The U.S. Department of Occupational Safety and Health Administration, commonly known as “OSHA”, has released its “Top 10 Most Frequently Cited” violations for 2009. This list not only exposes the most frequently violated safety regulations in 2009, but also, in my experience, represents a pretty accurate list of the top 10 violations that, year after year, cause the most serious injuries in the workplace in New York. Here’s OSHA’s top ten list (with my editorial notes tagged on):
1. SCAFFOLDING, CONSTRUCTION (29 CFR 1926.451)
Note: The NUMBER ONE safety violation. Scaffold accidents are frequently caused when the planks or support boards collapse or slip off the scaffold frame, or when the scaffold worker slips and falls from the scaffold or is struck by a falling object that causes him to fall off the scaffold. In a previous blog post, I wrote about how injured New York scaffold workers benefit from a special Statute, Labor Law 240, which allows them to sue for compensation for such scaffold violations. We have represented many construction workers in scaffold accident cases.
2. FALL PROTECTION, CONSTRUCTION (29 CFR 1926.501)
NOTE: Any time a worker is at a height, OSHA rules require that he be protected from falling by use of lanyards, safety nets, and other fall-protectors. New York’s special Statute, Labor Law 240, which I previously blogged about, allows New York’s injured construction workers not properly protected from such falls to bring claims for compensation for their pain, suffering, lost income, medical expenses and other damages. We have represented many construction workers injured in such falls.
3. HAZARD COMMUNICATION, GENERAL INDUSTRY (29 CFR 1910.1200)
NOTE: Chemical manufacturers, importers and others are OSHA-required to evaluate the dangers and hazards of the chemicals they put on the market, and are further required to create warning labels and safety data sheets to communicate these hazards to the downstream users. Apparently, they fail to comply with high frequency.
4. RESPIRATORY PROTECTION (29 CFR 1910.134)
NOTE: Respirators protect workers from the dangers of hazardous dusts, smokes, gases and vapors. Exposure to such air-borne materials can lead to cancer, asthma, lung impairment, other diseases or even death. I recently blogged about a large settlement we had for the victim of occupational lung disease. As the large number of OSHA respiratory protection violations in 2009 shows, our client was far from the only victim of needless workplace lung injury.
5. CONTROL OF HAZARDOUS ENERGY (a/k/a Lockout/Tag out) (29 CFR 1910.147).
NOTE: “Lockout/Tag out” refers to practices and procedures to protect employees from the unintended startup of dangerous machinery and equipment, or unexpected release of hazardous energy during service or maintenance of machinery. Unfortunately, failure to follow required lockout/tag out procedures often results in devastating injuries, including mangled or burned limbs, or even death. We have handled many cases of “lockout/tag out” violations.
6. LADDERS, CONSTRUCTION (29 CFR 1926.1053)
NOTE: Ladders that are improperly placed, positioned, operated or used often cause workers to fall, resulting in horrendous injuries or death. New York’s special statute, Labor Law 240, which I have blogged about, also protects New York construction workers who are injured on ladders. We have handled many such claims.
7. POWERED INDUSTRIAL TRUCKS (29 CFR 1910.178)
NOTE: Many workers are injured every year by powered industrial trucks, or forklifts. For example, we are currently representing a worker who was driving a loaded forklift from the back of a truck onto a loading dock when the truck, which was not secured with “blocks” under its wheels, as required, rolled away from the dock, causing the forklift, and the driver, to fall between the dock and the truck.
8. ELECTRICAL, WIRING METHODS, COMPONENTS and EQUIPMENT, general industry (29 CFR 1910.305)
9. ELECTRICAL SYSTEMS DESIGN, general requirements, general industry (29 CFR 1910.303)
10. Fall protection, training requirements (29 CFR 1926.503).
So there you have it: This year’s “top ten” OSHA violation list. When will employers and others in charge of workplace and construction site safety finally get it? When will these frequent, serious, and life-altering safety violations end? I don’t know, but I do know this: As long as they continue, we at Michaels & Smolak will continue to fight for the victims of those violations.