OSHA's Top 10: The more things change ...
OSHA may implement new rules and enforcement changes, but the agency's list of the Top 10 most frequently cited violations stays the same
Q&A with OSHA's Patrick Kapust
As deputy director of OSHA’s Directorate of Enforcement Programs, Patrick Kapust (below, right) leads a staff supporting OSHA’s mission of standards enforcement. Kapust joined the agency in 1991 as a compliance safety and health officer. He recently spoke with Senior Associate Editor Kyle W. Morrison (below, left) about last year’s federal government shutdown and OSHA’s latest rule changes.
Safety+Health: At the beginning of fiscal year 2014, the government shut down. What effect did that have on OSHA enforcement and the mitigation of hazards?
Patrick Kapust: During the government shutdown, OSHA’s enforcement activity was limited and fewer inspections were conducted than during normal operations. OSHA was only authorized to conduct inspections in response to workplace fatalities and catastrophes, imminent danger situations, and safety and health complaints when employees were potentially exposed to hazardous conditions that presented a high risk of death or serious physical harm. In the 16-day period of the shutdown from Oct. 1 to 16, 2013, OSHA conducted approximately 300 inspections. During October of the previous year, OSHA conducted about 1,700 inspections.
S+H: Some of the top sections cited in this year’s Top 10 stem from a lack of training. How important is training, and why do you believe some employers are neglecting it?
Kapust: Providing adequate worker training on job hazards is a very important element in preventing injuries and illnesses. In fact, training and education is a key component of any effective health and safety management system. Many OSHA standards contain training requirements. For example, employers must train workers to know when and how a machine is to be locked and tagged out when servicing or working on the machine to prevent serious injuries and deaths. Under [the] Hazard Communication [Standard], employers must train workers on the hazards of the chemicals they work with and how to protect themselves. Employers must train workers on how to use required protective equipment – such as respirators – so they are used correctly and protect the workers. Employers must also ensure that training on hazards and how to perform jobs safely is given in a language and vocabulary their employees understand.
Employers have a responsibility to provide a safe workplace, which includes providing all necessary training. When hazards are eliminated – when workers are properly trained on the safety and health hazards on the job – not only do employers prevent injuries and illnesses but they can significantly reduce their costs. Safety pays.
S+H: Hazard Communication – OSHA’s second most-frequently violated standard – was updated in 2012. Some of that rule’s requirements have gone into effect, while others will soon be phased in. What effect has the new rule had on compliance? Are violations the result of confusion or ignorance over the new requirements, or are many of the violations unrelated to the rulemaking change?
Kapust: The first compliance date of the revised Hazard Communication Standard was Dec. 1, 2013. By that time, employers were required to have trained their workers on the new label elements and the Safety Data Sheet format. From Dec. 1, 2013, to Aug. 21, 2014, OSHA conducted a total of 16,697 inspections in which Hazard Communication violations were identified. Some of the violations found are unrelated to the rulemaking change. Of those 16,697 inspections, approximately 1,419 (8.5 percent) included a violation of HazCom training requirements, and 534 (3.2 percent) resulted in a specific violation of the training requirement for labels and SDSs [1910.1200(h)(3)(iv)].
S+H: In 2013, OSHA began enforcing a new directive requiring conventional fall protection in residential construction. Is OSHA seeing fewer fall hazards on residential construction sites as a result?
Kapust: In 2010, OSHA announced a change in its enforcement policy for residential fall standards (STD 03-11-002), and in March 2013 OSHA started fully enforcing the fall protection requirements in the construction regulations. The agency also continues to provide guidance and outreach to this construction sector. From June 2 to 6, 2014, OSHA partnered with businesses, universities and the military to hold a National Safety Stand-Down to prevent falls in the construction industry. This unprecedented event drew participation from not only the U.S. construction industry, but all industries throughout the world. More than 7,000 employers and between 1 million and 1.5 million workers went to the OSHA website and received certificates of participation. Although the enforcement policy has not been fully in effect long enough to determine its impact, OSHA expects to see an improvement in fall protection safety in residential construction in the years to come as our outreach and enforcement efforts continue.
S+H: In another rulemaking change, OSHA in September issued a final rule updating injury reporting requirements. As of Jan. 1, employers must report to OSHA any fatality, hospitalization, amputation or loss of an eye. (Previously, employers only had to report fatalities and hospitalizations of three or more employees.) How will this new data affect OSHA’s enforcement activities, if at all?
Kapust: The new data OSHA will now receive on fatalities and severe work-related injuries and illnesses will enable the agency to identify the workplaces where workers are at the greatest risk and target our compliance assistance and enforcement resources accordingly. This will significantly enhance OSHA’s ability to save lives and prevent further injury and illness. We do not anticipate sending an inspector to respond to every one of the incoming reports. However, we will engage with all the employers whose workers have been injured to help them on hazard abatement.
S+H: Recently, OSHA has focused on the safety of temporary workers. During inspections, compliance officers have been tasked with learning if temps are employed at that location and what training they have received. What has been the result of this focus?
Kapust: OSHA continues to review the data associated with inspections where temporary workers are exposed to hazards, including absent or insufficient training. Since September 2013, OSHA’s compliance officers most frequently cited training violations with regard to hazard communication, powered industrial trucks, exposure to noise, personal protective equipment and lockout/tagout.
S+H: Does the Top 10 cover any of the standards to which temporary workers are exposed?
Kapust: The overall Top 10 most-cited standards mirrors closely with the data we have reviewed with regard to temporary workers.
S+H: It’s no secret the Top 10 list doesn’t change very much from year to year. That being said, what takeaway should employers have regarding this data?
Kapust: The Top 10 list indicates hazards that are common in many different industries, and employers should use the list as a guide for evaluating their own worksites. Employers should ensure that existing safety programs address the standards in the Top 10. To further ensure that they are able to find and fix potential hazards before they result in an injury, illness or fatality, employers should also establish a culture of safety in which workers know they can report dangerous workplace conditions without fear of retaliation.
S+H: Do you have any advice for employers who wish to avoid violating one of the Top 10 standards?
Kapust: Employers need to be proactive and focus on prevention. Employers are encouraged to adopt a positive safety culture and to develop and implement a safety and health management system that will prevent or reduce workplace injuries and illnesses to the extent feasible. A safety and health management system that includes management leadership, worker participation, hazard identification, hazard prevention and control, education and training, and program evaluation and improvement can assist employers in identifying and correcting workplace hazards before workers lose their life, get hurt or become ill.
This year's "OSHA's Top 10" feature article is sponsored by Brady Worldwide, Inc.
The OSHA's Top 10 report summarized in one image