Each year, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announce their “top-ten” list of the most frequent safety violations in the nation. We are reprinting the 2011 list here so employers and employees will take a moment to reassess how faithfully they are following standard workplace safety procedures (and, as a corollary, how likely or unlikely they are to receive an OSHA citation).
On a lighter note, it can also be instructional to hear anecdotes of outrageous safety infractions. The following list is believed to be accurate, but it has not been double checked for elements of urban-legend content. Nevertheless, it is our hope that the educational benefit is outweighed only by the amusement and shock factors.
- A paint-booth worker inserted yellow foam earplugs into his nostrils to protect him from breathing the overspray. The earplugs were attached to a lanyard worn around his neck so he could reuse them all day.
- In a laboratory with an extensive collection of hazardous chemicals, a safety inspector found a 2-year-old toddler running haphazardly around the room as the research chemist sat on a stool in front of his apparatus sound asleep.
- On a road-construction project, a crew was observed working at night, adjacent to a busy intersection, with none of the following: warning signs, cones, barricades, reflective vests, light-colored clothing or effective lighting.
- A manufacturing facility with robotics and automation had implemented an impressive array of safety-interlocked machine guarding. During a safety walk-down, an inspector observed that one of the machine guards had been pried open but the interlock was still in its normal position. The operator had altered the guard so he could reach in and adjust the part without shutting down the machine.
- In a chemistry lab, a worker had stored his toothbrush and toothpaste in an open tray over a work table.
- A supervisor was able to stop a technician from using a ball peen hammer to facilitate the removal of a pressure regulator from a compressed gas cylinder. The tech was repeatedly hitting the brass collar with the round end of the hammer trying to get the threads to loosen. Incidentally, the pressure gauge on the tank showed 2,200 psi at the time.
- One construction worker had modified his hardhat with multiple lag bolts screwed through the plastic from the inside out to make a cool “metallic Mohawk” look. Fortunately, the hardhat was confiscated before the worker managed to get “screwed” by a falling object.
- A three-person work crew was trying to change a light bulb in a fixture at the ceiling of a 20-foot-high warehouse. Since they didn’t have a proper ladder or manlift, they improvised by having one worker stand on the fully raised forks of a small forklift while the second worker was operating that forklift from its driver’s seat and the third worker was operating a heavy-duty forklift that was being used to lift the first forklift so its wheels were 12 feet off the ground. Did we mention that none of the workers were wearing fall-protection harnesses or hardhats?