Are you a believer? It’s not too late!

No, this is not a sermon. Well, perhaps it is….

It’s amazing to me that many facility managers and maintenance supervisors still think they don’t need to worry about workplace safety. You might be one of those who says, “Arc flash won’t happen to me,” or “There’s little chance of something happening in our facility.”

Tell that to the electrical technician at Republic Steel in Blasdell, New York who suffered third degree burns on her hand and first degree burns on her face while working on a fan motor in October 2014. It seems her employer failed to ensure that she use personal protective equipment (PPE) appropriate to the task. In this case, the employee was wearing leather gloves and safety glasses, but they did little to protect her from the arc flash that resulted when an ungrounded electrical conductor touched a grounded surface.

The result? In addition to the employee’s serious injuries, the employer is being fined nearly $150,000 by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). That’s $70,000 for failure to wear hand protection, plus $70,000 for failure to wear face protection, plus another $7,000 for failure to protect employees against contact with energized electrical equipment. This was Republic’s second similar citation for incidents occurring in 2014, the first of which occurred at its Lorain, Ohio facility.

Of course, it’s terribly unfortunate that many employers seem to think they are immune from these risks, and it often takes an incident like this one to make them realize they are. At least no one died in this case. But, I am absolutely amazed that this company had been cited for similar violations (and fined in excess of $2.4 million for a wide variety of workplace safety violations) and had not taken corrective action to prevent such an incident.

OSHA is very clear about the fact that every employer has a legal, moral and ethical responsibility to ensure that their employees are properly trained in the use of, equipped with, and actually uses, personal protective equipment to protect from arc flash and other hazards. In this case, that equipment should have included a face shield and rubber insulating gloves. Pretty simple, but some people just don’t seem to get it.

Besides the use of proper protective equipment, OSHA recommended – among other things – that Republic Steel conduct an arc flash analysis and follow the practices found in NFPA 70E. The problem is that many employers think such steps are cost-prohibitive. On the contrary, I would argue that a fine of $150,000, plus the expense of treating a seriously injured employee, plus the possible lawsuits that could result, are more cost-prohibitive.

Other employers may simply not know how to deal with these kinds of hazards. They are intimidated at the prospect of dealing with these issues, or they think ignoring safety hazards will somehow make them magically disappear. To be blunt, that’s just stupid.

Instead, we urge facility managers to deal with these issues head on and make the relatively small investment in a comprehensive safety study – including not only arc flash analysis, but an overall workplace safety review.

That’s where Mitchell & Lindsey comes in – we are experts in workplace safety, and we’re here to help. Stop ignoring the risks and deal with them before it’s too late! Call me (Mark Mitchell) 502-682-8491 for a free consultation.

Read the OSHA citation. Read the OSHA news release.

Electrical safety – a concern for ALL employers

This month, we focus on a rather unique OSHA citation that points up the fact that every employer – regardless of the nature of their products or services – is subject to OSHA inspections, citations and fines. It also reinforces the fact that no employer is immune from potential hazards related to electrical safety.

Case in point: The United States Postal Service (USPS), whose Clark Street Distribution Center in Chicago recently was cited by OSHA for a number of workplace safety violations. The USPS is therefore subject to penalties exceeding $63,000. That’s chump change for the U.S. Government, but it’s a lot of money for a small business or manufacturer.

Fortunately, no one had to be hurt or killed before OSHA inspectors visited the distribution center, as they had received a complaint of unsafe working conditions. During their visit, the inspectors found that USPS workers were exposed to electrical hazards, but these weren’t your typical “high-profile” hazards like arc flash or failure to lockout or tagout highly dangerous machinery.

In fact, most of us would consider these violations rather mundane. For example, OSHA personnel found that something as ordinary as an industrial fan was not grounded properly, and electrical power taps were not used in accordance with manufacturer’s specifications. In addition, other “serious” violations involved the use of unapproved electrical equipment, improperly spliced power cords, and not providing strain relief for all electrical cords.

Here’s the bottom line: This is an example of highly dangerous – but rather innocuous – electrical safety violations in a U.S. Government facility. These hazards may have been in place for years without notice and without incident. But it would take only one incident to severely injure, maim or kill an employee.

We all know it’s the employer’s responsibility to provide a safe workplace. We all know it’s the employer’s responsibility to provide training. We all know it’s the employer’s responsibility to enforce policies and procedures aimed at protecting employees from hazardous situations. And we all know it can happen to us. It’s all about responsibility.

The risk of financial penalty is one reason to protect your facility from such citations. But the real, overriding, most compelling reason to do so is the well-being of your employees. Do you really want to be responsible for a fatal accident? That’s why you need to let Mitchell & Lindsey conduct a safety audit of your facility. Call us today at (502) 682-8491 for a free consultation.