA publishes this list to alert employers about these commonly cited standards so they can take steps to find and fix recognized hazards addressed in these and other standards before OSHA shows up. Far too many preventable injuries and illnesses occur in the workplace.
- Respiratory protection, general industry
- Control of hazardous energy (lockout/tagout), general industry
- Ladders, construction
- Powered industrial trucks, general industry
- Machinery and Machine Guarding, general requirements
- Fall Protection–Training Requirements
- Electrical, wiring methods, components and equipment, general industry
Top 10 OSHA Violations for your Industry
The top 10 OSHA violations listed above are representative of all industries across the board. If you’d like to find the most common violations in your particular industry, the OSHA website makes it very easy to find this information.
Simply visit the OSHA cited standards page. Put in your specific industry code, e.g. NIACS number, and provide the number of employees at the worksite to get the result.
(If you don’t know the relevant NIACS code, leave that field blank, and a full list of applicable codes will appear, allowing you to pick the right one for your industry.)
In our case, the general NIACS code for furniture manufacturing is 337, so for a furniture company of fewer than 100 employees, the top three violations are:
- Respiratory Protection.
- Woodworking machinery requirements.
- Hazard Communication.
OSHA’s General Safety Guidelines for Improving Workplace Safety
Not sure how to proceed? Here’s a useful checklist of these recommended steps you can take to improve workplace safety:
1. Study the Top 10 Most Common OSHA Violations
In a recent interview, Patrick Kapust, deputy director of OSHA’s Directorate of Enforcement Programs, explained that “The Top 10 is a great place for the employer to start if they don’t know where to start. The list identifies some of the major hazards out there. Take that list and see how it may apply to your workplace. It covers a broad range, from fall protection, machine guarding, powered industrial trucks – these are common themes in a workplace, particularly a manufacturing or construction workplace. It offers you a tool to start that find-and-fix program so that you are able to readily identify the hazards and turn around and correct them quickly.”
After you have reviewed the top 10 most commonly cited workplace violations in your industry, it’s a good idea to take a look at the OSHA compliance guidelines for general industry (or if you are in the working in the construction industry, use the special set of guidelines for construction work).
After you become familiar with the general guidelines, you’ll want to look at the OSHA index to find relevant requirements for your specific industry or manufacturing processes and become familiar with the requirements.
2. Survey Your Workplace for Hazards and Unsafe Conditions
The next step is to look at your manufacturing facility with fresh eyes to identify potential hazards in the workplace. Take a look at our report on How to Prevent Injuries at Your Manufacturing Facility for more ideas.
It’s also important to review any past injuries or illnesses at the worksite (these should have been recorded on your OSHA 300 record-keeping logs) as well as any near misses that could easily have resulted in a serious injury. Take the time to perform an accident investigation and root cause analysis for each of these in this incidents, then think of ways to eliminate any risks to prevent these accidents or near misses happening again in the future.
You may also want to undertake a Kaizen process improvement program to improve the flow of material handling and reduce inefficient bottlenecks in your material handling and manufacturing processes.
If you would like the assistance of an experienced partner, Formaspace also offers our own Rapid Plant Assessment (RPA) consulting services where we come to your facility and provide our expert guidance on how to make your operations run more smoothly.
3. Create a Workplace Safety Plan
After you looked at the OSHA safety requirements and the conditions within your manufacturing facility, it’s time to bring it all together with an action plan.
OSHA provides a training PowerPoint on how to build an effective Safety and Health Program that promotes and rewards safe practices at work, to reduce injuries and illnesses, and eliminate workplace fatalities. OSHA also provides guidance on recommended best practices for creating Safety and Health Programs.
If you need assistance, Patrick Kapust reminds us that “OSHA does have an onsite consultation program that offers free and confidential safety and occupational health advice to small and medium-sized businesses nationwide. The consultants help employers identify workplace hazards and provide advice on compliance with OSHA standards, as well as help for establishing an injury and illness program…. Consultation is state-run, and its priorities are smaller employers in high-hazard industries. So, I encourage employers to go that route.”
4. Train Your Employees to Make Workplace Safety a Top Priority
Patrick Kapust points out that many of the top 10 OSHA violations involve deficiencies in training programs. He says that the “important questions to ask are, ‘What’s happening with my training programs? Are they covering what they should?’ Hazard Communication, Respiratory Protection, Lockout/Tagout, Powered Industrial Trucks – all of those require specific training programs. Look at your programs in these areas, because many of the deficiencies we find involve training.”
We recommend holding weekly safety talks to make sure that workers are familiar with applicable OSHA rules and understand that there is zero-tolerance for violating safety rules. Each week’s meeting can focus on a different safety topic, you can involve employees by having them lead the safety presentations and discussions.
Important topics to emphasize in manufacturing facilities include:
- Using personal protective equipment (PEP), including safety glasses, hardhats, steel-toed boots, respiratory equipment, etc.
- Conducting a periodic walk around to ensure that all machine guards are in place and then any a missing safety equipment is caught and corrected before an incident occurs.
- Formaspace’s Brett Gray reminds us that above a certain volume, it’s mandatory to wear ear protection and post “Hearing Protection Required” signs. It’s important to not only test the decibel level of equipment in use but employee hearing should be tested annually.
(We’ll be looking in more detail at the special hazards facing furniture manufacturers below.)
5. Record Keeping, Reporting, Posting
If you have more than 10 employees, you’ll generally be required to keep a record of serious work-related injuries and illnesses for at least five years. You’ll also need to post a summary of the injuries and illnesses that took place the previous year.
Use these OSHA forms to maintain your records:
- OSHA Form 300: Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses
- OSHA Form 300A: Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses
- OSHA Form 301: Injuries and Illnesses Incident Report
Forms can also be submitted to OSHA electronically via their Injury Tracking Application (ITA).
NOTE: Employers must report any worker fatality within 8 hours and any amputation, loss of an eye, or hospitalization of a worker within 24 hours.
Use Good Ergonomic Solutions to Help Prevent MSD Injuries at Work
As we see from the work injury statistics from Liberty Mutual, Musculoskeletal Disorders (or MSDs) are among the most common workplace injuries.
However, many work-related MSDs can be prevented. Ergonomics, which is the science of making sure equipment and job functions are properly matched to a person’s capabilities, can help lessen muscle fatigue, increase productivity, and reduce the number and severity of work-related MSDs.
OSHA has engaged with many manufacturers’ ergonomics at their facilities. One of the best-known success stories is at the semiconductor manufacturer Intel where, starting in the early 1990s, the company created an ergonomics program to reduce injuries in their wafer fabrication operations. Since that time, the company has expanded the program to incorporate assembly and test manufacturing, systems, manufacturing, warehousing operations, as well as offices and laboratories. Over two dozen full-time ergonomic staff around the world help assist Intel employees in learning how to prevent injuries and improve their physical performance, making sure that it’s properly matched to the tasks they are performing for the company.
Formaspace is also heavily involved in improving ergonomics for its industrial furniture customers. For example, in the photo, you can see a custom packing station that was specially designed and manufactured here at our Austin, Texas headquarters for the largest distribution center in the United States. The packing station was carefully designed to reduce the number of repetitive steps needed to perform operations. The height of the upper and lower storage shelves can also be adjusted to fit different size employees properly.
OSHA Requirements for Workplace Safety in the Furniture Manufacturing Sector
We take great pride in promoting workplace safety at our factory headquarters in Austin, Texas.
Here is a short summary of the different OSHA safety requirements that govern our manufacturing operations:
Make Your Metal Shop Operations Safer
Metal shop operations (including drilling, sawing, breaking, milling, lathe operations) are a high-risk occupation. Here are the key OSHA regulations designed to keep workers safe:
Special Considerations for Making Welding Processes Safer
Welding is another high-risk occupation. We recently wrote about how we reconfigured our metal shop to reduce the number of steps during welding operations.
These standards govern many of the operations in our welding shop:
Ensuring Workplace Safety When Working with Wood and Countertop Products
Manufacturing processes involving wood and countertop products can be quite dangerous if precautions are not taken. OSHA has a dedicated section on its website for the wood products industry.
In our wood shop factory, we take note of the following OSHA regulations:
- Controlling Wood Dust
- Using Saws and Sawmills
- Nail Gun Safety
- Avoiding Exposure to Synthetic Mineral Fibers
- Avoiding Exposure to Silica during Countertop Manufacturing, Finishing, and Installation
Preventing Worker Injuries in Painting and Powder Coating Processes
Painting and Powder Coating is another high-risk occupation due to the potential for lung damage due to inhalation of particles.
(As an aside Formaspace also offers Powder Coating services separate from our furniture manufacturing offerings. See this page for details.)
Here are some of the applicable OSHA regulations we follow in our Painting and Powder Coating operations:
- Spray Operations
- Respiratory Protection
- Use of Solvents
- Proper Ventilation
- Autobody Repair and Refinishing (FYI, this includes requirements applicable to some furniture painting operations)
Talk to Formaspace About How to Improve Workplace Safety at Your Manufacturing Facility
We can help make your workplace safer and more efficient. From our Rapid Plant Assessment consulting services to our full line of custom-made industrial furniture – built here at our Formaspace factory headquarters in Austin, Texas – we are ready to help make your manufacturing assembly operations more productive and safer for your employees.
If you can imagine it, we can build it.
Talk to your friendly Formaspace Design Consultant today to learn more.