In this edition, we'll be covering the following topics:
- OSHA Inspections: What to Expect.
- OSHA cites $87,327 after fatal fall from elevated work platform.
- What is the load center of a forklift?
- Ask Bob: Our tech guru answers a question on scissor lift pothole protection fails.
- Loading dock safety in 5 easy steps.
- $10K in fines for bridge collapse caused by 50-ton excavator.
- Last chance to register!
- What's Wrong With This? Photo and answer.
- A selection of interesting articles.
- New testimonials from our wonderful clients.
But first, check out all the places we are delivering training this month...
OSHA Inspections: What to Expect
In 2019, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has continued to operate much as it did in 2018 and under the prior administration. Inspection data shows that the agency is operating in a manner similar to that of the last two years of the Obama administration. The agency made 32,020 inspections in fiscal year 2018 compared to 31,948 in fiscal year 2016. This has been at least in part due to the fact that in May 2019, President Trump’s appointee as Assistant Secretary of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Scott A. Mugno, withdrew his name from consideration for the position. He was first nominated in late 2017, and never had been confirmed. This lack of new guidance from Washington means that employers can expect the focus to continue on the traditional enforcement priorities with which most employers are familiar, especially responding to employee complaints. OSHA has made great efforts to raise employee awareness and made the filing of complaints an easy process.
Central to OSHA enforcement is workplace inspections. They can be initiated because of routine inspection programming, as the result of an employee complaint, or as part of a workplace accident investigation. While an employer may not have control over why or when an inspection is to take place, they have a great deal of control over its results. Proper planning for an eventual OSHA inspection can mean the difference between a clean bill of health or multiple citations and their attendant fines.
Preparation For Inspection
The first preparatory steps should be taken well before there is even notice of a possible OSHA investigation. If there is not a safety manager on staff, a responsible senior manager should be designated as the point person for responding to an inspection notice. Before OSHA visits your facility, be sure that all required OSHA-related posters are posted. When the OSHA compliance officer appears at the plant for the inspection, often at a date and time agreed upon in prior discussions, he/she should be referred to the designated manager who should verify the officer’s credentials. The inspector should not be granted access to any part of the plant prior to meeting with the designated manager.
There will be a brief opening conference during which the reason and scope of the inspection should be established. At this opening conference the OSHA inspector will also usually request the OSHA 300 log, Form 301, and Form 300A. OSHA regulations require that these forms be provided within eight hours of their request. There is no reason to risk a citation and monetary fine for failing to provide them in a timely manner, especially since they are all required to be maintained. The compliance officer will also request any required or voluntary written safety plans or programs, as well as all employee training records on such programs.
At the opening conference, the management representative should also include an employee(s) that the employer proposes to participate in the inspection, usually a member of the employee safety team. The employee(s) should have been identified previously and been informed of the possibility of an OSHA inspection and their role as an employee representative. The employee should be familiar with the company’s safety policies and programs. If a union represents the workforce, the OSHA inspector will include an employee designated by the union to join in the inspection as the union representative. In some instances, a union official may also choose to participate in the inspection.
If the OSHA inspection is in response to a workplace injury, the inspector will request all documents related to the incident at the opening conference. This includes any incident reports, witness statements, safety programs and policies, and any policies or procedures related to equipment, if any, that may have played a role in the accident. The documents provided should include such information as lock out/tag out procedures for the specific equipment or machinery and any training documentation related to the equipment. If there has been an investigation and analysis of the accident by the employer, those documents will be requested as well.
Be aware that it is not uncommon for the person assigned to investigate an injury incident to include sympathetic comments that may imply that the company must not have done everything possible to prevent the injury, simply because someone was injured. The more serious the injury, the greater the tendency to include such potentially incriminating comments. The person or persons investigating the accident should be instructed that such speculation must be consciously avoided. For this and other legitimate reasons many employers perform such accident investigations under the advice of counsel. If counsel is not involved, the attorney-client privilege may be waived by providing the investigation report and analysis to OSHA. All incident documentation should be reviewed by counsel before it is provided to the inspector.
Once the physical inspection of the workplace begins, it is important that the management representative document any comments made or questions asked by the compliance officer. Similarly, if the officer takes photos of any equipment, condition, or work area, the company representative should likewise take pictures. While conducting a wall-to-wall inspection generally entitles the OSHA investigator access to any part of the facility, that is not the case where a workplace accident is being investigated. It is in the company’s best interest to restrict the inspection to the specific machinery and work area involved in the accident.
The OSHA inspector may insist upon a more wide-ranging inspection, but it should be resisted. They can obviously obtain a warrant if they truly wish to expand the inspection. It is a case-by-case determination, but the company representative may sometimes agree in order to avoid a confrontation. It is a judgment call, and may not even be an issue if the remainder of the plant is fully compliant as it should be. A detailed self-inspection of the entire workplace should always be conducted before the beginning of any OSHA inspection, irrespective of how confident the employer feels about being in compliance.
One area regarding inspections that bears specific emphasis involves the employee interviews that are generally part of any OSHA inspection, especially one triggered by a workplace accident. Employees that are likely to be interviewed, such as those in the same work area where an incident occurred, should be prepared as you would any witness in a legal proceeding. The majority of OSHA citations against employers are the result of unintentional statements or admissions made by unprepared employee witnesses. While company counsel has the right to and should be present for the OSHA interviews of any supervisor or manager, that is not the case with employees. Employee witnesses should also be instructed to request a copy of any statement that they sign. OSHA will generally not provide copies of employee statements to the employer, even if requested. An employer is clearly entitled to any statements given by managers or supervisors.
The Closing Conference
At the conclusion of the on-site inspection, the OSHA inspector will normally conduct a brief closing conference with the company representative. Any union representative is generally permitted to attend as well. The OSHA compliance officer will usually explain any citations that they will recommend be issued, any applicable OSHA standards, and potential abatement action to be taken. If a condition that potentially poses an immediate danger to employees has been observed, it is certain to be mentioned so that steps for abatement can begin immediately. The company representative should not be reluctant to ask about the factual basis for any citations that are mentioned. Investigators often share their factual and legal conclusions if asked directly. If the compliance officer has misunderstood any facts surrounding an incident that triggered the inspection, or possibly reached erroneous or unfounded conclusions in the view of the company, the closing conference is the time to clarify the record.
Appeal of Citation
If OSHA issues any citations as the result of the inspection, the employer has a 15 working-day period to file a written contest or appeal of the citation(s). The citation(s) and any associated penalties become a final order if not contested within the 15 days. Upon request, the employer may participate in an informal conference at the OSHA area or regional office. The purpose is for the employer to seek to have the citation withdrawn or at least amended to “other than serious” if possible. This informal opportunity to more fully explain why no citation is warranted or why its level should be reduced should always be taken. The employer representative must be fully prepared to present the factual and legal defenses relied upon. The outcome can be quite significant for several reasons. OSHA’s 2019 revised penalties are as follows:
- “Serious”, “other-than-serious,” and posting citations: $13,260 per violation
- Failure to abate: $13,260 per day beyond the abatement date
- “Willful” or “repeated” violations: $132,598 per violation
As if such monetary penalties were not enough, every violation creates a five-year period during which any subsequent violations that are “substantially similar” will be considered as “repeat” violations. That should be more than adequate incentive for any employer to make every effort to maintain an OSHA compliant workplace and seek to have any alleged citations, should they occur, vacated.
Even if your workplace has never been the subject of an OSHA inspection, planning and preparing for such an inspection is critical if an employer hopes to avoid costly penalties.
OSHA cites $87,327 after fatal fall from elevated work platform
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited GA&L Construction Corp. Inc. of Doral, Florida and The Rinaldi Group of Florida LLC, headquartered in Secaucus, New Jersey, for failing to protect employees from fall hazards at a construction worksite in Miami. The two companies face $87,327 in penalties.
An employee was fatally injured after falling from an elevated work platform. OSHA inspectors determined that workers were exposed to fall, struck-by and impalement hazards. OSHA cited the employers for failing to provide fall protection and conduct regular inspections of the worksite, as well as permitting workers to use an unsecured extension ladder.
“Workplace safety standards exist to ensure that workers return to their families at the end of each day free from harm,” says OSHA Fort Lauderdale Area Director Condell Eastmond. “Disregarding legal obligations to identify and eliminate hazards can cause tragedies.”
Citations for GA&L Construction Corp. Inc. and The Rinaldi Group of Florida are available online.
OSHA offers compliance assistance resources on fall protection in construction on its website.
The companies have 15 business days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
What is the load center of a forklift?
If you work with forklifts, you should be familiar with the concept of load center distance. The load center distance is often described as the distance from the vertical face of the forklift tines to the load's center of gravity (similar to the concept of a counterbalance).
Calculating your forklift's load center distance
Manufacturers rate their forklifts to a maximum weight capacity at a specific load center distance and height. This information is typically found on the data plate of the forklift. Here's an example of the information you'd typically find on a data plate:
- Load Center Distance: 24-inches (600mm)
- Max. Load Capacity (Mast Vertical): 5500 lbs. (2500kg)
- Max. Lifting Height: 216-inches (5500mm)
- Truck Weight: 11000 lbs. (5000kg)
From the gathered data one can determine that the maximum weight the forklift can carry at any given time is 5500 lbs. (2500kg) to a height of 216-inches (5500mm) only if the mast is vertical (or tilted back). Ideally, the load should have a maximum length of 48-inches (1200mm) to make the load center distance 24-inches (600 mm).
Typically, the load center of an evenly stacked load (such as pallets) will sit directly in the center of the load. With this information in mind, if a load is 48-inches (1200mm) in length then its load center will be 24-inches (600mm).
For the sake of argument, let's say the forklift's rated load center distance is exceeded. In such an instance the load can only be picked up if it falls well under the maximum rated weight capacity of the forklift. Keep in mind that some forklifts are capable of handling numerous load center distances. With that being said, however, some forklifts are only rated for a single load center distance.
Irregular and unevenly stacked loads
Irregular loads will play a significant role in how load center distance is affected. For example, even if the load is still 48-inches in length, the load center distance of the load will be increased outwards if the weight of the load is stacked opposite of the forklift.
To fix this issue, lift the pallet from the opposite side (if possible). You can also consider re-stacking the load. Keep in mind that when it comes to re-stacking, standard loads (such as boxes on a typical pallet) should be possible to accomplish. Irregular loads (such as heavy machinery overhanging on a pallet), may not be able to be re-stacked. In such an instance take extra precautions and ensure the load is well under the weight capacity.
Two more factors to consider: Forklift blades not fully inserted and long pallets
Load center distance can be significantly affected by not fully inserting the full length of the fork blades into a pallet before lifting and/or when using longer (or irregularly sized) pallets.
You'll want to avoid these scenarios whenever possible, but sometimes such situations are unavoidable in modern day workplaces where trucks are regularly loaded or when pallets of various sizes are used. To manage such loads properly, ensure the capacity of the load itself falls within the forklifts maximum rated capacity.
Sometimes you'll have little to no choice but to lift loads that exceed your forklift's load center distance regularly. In that case, your forklift must be re-rated by either the manufacturer or a Professional Engineer (PE) with specific knowledge to help determine your forklift's maximum safe lifting capacity at extended load center distances.
How does tilt affect load center distance?
Tilt can greatly affect your forklift's load center distance. This is a factor that many forklift operators often overlook.
Be mindful that tilt doesn't play a major role when a forklift is lifting a load at ground level as the effect to the load center distance is negligible at best. However, adding height to the equation will significantly affect the load center distance (this is especially the case with forward tilt).
When a load is moved forward and away from the forklift itself, the center of gravity of the load center will fall beyond the recommended load center distance. Thus, even if the forklift is handling a load that falls within its maximum lifting capacity, the forward tilt will reduce its overall lifting capacity. Because many forklift operators are unaware of this fact, forward tip overs are a common occurrence.
This is only for forward tilt, however. When there is back tilt, the load center distance is reduced thus maintaining capacity. Despite this, it's not recommended to use full back tilt to carry loads at significant heights. That is because the load will need to be returned to mast vertical before it can be stacked. Dropped loads and tip-overs can become a danger if the load is moved too quickly.
All attachments on a forklift must be approved by either a PE with specific knowledge or the manufacturer. Your forklift's lifting capacity will also have to be rerated due to the added attachments, as these may affect your forklift's load center distance.
Attachments that have been known to affect a forklift's load center distance (and lifting capacity) includes the following:
- Fork blade extensions
- Drum lifters (claw, beak or clamp)
- Carpet spikes
- Always avoid lifting a load if your forks aren't fully inserted. Not only can you drop the load, thus damaging the goods, but the added load center distance will ultimately reduce the lifting capacity of your forklift. You might even run the risk of breaking apart pallets carrying heavy loads if the forks aren't fully inserted.
- Keep in mind that using side-shift will have no effect on the load center distance. However, the load's center of gravity will shift sideways which can increase the chances of a tip over. This is especially the case if you're turning when the forks are raised or when turning too quickly.
Q. When a scissor lift pothole protection system fails to deploy completely due to an obstruction, should the drive and lift function continue to work without any audible warning.
A. It has been my experience that when the pothole protection system does not deploy fully, a safety interlock causes the machine to stop elevating and usually an alarm sounds. There could be some machines out there that sound an alarm only or just stop. Regardless, one or both of those operations (alarm or stop elevation) should happen.
I do remember operating a scissor lift where the machine just stopped and there was no alarm sound. I lowered it down and re-positioned it because I thought the problem was that the machine was out of level, then tried to raise it again. This process went on for a while until I finally figured out the pothole protection system (one side only) was not deploying. A stick had gotten wedged in the works and prevented it from going down all the way. It’s funny looking back now, but was frustrating at the time.
Ultimately, since we deal with so many different brands, I suggest referencing the manufacturer’s operating manuals for your specific unit to see what should occur when not deployed or contacting a dealer of the machine.
Loading dock safety in 5 easy steps
For manufacturing plants, warehouses, and distribution centers, loading docks are the center of the action—the hub for receiving and unloading freight. Loading docks can be exterior or fully enclosed in a receiving bay, and they are typically located near a storage room or staging area. They can also be one of the more dangerous areas within a facility.
The loading and unloading of semitrailers are arduous and fast-paced tasks, which typically involve a forklift or other material-handling equipment. Establishing clear loading dock safety procedures can help reduce the likelihood of an employee getting hurt on the job.
Here are five loading dock safety tips to help keep employees safe:
1. Provide proper forklift training. Powered industrial trucks, such as forklifts, motorized pallet jacks, or lift trucks, cause more than 100,000 injuries every year. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) mandates that only trained and competent drivers may operate powered industrial trucks. OSHA also requires business owners to provide training specific to the vehicle being used, and for operators to demonstrate competency in lift operation. Refresher courses must be held every 3 years or if an operator demonstrates unsafe handling. There are many private companies that provide training courses in forklift safety.
2. Load and unload safely. Workers should be trained in loading dock safety procedures specific to the type of freight a business ships or receives. For any cargo, the appropriate lift truck or handcart should be used to avoid muscle strain. When lifting cargo, workers should bend at their knees and lift with their legs—not with their backs. Special caution and training are necessary when handling flammable or combustible materials. For more information on proper loading and unloading techniques, see OSHA’s comprehensive pocket guide to warehouse worker safety.
3. Keep the dock clean, dry, and in good repair. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), slips, trips, and falls account for more than 25 percent of all workplace accidents each year, and they are among the most common causes of on-the-job injury. Regularly inspect loading docks and repair any noticeable damage, like worn bumpers, potholes, or uneven levelers. Sweep or mop up spilled debris and liquids immediately. Kitty litter can help absorb oily spills before cleanup. Place signs or cones near spills to warn workers.
4. Use wheel chocks. Wheel chocks are wedges of heavy-duty material that fit snugly against the center of the tire in the direction of the grade, on the left and right side of the vehicle to help prevent movement during freight transfer. On even surfaces, chocks are applied to the rear-facing as well as the front-facing side of each tire. They are an important safety precaution, and OSHA enforces wheel chock requirements. While most truck drivers carry their own chocks, it’s a good idea to have a set on hand at the dock.
5. Wear proper safety gear. Dock workers should wear high-visibility safety vests, gloves, and eye and ear protection. Make sure workers wear sturdy, closed-toe, anti-skid footwear. Safety helmets may be required when employees lift freight to high shelves.
Loading dock safety procedures can help reduce the potential for workplace accidents. Following these five tips makes loading docks safer for everyone and can reduce the likelihood of an employee injury.
Nearly $10K in fines for bridge collapse caused by 50-ton excavator
A Pennsylvania contractor that parked a 50-ton excavator on a bridge it was demolishing has failed to escape $9,800 fines imposed by OSHA after the span collapsed and injured two workers.
That defeat was handed to Francis J. Palo Inc. by a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit. Palo, based in Clarion, appealed to that court after OSHA concluded it didn’t do enough examination of the load-bearing capacity of the 113-year-old bridge before the June 2015 collapse.
OSHA determined that, instead of performing proper engineering studies, Palo relied on its professional experience to gauge whether the Pennsy Bridge at Ridgway in Elk County could take the excavator’s weight as the span was cut apart.
Palo had a $2.2 million contract with PennDOT to remove and replace the bridge over Elk Creek. The plan was to demolish the arched bridge in two segments to minimize the restrictions on traffic.
In the circuit court’s opinion, Judge Julio M. Fuentes wrote that in the demolition plan provided to PennDOT, Palo stated no workers or heavy equipment would be stationed on the section of the bridge that was being razed.
However, the judge noted, the excavator was parked on the section that was being demolished when the bridge was cut in half longways. The collapse occurred just as workers were finished cutting away the abutments that supported the section where the excavator sat.
Two workers were on the bridge when it fell into Elk Creek and two others were below the bridge, Fuentes noted. One worker suffered a head injury and another twisted an ankle. Both recovered.
At issue in the court appeal was OSHA’s conclusion that Palo violated federal safety rules “by parking the excavator on the bridge without ensuring the bridge had sufficient strength to support it,” Fuentes wrote.
He cited testimony from Palo officials that they had not conducted an engineering analysis of the bridge’s strength but had relied instead on their experience in demolishing bridges. “The Palo employee responsible for developing the demolition plan had only limited experience with arch-shaped bridges and had thought the bridge’s arch was decorative, not structural,” the judge wrote. The bridge also had less rebar reinforcement than that employee supposed, Fuentes observed.
The result was that the bridge split in the center of the arch when the abutments were cut free.
Fuentes agreed with OSHA that Palo “could have discovered through reasonable diligence that the bridge would not support the excavator’s weight.”
What's Wrong With This? Photo
Can you tell what's going wrong in this photo?
Have a photo you'd like to share? Send it to us!
Answer to Last Month's WWWT? Photo
Here's what our Director of Training, Rob Vetter had to say about it:
Looks like our Update staff has located yet another gaggle of cerebrally challenged individuals willing to risk it all in order to git ‘er done as they say. Let’s start at the top of the photo and work our way down:
- It’s hard to say what the load actually is but it’s not hard to see that it is not engaged very well as it appears to be about two feet out from the load face of the forks. If it’s a heavy load that is a serious problem as the CG of the load is likely beyond the rated load center of the unit.
- It looks like the mast of the suspended unit and the forks of the supporting unit are both on contact with the wall of the building. However, the person on the roof appears to be keeping an eye on it so what could possibly go wrong?
- It’s an almost laughable moot point under the circumstances but do you think the alleged operator of the suspended unit is wearing his seatbelt. The capacity of the forks on the supporting unit may be suspect. It is doubtful that the combined sum of their individual ratings adds up to the weight of the suspended unit that is elevated with a poorly engaged load.
- It’s hard to see if there is actually an operator in the supporting unit but based on what’s going on it’s a safe bet that he or she is not a very good one.
- Whoever the operator of the supporting unit is, let’s hope they spot what looks like a large block of wood on the ground about three feet behind them. If he or she doesn’t spot it, let’s really hope they lower the suspended unit completely before backing over it and possibly dumping the whole works over onto the spectators of this gong show.
Have a photo you'd like to share? Send it to us!
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"I did not expect to learn the techniques I was taught – I am very happy with the training and going to use these methods in other aspects of my day to day job." Ray, Santa Barbara County Public Works.
"It was no surprise that all my expectations were met or exceeded. IVES reputation made me know the training would be good, but I was blown away with the quality of our trainer, the materials, the environment, etc. An excellent class." Aaron, Great Basin Industrial.
"I truly believe that all employers whom operate these types of machines should have their operators trained by IVES. I have learned so much within this 4 day class." Maria, Mid Valley Disposal.
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