During the first half of October 2014, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced a dozen citations against employers. A New Hampshire roofing contractor was fined $61,600 for not providing adequate fall protection. A Connecticut roofing contractor faces several citations following a fatal accident in July. A metal parts processor in Ohio was cited for 10 serious violations and $64,000 in fines over the accidental death of a supervisor. A cabinet maker in New Jersey faces a six-figure fine for exposing employees to a carcinogenic chemical. The death of an employee on a conveyor belt has a Mississippi lumberyard facing a $75,000 penalty.
Noncompliance with OSHA regulations can cost employers a lot of money. The good news is that complying does not have to be cumbersome or expensive. These procedures and attitudes can help a company keep its name out of an OSHA news release.
Improve record keeping. Good documentation is an employer’s first defense against an OSHA inquiry. Information gaps in the OSHA 300 log (the record of work-related injuries and illnesses) may prompt inspectors to conduct comprehensive safety audits of businesses. Filling in missing information for the past three to five years can save your business a lot of grief and expense. Check personnel files and workers’ compensation loss records for details of accidents.
Focus on ergonomics. Preventing repetitive motion disorders can help businesses avoid citations and penalties. It also reduces workers’ compensation insurance premiums in the long run. Analyze how workers are performing their tasks and look for ways to reduce the strain on their joints, necks and backs.
Fix the routine violations first. Some safety issues are simple and cost little or nothing to correct. For example:
- Blocked exits
- Lack of protective equipment, such as gloves and safety goggles
- Poor housekeeping
- Improper storage of materials such as flammable liquids
These problems can accumulate over time. OSHA has penalized businesses with large numbers of violations like these, so it pays to monitor and correct them.
Have a plan for disasters. The weather has become more volatile, as the tornadoes of recent years and storms like 2012’s Superstorm Sandy have shown. Contagions such as the Ebola virus can come seemingly from out of nowhere. Businesses must be ready for the unexpected. Disaster plans should include:
- Training for employees on what to do in the event of an emergency
- Procedures for safe evacuation from the building
- Workplace hygiene
- Stockpiling of emergency supplies such as first-aid kits
- Training for employees on how to administer first aid and CPR
- Arrangements for operating from remote locations
- Communications with employees, their families, customers and vendors
Although OSHA is not concerned with some of these aspects of the plan, having them in place will help the business survive the event.
View safety as a profit driver, not a cost center. Preventing workplace injuries costs money, but it also can improve a business’s profitability. Some project owners and general contractors will consider bids only from contractors with workers’ compensation experience modifications lower than 1.0. Firms with a reputation for safe operations will attract better workers. Also, insurance does not cover many of the costs from workplace accidents, such as time spent on investigating the incident, reduced employee morale, lost productivity, reporting costs, and the cost of OSHA penalties. Money saved on prevented accidents goes straight to the bottom line.
Some workplace injuries occur despite an employer’s best efforts to prevent them. However, reasonable steps to improve workplace safety reduce the frequency and severity of injuries, make the business more competitive, and avoid problems when an OSHA inspector visits. To learn more, contact ACBI.