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When OSHA Comes Knocking: Tips For Avoiding Costly Violations

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the top 10 violations for 2013 revealed a 45 percent increase in citations over the same list the year before. To help businesses prevent avoidable workplace injuries and avoid heavy fines, Cintas Corporation (NASDAQ: CTAS) today announced key strategies and solutions for improving organizations’ compliance and safety.

“The overall spike in the number of violations this year compared to last year shows that OSHA is not averse to aggressively investigating and penalizing organizations for putting employees at risk,” said Jay Bruscato, Vice President of First Aid and Safety, Cintas. “To avoid these fines and protect employees, it’s critical that businesses understand OSHA requirements and take the proper steps to recognize and fix potential hazards in the workplace.”

Cintas identifies the following ways businesses can reduce their risk and avoid OSHA’s top 10 most frequently cited violations:

  • Protect Against Falls: According to OSHA, falls are among the most common causes of serious work-related injuries and deaths. In fact, three of OSHA’s top 10 violations in 2013 cited fall protection, scaffolding and ladders. To prevent falls, businesses must ensure that employees wear the appropriate fall protection equipment, including safety belts, harnesses and lanyards. Then, equally imperative is ensuring that a program is in place to train all workers, full time and temporary, and regularly inspect the equipment.
  • Ensure HazCom Compliance: The recently updated Hazard Communication Standard is now aligned with the Globally Harmonized System (GHS). This requires millions of businesses to conduct training to educate employees about the revisions to chemical classification and labeling. According to OSHA, the proper adoption of GHS has the potential to prevent nearly 600 injuries and illnesses annually. To prevent accidents and avoid fines, businesses should look for a partner that can provide on-site consultation, training solutions and ongoing support.
  • Provide Effective, Reliable Respiratory Protection: Respiratory protection ranked as the fourth most frequently cited violation on OSHA’s top 10 list from 2013. In order to protect employees and satisfy all regulatory requirements, businesses need to equip employees with the right masks for the hazard and provide fit testing and medical evaluation. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fit testing each model of respirator before use is important to minimize contaminant leakage into the face-piece, thereby offering better protection for employees.
  • Protect Against Arc Flashes: According to statistics compiled by Chicago-based research firm Capshell, Inc., five to 10 U.S. workers are injured or killed daily as a result of arc flash accidents. To properly protect employees who are exposed to electric shock, fires and explosions, it’s vital that organizations equip employees with a full ensemble of flame-resistant apparel, including shirts, pants, gloves, face shields and more that match the appropriate hazard category. To help ensure that the garments are washed correctly and maintain their flame-resistant integrity, many companies use a uniform rental program. Under the program, the rental provider picks up soiled garments on a weekly basis to inspect and launder the uniforms. Any garments damaged from normal wear and tear are repaired with flame-resistant threading or replaced.
  • Practice Proper Machine Guarding: Moving machine parts have the potential to cause severe workplace injuries, such as crushed fingers or hands, amputations, burns or blindness. To help protect workers from the unexpected startup of machinery and equipment, or the release of hazardous energy, businesses must follow specific machine guarding and lockout/tagout standards, as well as offer proper employee training. OSHA cites that compliance with the lockout/tagout standard prevents an estimated 120 fatalities and 50,000 injuries annually.
  • Safely Power Industrial Trucks: For anyone who designs, maintains and uses fork trucks, tractors, platform lift trucks, motorized hand trucks and other specialized industrial trucks powered by electric motors or internal combustion engines, it’s imperative to follow training procedures and wear the proper personal protective equipment (PPE). For example, prior to becoming a forklift operator, OSHA requires training that includes classroom instruction, trainer demonstrations, exercises and performance evaluation. In addition, those who operate industrial trucks must re-train every three years at minimum. PPE for industrial trucks includes (but is not limited to) hardhats, goggles, and high-visibility shirts, pants and coveralls.

“The industry standards set in place by OSHA and other organizations exist because they save lives,” said Rick Gerlach, Director of Safety and Health, Cintas. “In addition to having first aid cabinets and AEDs on site, it’s critical that organizations are proactive about worker health and safety to prevent the likelihood and severity of injury.”

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