• OSHA safety tips for the recycling industry

    CDRA Webinar offers helpful advice

    by Jon M. Casey

    In recent years, recyclers have increased their safety awareness programs because of increased OSHA inspections throughout the industry. National headlines tell of costly penalties assessed due to infractions that could have been prevented. On November 9, 2016, the Construction & Demolition Recycling Association along with Assurance® Agency sponsored a webinar hosted by John Schumacher, Assurance senior vice president. This hour long presentation entitled OSHA’s Focus on Recycling provided an overview of how to manage risk in the recycling environment.

    Schumacher, who is also Risk Management Committee chair for CDRA, told attendees that because of the inherent risks within the industry, OSHA has recognized these hazards and has stepped up their inspections. While most recycling companies and MRF operators are applying effective safety controls, others are not. He said that safety management affects insurance costs, so effective programs would help recycler’s bottom line.

    According to Schumacher, OSHA’s primary reasons for inspections have a priority. First is an observation or report of imminent danger at an operation. Second is an event resulting in severe injuries or fatalities at a site. Next come worker complaints. Finally, referrals and targeted inspections move OSHA to take action by performing an unannounced inspection.

    Schumacher noted that OSHA increased its penalty amounts in August 2016. He said maximum fines have increased for various violations. A “serious” violation has increased from $7,000 to $12,471. “About 95 percent of the violations fall under this category,” he said. “These can be issued per employee exposed and per violation. So you could come into multiple violations, each with a penalty of $12,471.”

    A “willful” violation is up from $70,000 to $124,709 per citation. This violation occurs when it can be proven that the employer knew or should have known of the hazard, but did not attempt to make any corrective action. “Typically, when these violations are found, the penalty is the maximum,” he said. Repeat violations also carry that same penalty. A repeat violation is any violation that is cited — that has been previously cited within the past five years. If you have multiple violations in multiple states, this would also apply.

    The next level of infraction is the Failure to Abate (FTA) violation. This comes into play when OSHA has inspected a facility and found problems, then returns to find that no corrective actions have taken place to fix the problems cited. “Machine guarding is a great example,” he said. “If they notice that machine guarding needs attention but is not (remedied)…the maximum penalty is up to $12,471 per day that employees are exposed.”

    Schumacher noted that routinely, OSHA will release press news items covering fines in excess of $50,000. This could tend to affect the company’s reputation within the community. More importantly, OSHA rarely prints any kind of update informing the public that the violating company has remedied its violations and is now in compliance with OSHA standards.

    Of the top ten citations issued by OSHA throughout the U.S., Schumacher thought that seven of them would more specifically pertain to the recycling industry. These include, fall protection, respiratory protection, lock out/tag out, powered industrial trucks, machine guarding, electrical wiring and electrical general requirements. The three others that make up the top ten are hazard communication, scaffolds and ladders.

    He stressed that penalties tend to compound, once a safety infraction has been observed. For example, if a company has failed to apply a lockout to a prescribed location, the company may also be cited for not having a written program addressing that procedure. They may also be cited for lack of employee training both for the person who is authorized to do the lockout, and for those employees who are affected by the lack of taking that safety measure. In this instance, if all four of these conditions exist, four citations could be issued for the one, initial unsafe condition. Industrial hygiene could be another example. Testing, training, equipment, contaminants all can add to the overall penalties.

    OSHA’s primary focus during an inspection generally falls into five areas of consideration. Administrative review, which includes inspectors looking for OSHA 300 logs dating back five years. They are looking for written safety programs and documented safety training as well. Next, they will look for proper use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). They want to see a written policy and to do a PPE Hazard Assessment. It’s a written policy outlining why the PPE needs to be used.

    The next major area is lock out/tag out. Usually, failure to lock out/tag out can result in severe or fatal injuries. Schumacher reminded listeners that trucks and mobile equipment at MRFs are included in the lockout tag out rules as well. Specific locks for this purpose are necessary. If the locks are not designated for this purpose, a citation will be given.

    Machine guarding also gets close attention. OSHA’s performance standard includes employee protection from moving parts, “over, around or under” those moving parts. Emergency stops on MRF lines require daily inspection. Guarding on return sections of conveyors is an area that is often forgotten.

    Barriers, which are included in the guarding rule, will often follow an industry best practice guideline using the “10-foot rule.” “However, OSHA’s standard is actually seven feet,” he said. “Any equipment that can be reached at seven feet or lower needs to be guarded.”

    Industrial hygiene is OSHA’s final primary area of concern. This includes noise and air quality levels within the working environment. Schumacher highly recommends third party testing to determine the need or lack of need for PPE in these areas. This will provide a disinterested authority on what needs protection and what doesn’t. Even though self-testing is often allowed, depending on the hazards, third party testing may be a better choice. The frequency of air and noise testing is also important for overall safety considerations. For more information on this topic and webinar, visit Assurance® Agency’s website at http://results.assuranceagency.com/focusonrecycling.

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