OSHA Renews Efforts to Prevent Amputations
BY CHRISTINE TORRES
Published January 17, 2020
No job is worth risking life or limb.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 5,920 workers suffered amputations in 2018. Workers in the meat industry are more susceptible, with amputation rates highest in manufacturing in general, construction, and agriculture/forestry/fishing. While new machinery and safer options are helping to prevent amputations, there are still thousands of cases each year. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration wants employers and their employees to do more about it, and the federal agency plans to help.
Workplaces can prevent amputations by using basic safety precautions. In 2019, lockout/tagout violations were No. 5 and machine guarding violations were No. 9 among the OSHA Top 10 Violations list. In response to this data, OSHA issued an updated their National Emphasis Program (NEP) on Amputations.
The NEP on amputations began in 2006 to target and document industries with high rates of amputations as reported to the BLS. OSHA's inspections for 50 years indicate primary culprits are a lack of guards on machinery, improper guards on machinery and equipment, and hazardous energy during servicing and maintenance activities.
"Workers should not have to risk their lives or health to provide for themselves and their families,” said William Fulcher, OSHA's area director in Atlanta, after citing an employer for machine guarding violations among others. “The hazards identified during this compliance inspection are preventable by taking basic safety precautions such as providing personal protective equipment, performing routine housekeeping and guarding machines so that a worker doesn't get injured or killed."
OSHA’s new tactics for the NEP apply to general industry workplaces where machinery is present. The two-pronged approach focuses on outreach through workshops, meetings, training, and other activities, and inspections. OSHA inspections include an evaluation of employee exposures during operations such as clearing jams, cleaning and maintenance activities, oiling or greasing machines or machine pans, and locking out machinery to prevent accidental start-up.
Employers should evaluate safety best practices and communication to address pinch points: Where two parts move together and one of them is moving in a circle. Look for pinch points alongside belt drives, chain drives, gear drives, and feeder rolls. Gears are common crush points.
OSHA will also analyze recordkeeping efforts during inspections. OSHA 300 logs and incident reports will be under review to identify recorded amputations associated with machinery and equipment. OSHA said the idea is to not scare employers but to work with them to help employees develop a strategic approach in reducing the risk of amputation.
These logs are vital as part of continuous reporting work-related fatalities and injuries. Employers must report fatalities within eight hours of learning of the incident and must report any in-patient hospitalization, amputation or loss of an eye within 24 hours of learning of the incident. Employers can report an event by telephone to the nearest OSHA area office or OSHA's 24-hour hotline at 800-321-6742.
By complying with OSHA safety sign requirements, companies can save thousands of dollars in fines. What's important is that OSHA regulations are meant to keep humans safe. By utilizing clear visual communication tools such as safety signs and labels, employers can protect the workforce from preventable accidents. Get your free copy of our OSHA Safety Signs Guide!