In mid-October, six people were injured when seven stories of scaffolding collapsed at an apartment construction site in busy downtown Houston. The cause of the collapse is currently being investigated by Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspectors. Unfortunately, scenes like the one that occurred in downtown Houston continue to occur across the United States in staggering numbers.
OSHA recently announced its preliminary Top 10 most frequently cited workplace safety violations for 2015. These preliminary ranking were based on figures through September 8, 2015. Patrick Kapust, deputy director of OSHA’s Directorate of Enforcement Programs, presented the Top 10 at the 2015 National Safety Council Congress & Expo held in Atlanta, GA. As with years past, fall protection and scaffolding incidents continually rank in the Top 10 violations. The list incorporates worksite inspection findings of Federal OSHA inspectors from across the country.
Every month, audits and enforcement mandates are issued from various federal and state agencies. Costly non-compliance fines continually result from the lack of an implemented, thorough, or effective regulatory compliance program. Ideally, companies should utilize this list to conduct assessments, identify potential site-specific compliance lapses, and mitigate these highly recognized hazards. When companies deliberately protect lives, prevent hazardous environmental impacts, limit property damage, and eliminate regulatory fines, prioritizing an EHS program becomes an investment in the sustainability of a company.
The Top 10 for FY 2015 violations include:
- Fall Protection (1926.501) – 6,721
- Hazard Communication (1910.1200) – 5,192
- Scaffolding (1926.451) – 4,295
- Respiratory Protection (1910.134) – 3,305
- Lockout/Tagout (1910.147) – 3,002
- Powered Industrial Trucks (1910.178) – 2,760
- Ladders (1926.1053) – 2,489
- Electrical – Wiring Methods (1910.305) – 2,404
- Machine Guarding (1910.212) – 2,295
- Electrical – General Requirements (1910.303) – 1,973
It is often impractical for companies to spend relentlessly on emergency management mitigation efforts. However, regulatory compliance, required safety processes, and response planning should not be compromised for expedited operations and profitability. Prevention, mitigation, and planning costs should be analyzed against the financial impacts and potential stigma of non-compliance and emergency scenarios. These costs may include, but are not limited to:
- Human life
- Short term or long term business interruption
- Infrastructure damage
- Equipment failure
- Inventory/stock losses
- Environmental destruction
"Far too many people are still killed on the job - 13 workers every day taken from their families tragically and unnecessarily.” said Thomas E. Perez, U.S. Secretary of Labor. “These numbers underscore the urgent need for employers to provide a safe workplace for their employees as the law requires.”
Regulatory non-compliance continually proves to be expensive, time consuming, and potentially dangerous to employees, surrounding communities, and the long term viability of companies. An effective compliance management system, mitigation efforts, and employee training can result in an efficient and integrated program that optimizes safety and regulatory compliance while minimizing potential costs and downtime.