Common OSHA Violations to Avoid

Sep 1, 2021 | Workforce

Correcting these easily fixable issues will give you peace of mind should OSHA come calling.

By Max Menczer and Sara R. Hamidovic, VET Environmental Engineering, LLC

Employers must perform a workplace hazard assessment and provide a written certificate as proof for OSHA.

The heat is finally starting to break, and fall is coming. We’re excited for the new season to start to cool things down and get back to more regular routines that it brings with it. If you have gotten off track in your routine, we’d like to talk about something that may save you a headache in the future.

As you well know, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is responsible for making sure all workplaces in the United States operate with safe practices. Thanks to them, workers across the country are protected and can rest easy. But complying with their regulations isn’t always easy! So, we’ve compiled a list of some common OSHA violations you might face. Luckily if you act now, you can still protect your employees, and avoid a citation. Let’s jump in and get started.

RACKS

We’ve seen some pretty impressive racks at the auto recycling facilities we visit. OSHA can issue citations for improper rack storage or labeling. However, scant legal legislation exists specifically dedicated to racking. This can make it difficult to apply practical safety standards to this aspect of your business. Therefore, we looked into it.

What does OSHA specifically require for racking compliance? Generally, OSHA uses 29 CFR §1910.176 and the General Duty Clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 to cite employers for racking violations. Together, these laws state:

• Employers must provide a safe workplace for employees.

• All stored materials must be stable, secure against sliding or collapse, and not present a hazard.

• Passageways must be kept clear, in good repair, and free of obstructions that can create a hazard.

• Storage areas must not accumulate materials that create trip/slip, fire, explosion, or pest hazards.

• Sufficient safe clearance must be provided for mechanical handling equipment, and clearance signs to warn of clearance limits must be provided where necessary.

During citations, OSHA can reference the manufacturer’s installation and maintenance instructions for a particular racking system. OSHA may also reference the standards listed in American National Standards Institute/Rack Manufacturers Institute Materials Handling 16.1 (ANSI/RMI MH16.1) – Specification for the Design, Testing and Utilization of Industrial Steel Storage Racks.

What is ANSI/RMI MH16.1? ANSI/RMI MH16.1 is an industry standard that provides recommended guidelines for steel racking construction and safety. Compliance with ANSI/RMI MH16.1 is voluntary, not mandatory. Let’s discuss some frequently asked questions.

What does ANSI/RMI MH16.1 say about signage? A permanent plaque must be installed with a minimum area of 50 square inches in one or more conspicuous locations. The plaque should include the following:

• Average unit load, max unit load and/or max uniformly distributed load per level; and,

• Max total load per bay. Additionally, shelves allowing stacking of load units should be visibly identified. Load application and rack configuration drawings should be furnished with each rack and retained by the owner. Failure to do so is one of the most common OSHA rack citations.

What does ANSI/RMI MH16.1 say about rack stability? The bottom of all rack columns should have column base plates and be anchored firmly to the floor. Failure to anchor racks is another common racking citation from OSHA. If racks are connected to the building structure, then the location and magnitude of the maximum possible forces imposed by the rack on the building must be given to the owner of the building for their review – if you are the owner of the building, you should review this with your structural engineer!

What does it mean if my rack is ‘out-of-plumb’? How about ‘out-of-straight’? ‘Out-of-plumb’ means your rack is not exactly vertical – it’s leaning forward, backward, to one side, or the weight of its contents is causing it to buckle. ‘Out-of-straight’ means your rack is not level – one side is higher than the other. If your rack is ‘out-of-plumb’ or ‘out-of-straight,’ the rack should be safely unloaded and re-plumbed.

How can I stay safe around my racks? Here’s a full list to help you protect yourself and your employees: 

• Know what your materials weigh and what your racks can handle – avoid overloading racks.

• Post plaques on your racks with correct information and ensure employees know the limits. 

• Ensure aisles are kept clear of obstacles.

• Routinely examine your racking for stress or damage. Have a professional take a look on occasion.

• DO NOT make repairs or modifications to racks unless you are qualified.

• DO NOT try to unload a damaged rack if stability is in question – hire a professional and keep employees away from the area.

• Consult ANSI/RMI MH16.1, a structural engineer, the owner of the building, the fire department, your rack’s manual, and the racking manufacturer for additional information.

PPE

You have definitely heard of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) before. PPE is used in all kinds of jobs, including the auto recycling industry. But why is it so important? Well, PPE is there to protect employees from occupational hazards that could cause injury or impairment of bodily function. So, OSHA requires proper PPE at any and all jobsites where the workplace environment or job tasks could be hazardous. Sounds broad, right? It can be! We have compiled some of the important takeaways for you.

OSHA has many employer requirements to satisfy PPE regulations, as directed by 29 CFR §1910.132. OSHA places the burden of the responsibility on employers to prove they are operating with safe employee standards. So, all employers are required to inspect their workplace and operations to determine if a hazard is present. If so, an employer is required to select a type of PPE that will protect its employees from the identified hazards. Of the many kinds of PPE, the main categories are eye and face, respiratory, head, feet, hands, electrical, and fall protection. Once a hazard is identified, employers should look into what is proper PPE for each case. 29 CFR §1910 Subpart I specifies PPE requirements for each case. Once selected, employers must train employees on how and when to properly use the PPE. This will include how to don the PPE, its limitations, proper care, and disposal. Employees must demonstrate an understanding of this training before being permitted to begin work. Employee retraining is necessary if an employee demonstrates a poor understanding or use of assigned PPE.

Retraining is also required if there are changes to the job tasks or changes to proper PPE. Finally, employers must make properly fitting PPE readily available to all employees. Employers must pay to replace PPE, unless it was lost or intentionally damaged by the employee. Employers are not required to pay for everyday clothing.

Employers must perform a workplace hazard assessment and provide a written certificate as proof for OSHA. This is the part OSHA issues the most citations for. This certificate needs to identify the evaluated workplace, the person certifying the evaluation, and the date of the assessment. If any of the PPE regulations are not met, you may get a citation by an OSHA inspector. VET performs PPE hazard assessments for different facilities. If you need more information, give us a call!

HAZARDOUS COMMUNICATION

If your facility keeps hazardous substances on site, they could pose a serious threat to human health and safety. For the safety of your employees, be sure to comply with OSHA’s Hazardous Communication standards under 29 CFR §1910.1200.

Employers are required to develop a written hazard communication program. This documentation will include descriptions on how workplace hazardous substances will be labeled with warnings, safety data sheets, and applicable employee training. It is important to document a list of all hazardous substances stored at your facility. Safety data sheets must have the following information:

• Identification

• Hazard identification

• Composition/information on ingredients

• First-aid measures

• Fire-fighting measures

• Accidental release measures

• Handling and storage

• Exposure controls/personal protection

• Physical and chemical properties

• Stability and reactivity

• Toxicological information

• Ecological information

• Disposal considerations

• Transport information

• Regulatory information

• Other information, including date of preparation or last revision.

Hazardous substances that are stored at or transported from the facility are required to have clear labeling for the following:

• Product identifier – the chemical name, code number, or batch number.

• Signal word – “Warning” or “Danger” depending on the hazard level of the chemical.

• Pictogram – graphic symbols used to communicate specific information about the hazards of a chemical. The eight symbols enforced by OSHA can be found on their website.

• Hazard statement – describe the nature of the hazard(s) of a chemical, including, where appropriate, the degree of hazard.

• Precautionary statement – describe recommended measures that should be taken to prevent adverse effects resulting from exposure to the hazardous substance. The four types of precautionary statements are exposure prevention, exposure response, storage, and disposal.

A consumer product that is being used exactly as designed at your facility is exempt from hazardous labeling. For example, an employee that uses sink cleaners to wash a bathroom with the same frequency that can be expected at home would not warrant hazardous labeling. However, any further use would expose the employee to significantly greater amounts of hazardous substances, and the need for the hazard communication information available through the safety data sheet is justified.

What about the employees? All employees should be informed of all present hazardous substances and the location of safety data sheets (SDSs) for each chemical present on the site. Employees must be trained on methods to identify a release of a hazardous substance, measures they can take to protect themselves, and the details of the hazard communication program.

We hope this article helps you get OSHA safe! As always, please do not hesitate to contact VET at (812) 822-0400 with any questions or concerns. 

SIDEBAR

Setting the Record Straight

Another very important item that is often a common mistake: recordkeeping. This is something that not only shows up on audits, but it is also important for the everyday function of your business.

From our experience working with auto recyclers, paperwork is often the aspect of business that is in need of the most tweaking when we are hired by a new client. There are a few exceptions, but all-in-all the recordkeeping systems are not complete, organized, or user-friendly. We have developed a system that seems to work well to help our folks keep track of the necessary information in a simple, user-friendly manner.

Binder System

The system we use applies specifically to your Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) and Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) Plan. Inside the binders are all of the necessary forms along with space to store all of your pertinent documents. For example, if you sell a drum of used oil, you turn to the used oil tab of your SWPPP binder and store a copy of the receipt in that section.

For our clients, we keep redundant, electronic copies of the binders at our office so if something is lost or damaged we can recreate our clients’ system. We perform quarterly update checks to ensure that recordkeeping is up-to-date. We encourage you to keep records of all activities so that in the event you are asked you can produce documentation to support your processes.  

There are often more requirements for internal tracking than there are requirements that are submitted to a regulatory agency. None of the requirements are particularly difficult. The difficulty is keeping up with the large number of requirements and developing a system that makes the compliance program run effectively.

For sake of discussion, let’s talk about storm water.

Storm water permits have several documents that are required to be submitted to the regulatory agency, such as the Notice of Intent, Storm Water Sampling, and Annual Reporting. However, items such as Quarterly Visual Wet Weather Inspections and Annual SWPPP Training documentation are not required to be submitted to a regulatory agency. Therefore, we often see that items required for submittal are completed while the other documentation falls to the wayside.

Staying on Course

What are some ways to ensure that your records are organized and required documentation is completed in a timely manner?

First, assign responsibility. Make it clear who is responsible for inspections, recordkeeping, and keeping these items organized. Provide proper training to ensure all documentation and inspections are completed accurately, thoroughly, and in a timely manner. Assigning specific duties to well-trained, trustworthy employees will help ensure your recordkeeping is in top shape.

Second, make sure that all documents are kept in a designated place. This will help you easily find documents when needed and keep different types of documentation separate. As we mentioned, binders are a great system. When using the binder system for storm water permitting, you know that all your applicable inspections, documentation, and forms are located in one central place. This is especially helpful in the case of a regulatory inspection.

Showing You Care

An organized recordkeeping system is one great way to instantly impress regulators. It shows that your care about your business and that you are committed to compliance. A complete, organized, and user-friendly recordkeeping system can look many different ways. Different systems work for different people; keep this in mind as you work on improving systems at your facility.

Sara Hamidovic is President/Principal Engineer of VET Environmental in Bloomington, Indiana. She is a Licensed Professional Engineer (PE) in the State of Indiana and a Certified Hazardous Materials Manager (CHMM).

Max Menczer is a senior at UCLA studying environmental science. He assisted VET with research, sampling, and drafting reports.

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