Keep Workspaces Dry and Safe
The death of a worker at an industrial site, together with an OSHA fine for a serious violation of safety precautions, highlights a critical safety issue your company cannot afford to neglect: Work areas need to be kept dry.
Wet Platform Leads to Fatality
OSHA fined a Batavia, NY, company $40,500 for nine alleged serious violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.
According to federal regulators, a worker died after slipping from a wet platform and hitting a railing at a laundry service company. Just before the accident, he was trying to clear a jam in a water extraction press.
The agency found that the worker wasn't adequately trained to stop the press and isolate its power source before trying to fix the jam. In addition, the safety interlock had been bypassed, allowing the press to continue operating.
OSHA also cited the company for failing to train and certify employees in the safe use of forklifts, properly inform them about machine hazards and train them about hazardous chemicals used in the facility.
A serious OSHA violation occurs when there is a substantial possibility of serious physical injury or death to an employee.
In one case (see right-hand box) OSHA found that slippery conditions on the work platform were a contributing factor to the accident and the employee hadn't been properly trained to shut down machinery.
Slips, trips and falls constitute the majority of general industry accidents. They cause 15 percent of all accidental deaths, and are second only to motor vehicles as a cause of fatalities. Some of these accidents are the result of working in wet, slippery conditions.
In an effort to prevent these kinds of accidents, OSHA has the following regulations that your company should be familiar with:
1. If an employee's feet are likely to become wet in a work area, they must wear shoes, rubbers or wooden-soled shoes made of rubber or some other impervious material.
2. If clothes are likely to get wet, you must provide aprons, coats, jackets, sleeves or other garments made of rubber or other materials impervious to liquids other than water. In addition, dry, clean, cotton clothing along with rubber shoes or boots and an apron impervious to liquids other than water is a satisfactory substitute where small parts are cleaned, plated or acid is dipped in open tanks. Aprons need to extend well below the top of boots to prevent liquid splashing into the boots.
3. Tight-fitting goggles or face shields are required when there is a danger of chemicals splashing, when tanks are refilled manually or when acids and chemicals are removed from tanks.
1. The floor of every workroom must be kept as clean and dry as possible.
2. Drainage, gratings, mats or raised platforms are required where wet processes are used.
3. Floor coverings should be made of non-slip materials.
4. In damp locations, you must consider whether it is appropriate to use electrical tools and equipment.
1. Operating equipment should be turned off either manually or automatically via a safety interlock during a repair. This is not only a safety precaution, it can prevent further damage to the machinery. A nut or bolt caught in a machine, for example, can do even more damage if it gets further inside.
2. If the safety interlock needs to be turned off to make the repair, OSHA requires that only a "qualified person" do this and only while the repairs are made. A "qualified person" is defined as someone with specific training, knowledge and experience to handle the shutdown and repairs.
It is critical for your company to have written safety polices, adequate training and visible posting of OSHA approved warning signs in work areas. Failure to comply can result in heavy fines, criminal actions and damage to your firm's reputation.