Recently, the term Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) has become fairly common and many Americans immediately think of facemasks and possibly gloves when they hear it. However, PPE has been around the safety industry much longer than our recent challenges. Furthermore, PPE includes much more than a facemask and is a vital component to keep workers safe in many work environments. Hazards exist in every workplace in many different forms. OSHA requires that employers protect their employees from workplace hazards that can cause injury. Controlling a hazard at its source is the best way to protect employees. However, when mitigating workplace hazards does not provide sufficient protection, employers must provide PPE to their employees and ensure its use.
The Requirement for PPE
Specific requirements for Personal Protective Equipment are presented in many different OSHA standards, published in 29 CFR. Some standards require that employers provide PPE at no cost to the employee while others simply state that the employer must provide PPE. In order to ensure the greatest possible protection for employees, employers and employees must cooperate in establishing and maintaining a safe and healthful work environment.
Employers are responsible for:
Performing a “hazard assessment” of the workplace to identify and control physical and health hazards.
Identifying and providing appropriate PPE for employees.
Training employees in the use and care of PPE.
Maintaining PPE, including replacing worn or damaged PPE.
Periodically reviewing, updating, and evaluating the effectiveness of the PPE program.
Properly wear PPE.
Attend training sessions on PPE.
Care for, clean, and maintain PPE.
Inform a supervisor of the need to repair or replace PPE.
Some Types of required Personal Protection Equipment:
Eye and Face Protection: safety spectacles, goggles, welding shields, laser safety goggles, & face shields
Head Protection: hard hats (Types A, B, & C)
Foot and Leg Protection: leggings (with safety snaps), metatarsal guards, toe guards, combination foot and shin guards, & safety shoes
Hand and Arm Protection: protective gloves, leather, canvas or metal mesh gloves, fabric and coated fabric gloves, chemical- and liquid-resistant gloves,
Body Protection: laboratory coats, coveralls, vests, jackets, aprons, surgical gowns, and full-body suits.
Hearing Protection: single-use earplugs, pre-formed or molded earplugs, earmuffs
PPE can help save lives. It can only do this if it is worn. Further, it must be worn properly and worn throughout the job. All PPE clothing and equipment should be of safe design and construction. Employers should take the fit and comfort of PPE into consideration. Selecting appropriate items for each workplace is essential. PPE that fits well and is comfortable to wear will encourage employee use. Most protective devices are available in multiple sizes and care should be taken to select the proper size for each employee. If several different types of PPE are worn together, they must be compatible. If PPE does not fit properly, it may not provide the level of protection desired. This can discourage employee use. Tragically, it also can make the difference between being safely covered or dangerously exposed.
The best way to ensure compliance with the Personal Protective Equipment policy is to train workers. Employers should make sure that each employee demonstrates an understanding of the training as well as the ability to properly wear and use PPE before they are allowed to perform work requiring the use of the PPE. They must know the risks posed by the job, and how PPE can protect them from these risks. Training in the proper use, care, and storage of PPE are equally necessary. Furthermore, the employer must document the training of each employee required to wear or use PPE. This documentation must include a certification containing the name of each employee trained, the date of training, and clear identification of the subject of the certification.
In addition to proper equipment and training, knowing how to inspect PPE to determine when the equipment should be removed from service is vital. A visual inspection is not always enough. When it comes to PPE the rule is: when in doubt; throw it out. It pays to err on the side of caution. It might be time to purchase new PPE.
Appropriate PPE is important in protecting workers it plays a pivotal role in keeping workers safe.
Eye injuries in the workplace occur daily. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), about 2,000 U.S. workers per day sustain job-related eye injuries that require medical treatment. However, safety experts and eye doctors believe proper eye protection can prevent 90% of these eye injuries.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires workers to use eye and face protection whenever there is a reasonable probability of injury. Personal protective eyewear, including goggles, safety glasses, face shields, and sometimes even full-face respirators must be used when an eye hazard exists.
Chemicals or foreign objects in the eye and scratches on the cornea are common eye injuries that occur at work. Other common eye injuries come from fluids splashed in the eye, burns from steam, and ultraviolet or infrared radiation exposure. In addition, health care workers and other workers may be at risk of acquiring infectious diseases from eye exposure. This can occur through direct contact with splashes of blood, respiratory droplets generated during coughing, or from touching the eyes with contaminated fingers or other objects.
Other occupations with a high risk for eye injuries include:
It is vital for employees to know the requirements for their work environment. The type of eye protection needed depends on the workplace hazards. Safety glasses with side shields are appropriate for a workplace with particles, flying objects, or dust. However, goggles are required when working with chemicals. In a workplace with hazardous radiation (welding, lasers, or fiber optics) special-purpose safety glasses, goggles, face shields, or helmets designed for that specific task provide better protection for workers’ eyes. It is important to note that side shields placed on conventional glasses do not offer enough protection to meet the OSHA requirement for many work environments. In addition, employers need to take steps to make the work environment as safe as possible.
The type of necessary eye protection depends upon:
The type of hazard
The circumstances of exposure
Other protective equipment used
Individual vision needs
Two main reasons for eye injuries at work include not wearing proper eye protection and wearing the wrong kind of protection for the job. A Bureau of Labor Statistics survey of workers who suffered eye injuries revealed that nearly three out of five were not wearing eye protection at the time of the accident. Most of these workers reported that they believed protection was not required for the situation.
Steps for preventing eye injuries in the workplace:
Assess: Inspect all work areas and equipment for hazards to the eyes. Identify operations and areas that present eye hazards
Protect: Select protective eyewear designed for a specific duty or hazard. Protective eyewear must meet the current standards.
Fit: Workers need protective eyewear that fits well and is comfortable. Provide repairs for eyewear and require each worker to be in charge of his or her own gear.
Plan for an Emergency: Set up first-aid procedures for eye injuries. Have eyewash stations that are easy to get to, especially where chemicals are used. Train workers in basic first-aid and identify those with more advanced training.
Educate: Conduct ongoing educational programs to highlight the need for protective eyewear. Add eye safety to your regular employee training programs and to new employee orientation.
Support: Management support is key to having a successful eye safety program. Management can show their support for the program by wearing protective eyewear whenever and wherever needed.
Review: Regularly review and update your accident prevention policies. Your goal should be NO eye injuries or accidents.
We offer an Eye Safety Training Course that will familiarize your staff with good eye safety practices. The topics included in our eye safety training class are potential eye hazards, hazard assessment, and implementing an eye safety protection program. Further, this training will cover appropriate OSHA-approved personal protective equipment and how to use it and assess eye danger in various situations appropriately.
Safety Data Sheets are critical to keeping employees informed of the identities and hazards of the chemicals present in their workplace. Specifically, OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) requires the development and dissemination of important hazardous chemical information. In addition, this vital information must be available and understandable to workers. All employers with hazardous chemicals in their workplaces must have labels and safety data sheets for their exposed workers. Furthermore, they must train them to handle the chemicals appropriately.
An important component of this workplace standard is the nine pictograms. Each pictogram consists of a symbol on a white background framed within a red border and represents a distinct hazard(s). The pictogram on the label is determined by the chemical hazard classification. The pictograms help alert workers of the types of hazards they are dealing with. The pictograms will also enhance worker comprehension. As a result, workers will have better information available on the safe handling and use of hazardous chemicals.
In addition to the pictograms, the Safety Data Sheets are valuable in communicating information regarding hazardous chemicals in the workplace. These sheets have a specified 16-section format. Sections 1 through 8 contain general information about the chemical, identification, hazards, composition, safe handling practices, and emergency control measures . Therefore this information should be helpful to those that need to get the information quickly. Sections 9 through 11 and 16 contain other technical and scientific information, such as physical and chemical properties, stability and reactivity information, toxicological information, exposure control information, and other information including the date of preparation or last revision. The SDS also contains Sections 12 through 15 which include the information required in order to be consistent with the UN Globally Harmonized System (GHS) of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals.
Specific Sections of Safety Data Sheets:
Section 1: Identification
Section 2: Hazard(s) Identification
Section 3: Composition/Information on Ingredients
Section 4: First-Aid Measures
Section 5: Fire-Fighting Measures
Section 6: Accidental Release Measures
Section 7: Handling and Storage
Section 8: Exposure Controls/Personal Protection
Section 9: Physical and Chemical Properties
Section10: Stability and Reactivity
Section 11: Toxicological Information
Section 12: Ecological Information (non-mandatory)
Section 15: Regulatory Information (non-mandatory)
Section 16: Other Information (This section indicates when the SDS was prepared or when the last known revision was made.)
Employers must ensure that the SDS are readily accessible to employees for all hazardous chemicals in their workplace. This is done in a variety of ways. For example, employers may keep the SDS in a binder or on computers as long as the employees have immediate access to the information without leaving their work area when needed. Furthermore, employers may want to designate a person responsible for obtaining and maintaining the SDS.
Employers are required to train their employees to recognize the nine GHS Pictograms. Our Safety Data Sheet binders make compliance easy because the SDS binder is printed with the GHS Pictograms. It is designed to allow easy reference for any employee accessing SDS records. The pictograms are printed on the inside of the binder along with the SDS Requirements.
Maintaining a safe work environment for your team members is critical. To keep your employees safe, your business should prioritize fire prevention and response plans, and ensure that the entire workforce is adequately trained in fire safety best practices.
Each year, workplace fires and explosions are responsible for more than 200 deaths and 5,000 injuries. They also account for more than $2.3 billion worth of property damage. To avoid adding to these numbers, it’s important to communicate fire prevention and protection procedures effectively, to minimize hazards and leave as little up to chance as possible. Doing so could make all the difference in avoiding preventable injuries, damages, and deaths.
Not sure where to start? Here are eight essential fire safety tips for the workplace, plus helpful NSC resources for putting your fire prevention and protection plan into action.
Fire safety tips every workplace should follow
There’s more to workplace fire safety than simply stocking up on fire extinguishers. Implement these additional tips to mitigate fire risks and ensure that everyone is on the same page.
Tip #1: Implement a fire safety training course
All employees should receive proper fire safety training, even if they don’t interact with fire or heating elements as part of their job. This will ensure that your entire workforce understands what fire prevention and response entails.
The easiest and most affordable way to set up a fire safety training course is to utilize existing resources like the NSC Fire Safety Training Video Kit and Employee Training Booklets. These are a great starting point, and include additional printable materials like compliance manuals, quizzes, and fire safety certificates that support your training efforts with current employees and help with onboarding new ones. They can also be purchased as a bundle for added savings and convenience.
Tip #2: Identify workplace fire hazards
You don’t need to be working in an oil refinery plant to be at risk of a fire. In fact, there are plenty of common fire hazards in modern workplaces, from cooking and electrical equipment to smoking and general human error.
As part of your prevention measures, identify the hazards in your place of work and communicate them to employees. You should also offer reminders of the most common hazards to keep them top of mind, such as by hanging up our Faulty Wire Can Start a Fire Safety Poster.
Tip #3: Maintain your fire prevention and response infrastructure
It’s crucial that your workplace is fitted with working smoke alarms, sprinkler systems, and fire extinguishers. Your building’s control panel should also be kept accessible, so that you can shut down power in the event of an emergency.
Check all of these systems regularly to verify they are working and easy to reach, and cover the basics of how to use each system during your fire safety training course with your team.
Tip #4: Be smart with your electrical cords
Overloading your circuits can lead to overheating, which in turn can lead to a fire.
Use grounded plugs to prevent risky power surges, and always check (and double check) that there are no loose electrical connections. While you’re at it, keep an eye out for noticeable signs of trouble, such as frayed cords, flickering equipment, or darkened outlets, and always unplug any devices that aren’t in regular use.
Tip #5: Properly store and dispose of flammable materials
Any flammable materials on site need to be handled with care. Follow all manufacturer instructions for how a particular material must be stored, and do your research on what materials can and cannot be stored near each other. Highly flammable and/or combustible materials should be stored in a flammable cabinet, with access restricted to only those individuals who need to use the materials for their job.
Tip #6: Avoid clutter
A messy workplace isn’t just bad for productivity, it’s also dangerous. Clutter can fuel a fire, and may even start one if it’s in close proximity to flammable materials. And if a fire does occur, clutter can block access to emergency exits and make it difficult for all employees to safely escape the environment.
Invest in safe storage for workplace items, and maintain good housekeeping protocols in all common and personal areas so clutter never has a chance to build up.
Tip #7: Put a risk reporting system into place
Workers are busy, and it can be all too easy to forget to notify the right person about a fire safety hazard. The best thing you can do is take all of the guesswork out of who to report risks to, and how, so that issues get flagged to the appropriate team member at their first sighting.
Of course, this goes hand in hand with educating staff on what these hazards look like. But by doing so – and by removing obstacles to reporting – you take a key step toward identifying and addressing hazards before they turn into fires.
Tip #8: Design and communicate an evacuation plan
The time to work out the specifics of your workplace fire evacuation plan is before a fire event, not during. Mark all emergency exits, and keep a clear path to them at all times. Emergency exit signs should be well lit and always visible, with immediate maintenance if they’re not. You’ll also want to designate a concise exit plan and educate every single employee on what it is, including a safe outdoor meetup spot where everyone should go after leaving the building.
You can’t always prevent a fire in the workplace, but you can train employees on how to mitigate risks, and coach them on what needs to be done to protect themselves and their peers. Doing so is a core part of broader workplace safety training, and can be instrumental in keeping everyone safe.
For additional support, check out our Fire Safety Training Bundle, which includes everything that you need to enact an effective training program in your workplace. You can also supplement your training program with other NSC materials, such as first aid training, fire extinguisher training, and other useful resources.
Safe + Sound Week is a nationwide event held each August that recognizes the successes of workplace health and safety programs. In addition, it offers ideas on how to keep America’s workers safe. Last year, more than 5,300 businesses helped to raise awareness about workers’ health and safety. All organizations looking for an opportunity to highlight their commitment to safety are welcome to participate. (Sign up here) Further, participating in Safe + Sound Week can help get your program started, energize an existing one, or provide a chance to recognize your safety successes.
Successful safety and health programs can proactively identify and manage workplace hazards before they cause injury or illness. This naturally improves sustainability and the bottom line. Serious job-related injuries or illnesses don’t just hurt workers and their families but can hurt businesses in a variety of ways. However, implementing a safety and health program can improve businesses’ safety and health performance, save money, and improve competitiveness.
Safety and health programs help businesses:
Prevent workplace injuries and illnesses
Improve compliance with laws and regulations
Reduce costs, including reductions in workers’ compensation premiums
Enhance social responsibility goals
Increase productivity and enhance overall business operations
At the core of every effective safety and health program is a systematic process for identifying and minimizing workplace hazards. Traditional approaches to finding and fixing workplace hazards are often reactive. Therefore, actions are often taken only after a worker is injured or becomes sick. Often the injury is followed by a new standard or regulation. Other times an outside inspection finds a problem that must be fixed.
Finding and fixing hazards using a proactive approach is far more effective. Dangers can be addressed before they cause injury or illness. Workplaces are constantly changing as new technologies, processes, materials, and workers are introduced. Using a systematic approach, businesses can safely manage emerging hazards that could lead to injury or illness.
Workers often know the most about potential hazards associated with their jobs. Therefore, the most effective safety and health programs rely on workers’ collective experience and insight in order to find solutions to workplace safety and health challenges. Workers are more invested when they are involved in finding solutions.
Workers can participate in many ways, including:
Developing the initial program design.
Reporting incidents (including near misses) so they can be investigated.
Analyzing hazards associated with routine and nonroutine jobs, tasks, and processes.
Defining and documenting safe work practices.
Conducting site inspections and incident investigations.
Training current coworkers and new hires.
Evaluating program performance and identifying ways to improve it.
Participating in Safe + Sound week can be just the beginning. Safe + Sound is a year-round campaign to encourage every workplace to have a safety and health program. Soon we will share some challenges intended to keep the momentum going.
Making sure all employees have a safe workplace is the goal.
Every workplace should have a safety and health program that includes management leadership, worker participation, and a systematic approach to finding and fixing hazards. Safe + Sound is a year-round campaign to encourage every workplace to have a safety and health program. This nationwide effort raises awareness of the value of workplace safety and health programs. OSHA’s website provides five activities to help businesses focus on safety and participate in this year’s Safe + Sound week.
Safe + Sound Week activities:
Take 3 in 30 Challenge
Check on Safety Challenge
All in on Safety Challenge
Lead With Safety Challenge
Eyes on Safety Challenge
Take 3 in 30 Challenge
Management Leadership is a core element of successful workplace safety programs. Take 3 in 30 to accelerate your program and show your commitment to your workplace.
Take 3 actions in 30 days
Share in your workplace
Accept your challenge Coin
Check on Safety Challenge
Finding and fixing hazards is another core element of effective workplace safety programs. This can help you move your business forward to prevent workplace injuries and illnesses. Start building your approach by taking this Check on Safety Challenge.
Identify: Review your workers’ compensation claim records and OSHA injury logs to prioritize areas for improvement. Conduct a safety walk-around to inspect your workplace for hazards. Focus on hazardous tasks by doing a job hazard analysis.
Involve: Offer workers a way to report hazards they find on the job. Provide training on hazard awareness and control.
Plan: Make a plan to control hazards and review regularly. Prepare your workplace for non-routine operations and emergencies.
Control: Select controls that are the most feasible, effective, and permanent.
Start building your approach by taking this Check on Safety Challenge. Do this activity and earn your challenge coin.
All in on Safety Challenge
Another core element of a workplace safety program is worker participation. It’s important to create an environment where all workers feel included, heard, and respected. Accelerate your program and encourage your workers to be all in on safety!
Identify a workplace safety activity that helps build a more diverse and accepting workplace. Advance workplace safety and health by involving your workers in a significant way.
Recognize workers who participate. It is important for your workers to see that their participation makes a difference. Give workers who participate a certificate, personalized appreciation card, or other types of recognition that is meaningful in your workplace.
Download your challenge coin.
Lead With Safety Challenge
In a workplace, management provides the leadership, vision, and resources needed to implement an effective safety program. Managers, we challenge you to show how you Lead with Safety. Identify a safety or health issue in your workplace and take steps to address it today to earn your challenge coin.
Identify a pressing safety or health issue in your workplace.
Take one or more steps to address the issue in your workplace.
Download your challenge coin and share how you Lead with Safety.
Eyes on Safety Challenge
Workplace inspections are an important tool for identifying hazards and resolving them. Whether you inspect your workplace on a regular basis or are just getting your workplace safety program started, conduct a safety walkaround to show how you have Eyes on Safety today to earn your challenge coin.
Plan your safety walkaround. You’ll need to familiarize yourself with the workplace, its operations, and the most hazardous work areas, tasks, or activities.
Make an inspection checklist using examples from the OSHA small business handbook or other published sources.
Determine what Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) you’ll need.
Conduct your Safety Walkaround.
Inspect each work area starting with easily identifiable hazards, talk to workers, including new hires, and note hazards that need to be evaluated further.
Follow up on what you found. Prioritize the hazards you found based on how severe an injury could be and how likely an injury is to happen. Share this information with management and ask for their commitment to fix hazards.
Download your challenge coin and share that you have Eyes on Safety.
These are five simple yet effective challenges to help communicate your commitment to a safe workplace for all employees. Upon completion of each challenge, employers are encouraged to download a virtual challenge coin and proudly display it as a way to encourage other businesses to focus on safety too.
From labor-intensive construction jobs to digitally oriented office work, employees may face a daily risk of back injury. Various work hazards, including heavy loads and poor posture, can injure and hinder employees in any field. Workers should be well-informed about the potential health and safety hazards they may encounter daily.
Workers with healthy backs can remain productive and effective in the workplace. NSC offers easy-to-use, OSHA-compliant safety solutions and packages for back safety and proper lifting procedures in any industry.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than one million workers suffer a work-related back industry each year. Back-related injuries can occur in manual labor-heavy work environments, such as construction and warehouse work. Workers in any industry may be at risk for back injuries due to poor posture.
A work-related back injury can cause workers to miss time and hurt their productivity. Their place of work may struggle to replace them in the meantime, further hurting efficiency.
Help your employees avoid back injuries and stay productive with our Back Safety Training Course. This training program can educate workers on the causes of back pain, safe lifting procedures, proper posture, and back anatomy to ensure safe transport of both worker and patient.
Heavy items can be a significant occupational safety hazard. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported over 86,000 lifting-related work injuries in 2019. Like general back injuries, lift-related injuries can severely inhibit a company’s profitability.
Proper lifting procedures are especially crucial when carrying and transporting heavy loads. Our Back Safety Training Bundle offers comprehensive video training and convenient booklets about safe lifting procedures. Minimize the risk of back injury in your workplace when handling heavy loads with our safety resources.
Supervisors and managers can utilize various materials to implement safe lifting procedures in the workplace. Video kits and training booklets can serve as comprehensive safety resources, while posters and handbooks can offer convenient, valuable reminders for your workers. Together, these pieces of media can promote and engender a safe, OSHA-compliant environment.
Our Get Some Help Safety Poster is packaged with other back safety materials. Remind your workers to share the load while lifting, moving, and working with heavy items. Display this poster in a visible area, such as the breakroom, for best results.
Rely on National Safety Compliance to build a thorough, OSHA-compliant, and safe work environment. Our Back Safety Training Bundle offers in-depth information on the back-related hazards discussed above. These materials can serve as a valuable resource for new hires. Use these resources to start building a safe workplace today.
What is the first step in providing a safe workplace? While the safety of workers is our primary focus, having an effective safety orientation training plan in place has value beyond what is self-evident. To begin with, research shows that with consistent orientation, employee morale gets a boost, productivity increases, and staff turnover is reduced. It is vital to get all the necessary information to new employees before they start at the job site.
Effective orientation is part of fulfilling your company’s obligation to a worker’s “right to know”. Don’t make assumptions that a worker has more experience than they actually do. Workers may not know what to expect on the worksite. It is entirely possible that a worker is not familiar with the unique hazards associated with their job. Safety orientation programs provide a lot of information that many workers feel is common sense. But you never know what a new employee does or does not know. Further, exhibiting a commitment to the rights of workers creates positive engagement. It can produce a positive working relationship with your new employees right from the start.
Orientation allows new hires to hit the ground running safely by empowering them with information. You never know what knowledge your new workers bring with them, and your organization has unique processes and procedures to share.
Our safety orientation course is an excellent resource for new hires in any industry. It is designed to foster positive safety attitudes and raise awareness of potential workplace hazards and emergencies. It is a great start for new workers in general industry positions. This training is also suitable for members of management, and supervisors, to train the trainer and for refresher courses.
It is important to remember that some training must start before employees can start performing their tasks. Everyone benefits when workers know the safe way to work from the start rather than waiting to be corrected. Ideally, you need to know whether an employee feels self-sufficient or is at least on the road to self-sufficiency.
Helpful orientation training questions to ask:
Do you know what’s expected of you?
How comfortable do you feel reaching out to coworkers with questions?
Do you know where to go to problem-solve?
Are you aware of what resources are available to do your job?
Safety orientation is not a checklist. Rather, it is an employee’s first impression of the management system and further of the overall workplace culture. New employees will have expectations about the workplace. An emphasis on safety orientation is vital. Work performance can indicate successful orientation. Thorough orientation may also positively affect the employees’ eagerness to learn and their willingness to contribute to a safe and healthy workplace.
Sometimes a new employee needs additional training or direction. In this case, the employee should be given the opportunity to correct mistakes and receive additional training. Ignoring an employee’s mistakes (intentional or unintentional) puts that employee at risk and may also put others at risk. Supervisors cannot assume mistakes will be self-corrected. Supervisors should review it again if an employee is not following policy or procedure. Under due diligence, supervisors are responsible to correct employees who do not follow standards. Furthermore, disciplinary action may be necessary for that employee. If disciplinary action is required, supervisors must document the situation and proceed by the company directives for the situation.
Retraining is necessary when:
You have new information or revised best practices
You spot a deficiency
An employee experiences an incident (or near miss)
Company policy dictates retraining (usually according to a set interval)
A study from the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago reported that 85 percent of American workers rank job safety as a number one priority. Your safety orientation program and the importance you give to safety generally communicate a lot about the importance of safety in your workplace. In summary, most new employees are deeply concerned about their safety on the job.
Tragically, in the first six months of 2022, twenty-two trench-related fatalities occurred, surpassing the 15 fatalities in all of 2021. These workers fell victim to the deadly hazards present in trenching and excavation work. Prompting the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration to launch enhanced enforcement initiatives to protect workers from known industry hazards.
With the hope of saving lives, OSHA enforcement staff is considering every available tool at the agency’s disposal in order to stress the dangers of disregarding federal workplace safety requirements for trenching and excavation work. This will include placing additional emphasis on penalties for trenching and excavation-related incidents. In a worst-case scenario, this may include federal or state prosecution. Therefore holding employers and others accountable when their actions or inactions kill workers or put their lives at risk.
Because of the continuing incidence of trench collapses and loss of life, the agency has determined that these worksites continue to warrant an increased enforcement presence. Employees exposed to potential cave-ins must be protected before the excavation face is in imminent danger of collapse. Furthermore, OSHA believes that there is a potential for collapse in virtually all excavations. OSHA compliance officers will perform more than 1,000 trench inspections nationwide where they may stop by, and inspect, any excavation site during their daily duties.
Trenching and excavation work exposes workers to extremely dangerous hazards. OSHA believes that the rate of deaths and serious injuries resulting from trenching and excavation incidents (mostly collapses) can be significantly reduced if OSHA concentrates resources to effectively engage in trenching and excavation operations through both enforcement and compliance assistance activities.
“Every one of these tragedies could have been prevented had employers complied with OSHA standards,” said Assistant Secretary for Occupational Health and Safety Doug Parker. “There simply is no excuse for ignoring safety requirements to prevent trench collapses and cave-ins, and leaving families, friends, and co-workers to grieve when the solutions are so well-understood.”
“The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is calling on all employers engaged in trenching and excavation activities to act immediately to ensure that required protections are fully in place every single time their employees step down into or work near a trench,” Parker added. “In a matter of seconds, workers can be crushed and buried under thousands of pounds of soil and rocks in an unsafe trench. The alarming increase in the number of workers needlessly dying and suffering serious injuries in trenching incidents must be stopped.”
Trench Shields Unused in Fatal Accident
A recent incident in Texas highlights the dangers of trenching and the importance of following safety standards. On June 28, 2022, two workers suffered fatal injuries when the unprotected trench more than 20 feet deep collapsed upon them as they worked. Trench shields, which could have saved their lives, sat unused beside the excavation.
Trenching and excavation operations require protective systems and inspections before workers can enter. Workers are exposed to serious hazards when trench protection systems are not installed. Furthermore, failing to properly inspect the trench, puts everyone at high risk for injury. These hazards include the risk of being buried under thousands of pounds of soil. Following safety requirements helps protect workers from tragic injuries and possibly death.
Overview of OSHA Standard on Trenching and Excavation
Hazards of trenching and excavation
Competent Person Roles and Duties
Access & Egress
Excavated Materials (Spoil)
Vital trenching standards require protective systems on all trenches 5 feet deep. In addition, soil and other materials must be kept at least 2 feet from the edge of a trench. Furthermore, trenches must be inspected by a knowledgeable person. Equally important, they must be free of standing water and atmospheric hazards. As well as have a safe means of entering and exiting prior to allowing a worker to enter. Without proper training keeping workers safe is impossible but carefully following OSHA regulations gives everyone the best chance at a safe work environment.
“OSHA stands ready to assist any employer who needs help to comply with our trenching and excavation requirements,” Parker added. “We will conduct outreach programs, including safety summits, in all of our 10 regions to help ensure any employer who wants assistance gets it. The stakes are too important.”
OSHA’s mission is to ensure the protection of workers. Not only striving to prevent work-related injuries but also illnesses, and deaths. The method of achieving this is setting and enforcing standards. OSHA standards include explicit safety and health training requirements. Which ensures that workers have the required skills and knowledge to do their work safely. Likewise, OSHA standards, have prevented countless workplace tragedies. OSHA regulation training reflects the belief that training is essential to every employer’s safety and health program. Researchers conclude that those who are new on the job have a higher rate of injuries and illnesses than more experienced workers. Proper training that meets the requirements will help protect these inexperienced workers from injuries and illnesses. Identically, these standards include providing adequate training, therefore, saving lives and preventing injuries.
Basically, OSHA standards are rules that describe the methods that employers must use to protect their employees from hazards. Furthermore, there are four groups of OSHA standards: General Industry, Construction, Maritime, and Agriculture. General Industry covers the largest number of workers and worksites.
Training in OSHA Standards has Benefits
Comply with federal and state safety and health requirements
Recognize and remove hazards from your workplace
Protect your workers from injury and illness
Prevent the loss of life at your worksite
Cultivate informed and alert employees who take responsibility
Worksite safety as a whole
Improve employee morale
OSHA regulations help reduce future incidents by identifying potential hazards. It is also vital to regularly review safety procedures with employees. Accurate record-keeping is also important. Clearly, a safer environment keeps your employees at work by reducing the chances of accidents or health problems.
Everyone benefits from proper training. In addition, Workplace safety regulation training makes financial sense. The cost of accident prevention is far lower than the cost of accidents.
Improve the bottom line by:
Lowering injury and illness rates
Decreasing workers’ compensation costs
Reducing lost workdays
Limiting equipment damage and product losses
Employers also benefit from providing a safe workplace for their employees. This includes knowing that they are complying with OSHA regulations. Fewer injuries result in fewer workers’ compensation claims. Furthermore, a decline in all work-related injuries may occur, which ultimately improves the efficiency and work ethic of employees. Not to mention building an environment at work where employees are physically safe and practice awareness about dangers at work. Additionally, proper training could increase employee retention due to a safe environment for everybody. In short, OSHA training is vital and will help to provide strong morale.