Professionals across every sector know the importance of complying with OSHA standards. In the United States, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) oversees workplace conditions and safety, and violation of an OSHA rule can incur major consequences. At first glance, it may not seem that a lack of personal protective equipment, or PPE, when using a machine or a broken air conditioner in a work area are serious issues from a regulatory standpoint. In the eyes of OSHA, though, denying workers access to appropriate gear or subjecting them to a workplace that’s too hot can be cause for investigation and penalization. These measures are important to stakeholders in the safety industry because they demonstrate the compliance challenges companies most frequently face.
By analyzing the latest OSHA enforcement measures, you can gain a better understanding of the top safety issues that you may need to address either on the products you produce or in your workplace. Read on as we break down 2020’s most notable workplace safety citations and fines, including those specifically related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Increased 2020 Citation Penalty Amounts
The primary reason for penalties is to ensure adherence to all of OSHA’s standards, helping to create safer workplaces and reduce the risk of harm. Still, year over year, workplace safety violations continue to occur, and 2020’s compiled list of penalties proves that progress still needs to be made.
On January 15, 2020, the Department of Labor increased the maximum allowable penalty amounts for OSHA violations. These increased figures are based on the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015, signed by former President Barack Obama to help increase the effectiveness of civil financial penalties and to “maintain their deterrent effect.” What’s more, increases are required by January 15 every year going forward.
COVID-19 and OSHA’s 2020 Safety Citations and Fines
OSHA identifies and raises awareness of workplace hazards via on-site safety inspections and through initiatives like the Safe + Sound Campaign. In 2020, OSHA’s On-Site Consultation Program identified roughly 80,910 hazards in the workplace, removing 667,492 workers from potential harm. Though companies throughout the country were fined for a wide array of violations, here’s a closer look at three of the year’s top OSHA enforcement measures:
1. Coronavirus Violations
Roughly a quarter of the complaints received and investigated by OSHA in 2020 were related to COVID-19. Of these 3,437 complaints, various companies, from hospitals to nursing facilities to meatpacking plants, were cited for failing to protect workers from the coronavirus and for failing to fully implement respiratory programs to protect employees from coronavirus. This year, OSHA expanded its outreach and educational efforts to include COVID-19 safety messaging via its “COVID-19 Tip-of-the-Day” and “Did You Know” notices. In addition to following guidance from OSHA and the CDC, COVID-19 workplace warnings and notices are an effective way to help prevent the spread of infection and stay in compliance with the latest standards.
Hazards of Powered Industrial Trucks
Manufacturing facilities and warehouses commonly rely on powered industrial trucks, or PIT vehicles, to carry out essential operations. Some of the most common of these include forklifts, platform lifts, and tractors. Many employers require a license for PIT drivers, but even this cannot eliminate the risk that such equipment creates. These vehicles, if handled incorrectly, create safety violations that put all employees at risk. One citation from OSHA cost a New York-based company a $221,257 fine for allegedly exposing its workers to forklift hazards when a worker fell and was hospitalized for allegedly being instructed to stand on the fork of a forklift to retrieve materials from a high level. Unsurprisingly, “powered industrial trucks” landed on OSHA’s 2019 violations list at number seven. Employee training, supplemented by forklift safety labels and signs to reinforce safety rules, is a critical part of keeping forklift operators and bystanders out of harm’s way.
Trip and Fall Risks
OSHA records for 2020 show that falls and conditions putting employees at risk of falling are common reasons for citations and fines. In fact, “fall protection – general requirements” topped OSHA’s 2019 list of safety violations as it did in 2018. Numerous companies were negligent in protecting staff from this risk, with varying outcomes for personnel. Some of the most severe injuries and fines for this hazard were handed out in the following sectors:
- Construction: Perhaps unsurprisingly, construction companies were the most common violators for putting workers at risk of falling. As contractors climb scaffolding and work high above the ground, proper precautions must be taken to ensure their safety. In 2020, top construction industry violations include failure to provide fall protection (3,917 citations), scaffolding violations (1,615 citations) and violations involving ladders (1,500 citations). Additionally, repeat OSHA violations are common in the construction sector and often lead to expensive penalties. Earlier this year, OSHA cited a Florida roofing contractor for repeat, willful violations in the amount of $1,007,717.
- Roofing: Roofing is known to be one of the most dangerous professions because of the risk of falls, but there are preventative measures that every professional in this field can and must take. Unfortunately, several roofing companies failed to take these measures and caused workers to fall, including some accidents which were fatal. OSHA fined and cited roofers in Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania and Alabama for this violation.
Falls in the workplace are often preventable. Some of the most effective ways to minimize this risk include cleaning up any spills immediately after they occur, keeping storage low to the ground whenever possible and ensuring staff are trained in proper ladder use. Slip, trip and fall signage reminding employees of these tactics can encourage safe behavior and mitigate the risk of injury and OSHA citation.
Solutions for Your Safety Program
This past year shows that, if safety isn’t prioritized, you may be putting your company at risk of an OSHA citation – and worse, putting people in harm’s way. That’s why it’s necessary to properly assess and identify risks, and take the appropriate steps to mitigate or warn about those risks. Investing in safety is important for the people who use your equipment, your workers, and the future of your company.
Clarion Safety has the industry-leading products and services to help you stay compliant and in line with today’s standards and best practices. From ANSI/ISO compliant product warnings, to workplace safety signage and product risk assessments, our team is standing by to help you achieve your safety goals now and in the new year. Let us know how we can help.