Whether you work in construction or retail, the risk of a workplace accident happening is greatly affected by how focused your employer is on maintaining a safe workplace. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is charged with enforcing work safety regulations, ensuring that employers are following safety guidelines to reduce the likelihood of workplace accidents.
In 2012, 4,383 workers were killed on the job in the United States. This is an average of more than 84 work-related deaths each week or 12 each day.
In many fatal and serious workplace accidents, a violation of OSHA standards can often be identified as a contributing cause. Sometimes, these violations are caught before a deadly accident happens. No matter when the violation is discovered, OSHA records the violation and requires the employer to comply with workplace safety regulations to reduce such accidents.
According to OSHA, here are the top 10 violated OSHA standards during fiscal year 2013:
- Fall protection in the construction field. Falls are the leading cause of death in workplace accidents and are therefore understandably involved in most OSHA violations. Fall protection involves employers providing proper equipment, proper training, and a workplace environment free of known fall dangers.
- Hazard Communication Standards (HCS). The HCS is the system by which employers use signs to alert workers and others about the presence of hazardous chemicals. These diamond-shaped warnings make workplaces safer by helping to prevent chemical burns, fires, and other related injuries.
- Scaffolding regulations in the construction industry. In 2009, 54 workers died in scaffolding accidents. Most of these were caused by errors that could have been prevented if OSHA standards had not been violated.
- Respiratory protection. Respiratory equipment helps protect workers against vapors, sprays, smoke, mists, lack of oxygen, and harmful dust. OSHA estimates around 5 million workers are required to use respirators in the workplace.
- Electrical wiring and equipment. Whether working as an electrician or in the food industry, electrical hazards can cause serious injury or death. Electricity is a long-standing serious workplace hazard, causing electrical burns and electrocution.
- Forklifts or powered industrial trucks. These heavy pieces of equipment are used to move materials and pose many risks, including back-over accidents, dropped loads, and tipping.
- Ladder regulations. The simplest and oldest tool in construction, the ladder is also one of the more dangerous. Falls from ladders are very common and can be fatal. Falls are preventable workplace accidents.
- Hazardous energy control. These are dangers that exist during the servicing or maintenance of equipment, when machines may start up or release stored energy unexpectedly. Workers may suffer burns, crushing injuries, lacerations, amputations, and electrical shocks if hazardous energy isn’t properly controlled. Proper lockout or tag out procedures can keep workers safe from hazardous energy accidents.
- Electrical systems design. Separate from #5, electrical systems design deals more with the construction and maintenance of electrical systems, most often confronted in the construction industry.
- Machinery and machine guarding standards. Moving parts in machines can pose serious accident risks to workers. Safeguards are needed to protect them from these moving parts at all times. Workers suffer crushing injuries, lacerations or amputation of a hand or foot if safety guards are removed from machinery.
In 1970, there were about 38 fatal workplace accidents each and every day in this country. Now, those accidents have fallen more than 65 percent despite the workforce increasing. This is a testament to safe work practices like those prescribed in OSHA standards. Still, serious workplace accidents continue to happen, and they are often due to standards like these being overlooked or simply ignored.