Scaffolding Snafus Top OSHA's 2009 Violations List

As it does annually, OSHA used the occasion of NSC's Congress & Expo to reveal its preliminary top 10 most-frequent workplace safety violations for the year. In its presentation of the 2009 results last week in Orlando, the agency noted that the number of top 10 violations has increased almost 30 percent over the same time period in 2008.

Holding the negative distinction of being at the top of the 2009 list, with 9,093 violations thus far, was Scaffolding. OSHA noted that incidents involving this category most often result from the planking or support giving way, or to an employee slipping or being struck by a falling object.

Coming in a relatively distant second place, with 6,771 violations thus far, was the category of Fall Protection, about which the agency said: "Any time a worker is at a height of four feet or more, the worker is at risk and needs to be protected. Fall protection must be provided at four feet in general industry, five feet in maritime, and six feet in construction" -- which, in some 7,000 cases, is allegedly not being done.

The rest of OSHA's top 10 list fell as follows, along with the agency's explanatory comments:

3. Hazard Communication – 6,378 violations

Chemical manufacturers and importers are required to evaluate the hazards of the chemicals they produce or import, and prepare labels and safety data sheets to convey the hazard information to their downstream customers.

4. Respiratory Protection – 3,803 violations

Respirators protect workers against insufficient oxygen environments, harmful dusts, fogs, smokes, mists, gases, vapors and sprays. These hazards may cause cancer, lung impairment, other diseases or death.

5. Lockout-Tag out – 3,321 violations

"Lockout-Tag out" refers to specific practices and procedures to safeguard employees from the unexpected startup of machinery and equipment, or the release of hazardous energy during service or maintenance activities.

6. Electrical (Wiring) – 3,079 violations

Working with electricity can be dangerous. Engineers, electricians and other professionals work with electricity directly, including working on overhead lines, cable harnesses, and circuit assemblies. Others, such as office workers and sales people, work with electricity indirectly and may also be exposed to electrical hazards.

7. Ladders – 3,072 violations

Occupational fatalities caused by falls remain a serious public health problem. The US Department of Labor (DOL) lists falls as one of the leading causes of traumatic occupational death, accounting for eight percent of all occupational fatalities from trauma.

8. Powered Industrial Trucks – 2,993 violations

Each year, tens of thousands of injuries related to powered industrial trucks (PIT), or forklifts, occur in US workplaces. Many employees are injured when lift trucks are inadvertently driven off loading docks, lifts fall between docks and an unsecured trailer, they are struck by a lift truck, or when they fall while on elevated pallets and tines.

9. Electrical – 2,556 violations

Working with electricity can be dangerous. Engineers, electricians, and other professionals work with electricity directly, including working on overhead lines, cable harnesses, and circuit assemblies. Others, such as office workers and sales people, work with electricity indirectly and may also be exposed to electrical hazards.

10. Machine Guarding – 2,364 violations

Any machine part, function, or process that may cause injury must be safeguarded. When the operation of a machine or accidental contact injures the operator or others in the vicinity, the hazards must be eliminated or controlled.

"We appreciate our colleagues at OSHA presenting their new violation data to such a receptive audience," said NSC President and CEO Janet Froetscher. "The sheer number of violations gives us new resolve in raising awareness about the importance of having sounds safety procedures."

The final report on the Top 10 for 2009 violations will be published in the December edition of NSC's Safety+Health magazine.

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