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How Your Maintenance Team Can Avoid OSHA Violations

By Reena Sommer | February 17, 2020

Successful companies know equipment, auxiliary assets and replacement parts must be routinely checked to avoid unanticipated failures. When problems are identified, repairs must be completed as quickly as possible.

But there is more to effective operations maintenance management than just avoiding downtime. Companies also need to be invested in identifying and preventing safety and health hazards. Maintenance managers need an understanding of what the safety and health standards are, how they are enforced, and the measures needed to be taken to avoid violations. They also need to know how computerized maintenance management software (CMMS) makes all of this easier.

Setting the standards for safety and health hazards

The government agency Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is responsible for setting and enforcing safety and health standards for private and public sector employers and workers in the US. The agency also provides training, outreach, education, and assistance services.

OSHA requires that employers provide their employees with a safe, hazard-free, and healthy work environment. In order to comply, companies must find and correct related problems. While some OSHA standards are industry specific, the following are a few examples of standards that apply more generally: 

  • Supply safety goggles, masks and hard hats to workers 
  • Make first aid kits available
  • Maintain clean air ventilation systems
  • Provide training on ladder and scaffold use
  • Provide training on the safe use of facility equipment

OSHA also requires that all employers must also comply with these other broad standards, including:

  • Prominently display official OSHA requirements
  • Inform workers of hazards
  • Maintain accurate work related injury and illness records
  • Perform workplace safety and illness testing
  • Provide workplace protective equipment to employees at employers’ cost
  •  Do not retaliate against any worker exercising their rights under the law

Enforcing OSHA standards

OSHA compliance officers conduct routine facility inspections without advance notice to a company. Among other things, compliance officers present themselves to the facility manager and together, they walk through the facility and inspect it for hazards. After completion, the compliance officer discusses their findings with the managers. If OSHA violations are found, a citation and/or a fine is issued. The citation outlines the specific issue(s), how it can be addressed and the timeline and date for completion.  To get a sense of the fines levied: maximum fines for minor and major violations was $13,260 and $132,590 for repeat violations. There is no doubt that apart from the safety and health risks posed to employees, these fines can be avoided. 

 

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Top 10 OSHA Violations

During 2018 alone, 85 health and safety violations were committed daily and cost companies more than $400 million across the 31,000 fines levied. Once again, apart from the risk to human safety and health in the form of preventable accidents and illnesses, these staggering figures also attest to the high financial costs associated with a failure to adhere to OSHA safety and health standards.

While the following may not apply to all companies, these were identified as the top ten OSHA violations levied in 2018:

  • Fall Protection - general requirements - Standard 1926.501 (7,270 occurrences)
  • Hazard Communication - Standard 1910.200 (4,552 occurrences)
  • Scaffolds - general requirements - Standard 1926.451 (3,336 occurrences)
  • Respiratory Protection - Standard 1910.200 (3,118 occurrences)
  • Lockout/Tagout - Standard 1910.147 (2,944 occurrences)
  • Ladders - Standard 1926.1053 (2,812 occurrences)
  • Powered Industrial Trucks - Standard 1910.178 (2,294 occurrences)
  • Fall Protection - Training Requirements - Standard 1926.503 (1,982 occurrences)
  • Machine Guarding - Standard 1910.212 (1,972 occurrences)
  • Personal Protection and Lifesaving Equipment - Standard 1926.95 (1,536 occurrences)

Avoiding OSHA Violations

By now, it should be obvious that maintenance managers and their teams need to invest time and energy in adhering to OSHA safety and health standards by ensuring a safe work environment. Here are some examples of ways to avoid problems, and how a good CMMS helps.

Fall Protection

Proper training provides the most effective guard against fall protection. However, in addition to training, there are other safeguards that can also be implemented. First, CMMS programs can identify workers that are certified to operate certain equipment. Using this data, a properly trained employee can be assigned to a work order and also be in compliance with this OSHA standard. As well, maintenance managers must be sure to provide workers with appropriate safety gear to operate equipment that could potentially provide a safety and health risk. When it comes to fall protection, these include harnesses, gloves, and anchors. A CMMS can be used to inventory these safety items as well as their locations so that they can be easily retrieved when needed. 

Inventory tracking using CMMS software to ensure OSHAinventory tracking means you know exactly what you have and where you have it

Hazard Communication

To ensure that employees are up to date in their safety and health training, proper records are essential. Records should include employee profiles that identify the training each has received along with the date and type of training completed. Utilizing the data in the profiles, alerts can be sent to workers when their training is about to expire.  The alert mechanism also provides a way for managers to inform workers about hazardous conditions or any changes in policy. All this data can be stored and retrieved quickly using a CMMS and used to send alerts.

Machine Guarding

Installing machine guards is essential, but it is also important that the guards be regularly inspected and maintained in order to provide the intended protection. A CMMS can assist in this area in the same way that scheduled preventive maintenance (PM) work orders are managed. For example, regular alerts to inspect machine guards for specific assets can simply be added to a PM at a specified time interval. Adding machine guard inspections to scheduled maintenance checks ensures they will be done routinely and in compliance with OSHA.  

Machine guarding using Preventive Maintenance software for OSHA compliancescheduled PMs never slip through the cracks

Personal Protection and Lifesaving Equipment (PPE)

There is a range of PPEs required based on the nature of a company’s equipment and work space environment. In some instances, masks are required while in other instances, there is a need for goggles or gloves. Lifesaving equipment may include basic first-aid kits but in some environments, it may also require chemical eye or skin washes.  Regardless of a company’s industry or facility set up, the equipment required must be on hand at all times. Including the required PPEs in a checklist attached to CMMS work orders or PMs ensures that maintenance techs will have access to them when they need them.

Conclusion

The bottom line is that on top of having effective maintenance management operations aimed at optimizing production and company profits, company owners must also make it a priority to provide a safe and healthy work environment for their workers. Beyond being a responsibility, it is also a legislated requirement. As such, maintenance management operations must be holistic in its approach by incorporating OSHA safety and health standard practices into their ongoing maintenance routines. One way this can be accomplished is by including safety and hazard relevant specifications into CMMS generated worker orders and PMs. By ensuring that proper safety and health equipment is in place and by conducting worker training, company owners will be doing their part in providing a safe work environment and also avoid costly OSHA violations.

 

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Topics: computerized maintenance management software maintenance management Maintenance Software osha


Reena Sommer

Reena Sommer

Reena Sommer originally hails from Winnipeg, Manitoba and currently resides in the Houston, Texas area. In 1994, she graduated from the University of Manitoba with a Ph.D. in Psychology, Sociology and Family Studies. Reena is a regular contributor for Hippo CMMS.


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