Safety ‘skeletons’: Hazards that are reported, but not fixed

by on February 1, 2011 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: Workplace Safety Network

Are there any safety skeletons in your department’s closet? Reported, but not fixed, hazards will come back to haunt you.

The nip and pinch points on the track press machine weren’t dangerous as long as operators followed loading instructions. That was the company’s argument when it was cited for a violation of the machine guarding standard. But during a routine inspection, the company found its argument challenged, first by OSHA and then by its own employees.

Workers complained that they had to reach for fallen materials in an opening of the press table – right through a dangerous pinch point. Then it came to light that some months before one operator had been injured when his hand was caught in the pinch point.

Documents of this injury came to light along with a videotape, made at the time of the injury, demonstrating the hazards of operating the track press.

The meeting
On top of all this, someone gave OSHA a copy of minutes of a meeting supervisors had held with workers to discuss the problem and what to do about it. With all that evidence, it wasn’t surprising that the OSHRC rejected the company’s challenge, sustaining a citation and fining the company $10,000.

Why was it that, with all the attention the hazards of this machine had gotten, they were never corrected?
It wasn’t because the company was deliberately negligent or indifferent to worker safety.

What happened was that the hazards of the track press got lost in the urgent production demands of a busy manufacturing plant.

Nobody’s top priority
Everyone knew what had to be done, but getting it done wasn’t anybody’s top priority. Even the workers who were in danger had too much else to do and think about to push to get the pinch and nip points properly guarded.

Hazards like these exist in many “safe” work sites. Look around your department and ask these questions:

  1. Has every recognized hazard been corrected? If there are hazards that you’ve recognized and reported but are waiting for repairs, where do these stand? Follow up on these reports and document you’ve done so.
  2. What about unrecognized hazards? Is there any new machinery or equipment that hasn’t been thoroughly checked out for potential safety problems. Ask the operators. Make sure they realize that you expect them to bring these to your attention.

Cite: Secy. of Labor v. Caterpillar.

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