Avoiding OSHA violations

Lucas Deal

December 20, 2012

Understanding the potential for violations can help you avoid them.

By Lucas Deal, Associate Editor


You never want to have to shut down your service department due to OSHA citations or violations. Time lost due to violations can take a technician out of a service bay and slow down your turnaround times — hurting your business.

According to Eric Schmitz, vice president of product and business development at KPA Online, every business will deal with OSHA citations at some point in time. The key, however, is knowing what causes those citations, how to quickly correct them and avoid them reoccurring in the future.

OSHA can show up at your door at any time, Schmitz says. You need to be prepared.

One important step in preparing for an OSHA inspection is learning what citations are most commonly cited, and where in your business they can occur. Specific aspects of a service business are more prone to safety risks and must be handled with care.

In November KPA released a list of the 10 most common citations for service providers. Schmitz described the list in detail this month during a KPA webinar, highlighting the areas where any service facility can fall victim to mistakes. He describes the top citations for 2012, and how to avoid them, as follows:

  • Hazard Communication: All hazards must be labeled and a program must be in place with rules for how to handle each possible hazard. An up-to-date inventory should be kept for all chemicals in your facility and technicians should be trained for how to handle and dispose of hazards.
  • Respiratory Protection: A written program that details your safety plan is necessary and must be followed. You also should provide how to wear respirator training for technicians.
  • Unguarded Machinery (Parts Grinder): Everything must have a safety shield. Grinders are a common citation because technicians can remove the shield when working. It must be on the grinder at all times.
  • Electrical Safety Requirements: Cords and outlets must be up to specifications. Do not allow any frayed wires or overloaded circuits in your facility.
  • Powered Industrial Trucks: All employees with access to lifts and in-house equipment must be trained, and equipment must be inspected for safety requirements. Seat belts are necessary.
  • Exit Routes and Emergency Action Plans: Described as the proper plan for exiting your facility in the case of an emergency event. Serious violations and injuries can occur here if you are not prepared.
  • Portable Fire Extinguishers: Must be available in all work areas and easily accessible for employees. Should be tested every six years to ensure usefulness.
  • Spray finishing using flammable liquids (especially at collision centers): Must be separated from ignition sources.
  • General Duty Clause: Described as a place free from recognized hazards. Basically, don’t leave things out where they can cause problems. Commonly used for shop lifts, Schmitz says this is an OSHA catch all.
  • Improperly Maintained Emergency Eyewash Stations: Must be within 15 seconds of all employees, with a reservoir of clean water treated for safety.

According to Schmitz, all of these citations can be easily avoided with smart and practical safety techniques. The key is making sure everyone is on the same page.

Doing that is simple, and it doesn’t take much time. You can create written safety programs for your facility that detail at length exactly how you want each possible risk to be handled. Then once you’ve completed your program, you can take your employees through it and provided them extra detail on what they need to do.

Once everyone in your facility understands the rules, it’s just a matter of policing what you’ve instituted and updating the program as necessary.

Schmitz says OSHA has more than 2,200 licensed inspectors, and the government organization held more than 92,000 inspections last year.

With numbers like that, it won’t be long until an OSHA inspector shows up at your facility. By following KPA’s guidelines and being smart, you can make sure he leaves your facility without issuing any violations.

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