Common mistakes that cause great danger in the workplace

Greg Collins, Industrial Safety Administrator, and Ranzy Brown, Safety and Health Consultant

Each year, the the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation’s OSHA On-Site Consultation Program conducts about 900 visits, during which we provide free occupational safety and health consulting for small, high hazard employers in the private sector. The purpose is to help these employers comply with safety and health standards set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

During the course of these visits, there are a handful of dangers which we frequently discover over and over again. Employers of all types and sizes should watch out for these dangers. Some of them are easy to overlook. You may find some of these dangers in your homes, as well.

DANGER – Improperly maintained fire extinguishers

  • Sometimes fire extinguishers have materials stacked in front of them, blocking access to them.
    • Extinguishers should be located and mounted with easy access, so that in the event of a fire they can be put to use.  
  • Required monthly inspections do not get completed, potentially resulting in an extinguisher that needs to be recharged being left in service.
    • To aid in prevention of this danger, see to it that fire extinguishers are added to a monthly inspection checklist.
  • If an extinguisher is blocked or not properly charged when a person needs it, they could be injured trying to get to it, or be exposed to injuries from exposure to smoke and fire.

Improperly maintained fire extinguishers

  • OSHA Standard 29CFR1910.157(c)(1) requires fire extinguishers to be mounted, identified, and accessible. The extinguisher in the above photo is obstructed making use of it delayed when seconds count. This shows that sometimes fire extinguishers can fade into the background over time, and people can block them without ever realizing it.

DANGER – Improperly using electrical equipment

  • Electrical equipment should be listed by a nationally recognized testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratory, Inc. (UL). This listing may be imprinted on the equipment, or be located on a tag.
    • OSHA provides a listing of Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL) requirements for these marks at this website. Unlisted equipment may not be safe to use, and it may not be safe to use equipment in a manner that is not consistent with the labeling.
  • Using equipment for a purpose that is not consistent with its listing may result in shock, electrocution, or fire. Make sure to purchase listed equipment.

Improperly using electrical equipment

  • OSHA Standard 29CFR1910.303(b)(2) requires electrical equipment to be used in accordance with manufacturer instructions. The violation shown in the picture is plugging a coffee pot into a power strip. The instructions for power strips intend they only be used with small electronic loads, like computer equipment.

DANGER – Machine guarding

  • The most common danger is missing or ineffective guarding of the point of operation (The place where the work is done.) on machinery.
    • It is important to inspect equipment before each use to ensure that guards are in place and in good condition.
    • When maintenance personnel/machine operators remove guards to service machines, they may not re-install them and leave them on the floor.
    • Sometimes the guards are removed because they are perceived as making the machines difficult to operate.
    • Sometimes the equipment is purchased without a manufacturer-supplied guard.
  • Whatever the reason, the consequences of not guarding the point of operation on machinery can be very serious, resulting in injuries such as amputations and crushing of hands and fingers. Consult the owner’s manual or manufacturer to get details about appropriate guarding.

Machine guarding

  • OSHA Standard 29CFR1910.212(a)(3)(ii) covers point of operation hazards on machinery and equipment. The picture shown is a stamping die that clamps two pieces of metal together. The violation shown is the lack of guarding, which can cause injury to anyone reaching inside.

Assistance is available

BWC’s Division of Safety and Hygiene has many resources to assist those who are trying to increase awareness of hazards and eliminate them from the workplace. Help is available for just about any occupational safety and health issue that you may encounter. To arrange for a consultative visit from the OSHA On-Site Consultation Program, visit our web site, or call 1.800.282.1425.

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