How Do OSHA Policies Protect Workers From Workplace Accidents and Death?

Injured workerOccupational Safety and Health Administration officials have fined a Paterson-based box manufacturer after a worker was injured by unsafe working conditions. Investigations into the company began earlier in May when another employee activated a machine with the worker inside.

OSHA officials are claiming that the company did not implement necessary safety protocols to prevent the accident from happening. Officials are referring to the ‘lockout/tagout’ program, a safety guideline that helps protect against injury and death from machinery. It is the third time that OSHA has cited the local company for failing to uphold safe working conditions.

Lockout and tagout procedures are essential to avoiding manufacturing and construction accidents. The procedures greatly reduce the risk of amputation, electrocution and death during machine maintenance.

Machines can start up unexpectedly, and if a worker is still inside performing maintenance, he or she could face catastrophic injuries and death. Application of the lockout and tagout standards also applies to procedures where workers are near a machine’s point of operation, when workers have to remove a guard or safety device, and during all set-up activities of machinery.

What Role Does OSHA Play in Worker Safety?

Under the OSH Act, employers are expected to provide a safe work environment by setting standards, providing training and educating their employees. Over 4,400 workers died last year in workplaces across the U.S., some of them because their employer created an unsafe working environment. Falling deaths and being crushed by machinery or other equipment were among the most common causes of death in U.S. workplaces in 2013.

Over 39,000 OSHA investigations were performed in 2013. OSHA will carry out investigations for six reasons. Reasons include imminent danger situations, facility catastrophes, complaints from workers, referrals of information from other agencies, follow-up inspections and investigations centering on high-hazard industries. To elaborate further, investigations occur if there are immediate threats to safety, workers have already been injured or killed and to respond to worker complaints and outside-referrals.

How Does OSHA Enforce Policies?

Penalties companies face for violating OSHA policies depend on the severity of the violation. Willful violations are an action where an employer has knowingly failed to comply with safety standards and acted with no regard for the safety of employees. Serious violations are conditions that can result in the death or injury of workers. Repeated violations occur when a company has been cited more than one time for the same conditions.

Companies that do violate the safety of their employees face heavy fines and potential civil litigation from employees. Civil suits against employers are not dependent on the outcome of an OSHA investigation.

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Learn more about the mechanics of OSHA investigations by visiting its website. You can learn more about OSHA fines by visiting its publication on safety violations.

Did You Know? Since 1970, workplace deaths have dropped 65 percent and injury rates 67 percent.