Workplace Safety Training: Why it’s critical

Imagine this scenario: “Tom,” is a new employee in your plant’s maintenance department. As the plant supervisor, you ask “Joe,” your maintenance supervisor, to help Tom learn the job and show him the ropes. You specifically tell Joe, “Remember to show him how to de-energize the machines before he works on them.”

So Tom shadows Joe for a few weeks, helping him with several maintenance projects, including a number of machine repairs. Since he’s your maintenance supervisor, Joe always de-energizes the equipment. He ”gets it,” and he does a great job of telling Tom how important it is to de-energize the machinery before working on it.

After a few weeks on the job, Tom (who happens to be a quick study) is familiar with the plant, knows the machinery, and is sufficiently engaged and knowledgeable to handle a number of things on his own. One morning, just a few minutes before the first shift, your most important piece of equipment breaks down. Joe is on vacation, but Tom is well aware that losing this particular machine shuts down your entire assembly process, so he is on the spot to fix it. In his enthusiasm to prove himself, however, Tom forgets to de-energize the machine. He crawls between the back of the machine and the wall and removes the rear cover to expose its inner workings.

Now that the machine is open, Tom slips on his leather gloves, puts on a pair of goggles and uses a screwdriver to remove a few screws inside the machine. This allows him to reach the gear box, which he does successfully.  He notices that one of the gears – measuring 18” in circumference – is missing a couple of teeth, so he reaches in to start removing it. That’s when Phil, the machine operator for the first shift, hits the “start” button.

At that moment, Tom’s right hand has a good grip on top of the gear, his left hand is holding the bottom of the gear, and he is about to pull the entire gear toward him to remove it from its spindle. As the machine is started, the gear turns counter-clockwise. Before Tom can remove his hands, they are both caught between the defective gear and the two adjacent gears. As Tom’s hands are crushed, Phil can’t hear Tom’s screams over the motor. After a few seconds the machine jams and Phil scratches his head. He hits the “Stop” button and then hears Tom’s agonizing screams. Tom is rushed to the hospital, where doctors proceed to remove what’s left of his hands.

As is the case with any workplace injury, OSHA comes in to see what happened. Their inspectors learn that Joe trained Tom, that he showed Tom how to de-energize the machinery, and that he even emphasized how important it is to do so. They learn that there was even some discussion about using personal protective equipment, as evidenced by the fact that Tom was wearing gloves and safety glasses.

However, there is no documentation, meaning there is no evidence that your company provided formal training for any of your employees. Further, it’s clear to the OSHA inspectors that your firm doesn’t have a formal policy on de-energizing or otherwise disabling (think “lockout/tagout”) machinery before someone works on it.

The result of all this? Tom has lost both hands and is now unable to tie his shoes, much less hold a job. He will undergo countless surgeries, a lifetime of physical and occupational therapy, and his marriage and family will experience great stress. OSHA cites your company for a number of safety violations, imposing fines in the six-figures. And Tom sues your company for failing to train him adequately, which of course, results in his inability to earn a living. Based on his age at the time of the accident (31) and a lifetime of expected earnings, he is awarded several million dollars. And you’ve lost your job.

If you think this scenario is a stretch, think again. As in this fictional account, many employers equate “training” to “showing someone the ropes,” but it is far more than that. Specifically, OSHA expects that every employer will have a formal training program in place, along with formal policies and procedures related to workplace safety. OSHA also expects that every employee will be required by their employer to abide by those policies and procedures, and OSHA holds the employer accountable if the employee fails to do so.

Hopefully, this account has you thinking about your training program and whether it is adequate or not. If it is adequate, you are to be congratulated! However, if it is inadequate, you may have some work to do. As experts in workplace safety, Mitchell & Lindsey is here to help. Give us a call at (502) 682-8491 for a free consultation.

Failure to Lockout-Tagout results in worker’s death: OSHA cites employer nearly $300K

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration recently cited a Missouri manufacturing company after the death of a 58-year-old maintenance worker who was pinned between a scrap metal table and a railing. OSHA said the company failed to prevent the table from lowering unintentionally. The citation resulted in a penalty of $272,250.

Specifically, OSHA issued three willful violations for not placing devices on machinery to prevent the sudden startup or movement of equipment during service and maintenance, a procedure known as lockout/tagout.

The company, Hussman Corporation, also was cited for failure to correct numerous problems related to its lockout/tagout procedures, such as using electronic gate switches as a substitute for an energy-isolating device.

Using proper lockout/tagout procedures and training employees to use and follow them could have prevented the accident, which happened at the company’s Bridgeton, Missouri manufacturing plant.  The citation is available at https://www.osha.gov/ooc/citations/Hussmann_995311_030415.pdf.

Lockout/tagout is the practice of disabling machinery or equipment to prevent the release of hazardous energy while employees perform servicing and maintenance activities. The energy can be released in any number of ways, including electrical charges that result in shock or electrocution, as well as other forms of energy – electrical current, hydraulic energy, pneumatic pressure, etc. –  that re-energizes the machine, causing it to start or malfunction. Machinery should be locked-out or tagged-out any time maintenance or repairs are being performed.

Mitchell & Lindsey provides a number of workplace safety services to clients throughout the United States, including training in lockout/tagout procedures, arc flash evaluations and other related services. Mitchell & Lindsey’s clients primarily include manufacturers and hospitals, although their expertise applies to nearly every industry and sector. Visit www.MitchellandLindsey.com for more information, or call Mark Mitchell at 502-682-8491.

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OSHA Fines Lax Employers More Than $800,000

Over the past few months, OSHA has taken strong action against employers who have ignored, dismissed or cut corners with regard to the safety of workers in their facilities. In the examples summarized below, the proposed fines totaled more than $800,000, or an average of $200,000 per company. In each case, some of the cited conditions, and a least a portion of the fines, were directly related to electrical safety violations.

Some of the hazards for which citations were issued may seem rather innocuous to many facility managers, but situations like those mentioned below – a leaky roof, failure to conduct regular and periodic inspections, and failure to lockout equipment for even routine maintenance – can lead to serious safety hazards and costly fines for any kind of business.

There is a clear lesson here for facility managers: Pay attention, even to issues that appear to be minor, because they can have catastrophic results. In addition, employers must realize and remember that they are responsible not only for having safety protocols but also for training and requiring that their employees follow those protocols. Cutting corners to save money is both dangerous and can be costly over the long term.

Mitchell & Lindsey helps employers throughout the United States avoid scenarios like these by providing workplace safety inspections – with a specialization in arc flash analysis. We also provide workplace safety training.

Here are summaries of four recent OSHA citations:

Central Transport, LLC

OSHA fined Central Transport, LLC in Billerica Massachusetts $330,000 for “knowing and repeated disregard for basic worker safeguards,” according to an OSHA news release. Employees at the company’s freight shipping terminal in Billerica were exposed to electrocution and other hazards, including falls, crushing and other injuries. The cited conditions put employees at risk of deadly or disabling injuries, according to OSHA officials, and the company failed to take corrective action in spite of previous citations for similar violations.

Among the electrical citations: The building’s roof leaked water on to the work floor where electrical cabinets and forklift battery chargers were located. As a result, employees stood in water while plugging in battery chargers, exposing them to possible electrocution.

Read the OSHA News Release

 

Colonna Shipyard, Inc.

OSHA inspectors found various safety hazards at Colonna’s Shipyard Inc., a ship repair facility in Norfolk, Virginia. In addition to falling hazards, inspectors found that, because of defective equipment, employees were exposed to a number of electrical hazards while welding. Having been previously cited for similar hazards in 2010, the company received four repeat citations, carrying an $85,000 penalty. A portion of the fine – $16,000 – was assessed for expecting workers to use damaged electrical equipment and unguarded machinery.

Read the OSHA News Release

 

Wagner’s LLC

Wagner, LLC, a bird food producer in Jericho, New York, was cited by OSHA after an employee suffered serious injuries while cleaning birdseed from an industrial mixing tank. The machine apparently turned on while the man was working on it, severely injuring his hand and arm.

The resulting OSHA investigation found that, “Wagner’s failed to lockout energy sources to protect the worker from contact with rotating machine parts and the machine turning on while he cleaned it. The company also failed to conduct periodic inspections of written protocols related to locking out machines and did not train workers on these procedures.”

OSHA stated that violations like these at manufacturing plants are among the most frequently cited by OSHA. Wagner’s was cited for three willful violations related to these hazards. “A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirement, or with plain indifference to employee safety and health,” according to OSHA.

Read the OSHA News Release

 

D&D Manufacturing, Inc.

D&D Manufacturing Inc. of Plano, Texas was cited for 41 safety and health violations – including 36 deemed “serious violations,” according to an OSHA news release. “Workers were at risk of serious injuries because D&D Manufacturing failed to guard mechanical and hydraulic presses and to ensure machines were de-energized during maintenance,” according to OSHA’s area director in El Paso.

OSHA’s news release adds, “With a penalty of $177,300, the 36 serious violations were cited for failure to provide adequate machine guarding; properly inspect power presses; and utilize proper procedures to de-energize equipment during maintenance, including punch presses. The employer also failed to… provide proper maintenance on conductors with damaged insulation; and exposed workers to live electrical parts.

Read the OSHA News Release

$150,000 in fines for failure to train temporary employees in electrical safety

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) plans to heavily fine two companies for “failure to train employees in electrical safety-related work practices, including wearing electric arc flash and shock protection equipment.” OSHA became involved after a maintenance employee came in contact with electrical equipment and suffered electrical shock. The employee was unable to work for four months after the incident.

OSHA cited Arvato Digital Services for one willful and 10 serious safety violations, resulting in proposed fines of $124,000. Parallel Employment Group, the temporary agency that provided the worker to Arvato, was cited for four serious violations, with proposed fines of $24,000. The single willful violation alone resulted in a fine of $70,000.

View the full text of the OSHA news release…

Read the entire Citation and Notification of Penalty…