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Top Three Safety Topics

Written by Steve Hudgik

What are some of the top safety topics? If we take a look at OSHA citations, a few safety topics pop out as needing attention.

Safety Topics - Electrical Safety

Electricity is an invisible hazard. We can be lulled into a sense of security because we don't feel the danger of electricity – then it strikes and a worker is seriously injured or dead. The most effective safety practice when working with electrical systems is to work on them de-energized, a practice that is often ignored. This makes electrical safety a top safety topic.

In 2011 OSHA cited The Hartford Financial Services Group Inc. for exposing workers to electrical hazards at their and data center in Hartford. OSHA found that the data center's policy required electricians to perform work in live electrical panels. This was a dangerous shortcut.

OSHA also fined The Hartford's contractor, Grubb & Ellis, for having their employees work on the building's live electrical circuits. In addition, the Grubb & Ellis workers were not fully trained on safe electrical work practices nor on the use of protective equipment (PPE). In addition, Grubb & Ellis did not have specific LO/TO procedures to prevent the activation of, or the release of hazardous energy from equipment. OSHA also cited them for failure to adequately train all employees on hazardous energy control and procedures.

The key point of this safety topic is that, while at times there is no option other than working on a live electrical system, every effort should be made to only work on de-energized systems. De-energizing an electrical system also means taking steps to ensure the system remains de-energized, with no possibility of it becoming energized while work is in progress. This is called lock out / tag out (LO/TO). LO/TO is an important safety topic that we'll cover next.

Even when all electrical power has been shut off and locked out, there is still a danger. Electrically operated equipment may have stored mechanical energy. For example, a heavy component of a machine may be in a raised position. Even without electrical power this component may fall and injure someone. To be safe the heavy component needs to be locked into place or mechanically supported in some way.

Labels and signs are a key component of electrical safety. They warn about the dangers of electricity, including providing specific warning information directly on electrical equipment. Labels and signs remind, inform and warn workers about:

  • all types of safety hazards (including electrical, mechanical and chemical hazards)
  • the need to de-energize a system
  • required PPE
  • required procedures
  • the need for LOTO
  • the need to be a qualified person to work on some electrical systems

Safety Topics - Using LO/TO

In 2011 OSHA issued a proposed fine of $212,000 against Bridgford Foods Processing for safety violations that included failing to implement and provide training for workers on lockout/tagout procedures.

The LO/TO related violations cited by OSHA included:

  • Allowing workers to remove a shovel that was stuck in an auger screw conveyor without locking or tagging out the auger.
  • Failing to provide both lockout/tagout and electrical safety training
  • Failing to specifically outline energy control procedures
  • Failing to perform periodic energy control inspections

Lock out/tag out is a safety topic that should be at the top of the list for training and refresher training. It is easy to forget, but is important throughout all areas of safety.

Safety Topics - Fall Protection

OSHA's #1 safety topic is fall protection. Falls are among the most common causes of serious work related injuries and deaths. Employers need to establish a workplace designed to prevent employees from falling off of overhead platforms, elevated work stations, or into holes in the floor or walls.

In 2012 OSHA cited Monster Contracting LLC for alleged willful and serious violations of safety standards at a residential construction site. OSHA found employees were exposed to falls from heights of from six to twenty feet while performing exterior and interior framing work.

In addition, nine serious violations were cited that included several violations related to fall protection. They included:

  • damaged and misused ladders
  • unsafe access to elevated areas of the building
  • not training employees to recognize fall, material handling, electrical, and flying object hazards
  • not training employees in the safe operation of power tools and the proper use of ladders.

What can be done to reduce falls?

It is the employer's responsibility to provide a work place designed to prevent employees from falling from overhead platforms, elevated work stations or into holes in the floor and walls. OSHA requires that fall protection be provided at any elevations greater than:

  • four feet in general industry workplaces
  • five feet in shipyards
  • six feet in the construction industry
  • eight feet in longshoring operations

In addition, OSHA requires that fall protection be provided when working above dangerous equipment and machinery, regardless of the fall distance.

To prevent employees from being injured from falls, employers must:

  • Guard every floor hole into which a worker can accidentally step.
  • Provide a guard rail and toe-board around every elevated open sided platform, floor or walkway.
  • Regardless of height, if a worker can fall into or onto dangerous machines or equipment (such as a chemical vat or a conveyor belt) guardrails and toe-boards must be used to prevent workers from falling.
  • Other means of fall protection may be required on certain jobs. These include safety harnesses and safety lines, safety nets, stair railings and hand rails.

Safety signs and labels are a part of all safety topics. Signs and labels are be used to warn about fall hazards, and to provide information about the proper use of ladders, lifts and other equipment used to work above the ground. Call 1-888-326-9244. today to learn more about using a DuraLabel custom label printer for making all the safety labels and signs you need.


The information presented in this document was obtained from sources that we deem reliable; Graphic Products does not guarantee accuracy or completeness. Graphic Products, Inc. makes no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied. Users of this document should consult municipal, state, and federal code and/or verify all information with the appropriate regulatory agency.

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