OSHA Safety Cornerstones – Third Quarter 2022

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OSHA Launches Enhanced Trenching and Excavation Safety Initiatives

Twenty-two workers have already been killed due to deadly trenching and excavation hazards in 2022—a 68% increase from all of 2021. In response, OSHA launched enhanced enforcement initiatives to protect workers from known industry hazards. Doug Parker, the assistant secretary for OSHA, stated that all 22 deaths could have been prevented if employers had complied with the agency’s safety standards.

While trenching and excavation operations require protective systems to be in place and inspections to occur before workers can enter job sites, employers may fail to properly follow these precautions. This can leave workers exposed to serious hazards, including the risk of being buried under thousands of pounds of soil.

OSHA enforcement staff are now placing increased emphasis on how agency officials evaluate penalties for trenching- and excavation-related incidents. Such penalties include criminal referrals for the federal or state prosecution of employers whose actions (or

inactions) are fatal to workers or put their lives at risk.

OSHA is asking all employers to act immediately to ensure required protections are fully in place before employees enter or work near trenches. The agency has also asked states with OSHA-approved State Plans to have similar emphasis programs in place and implement additional measures to prevent further injuries and deaths from trenching- and excavation-related incidents.

OSHA compliance officers are set to perform more than 1,000 trench inspections across the country, reviewing excavation sites during workers’ daily duties. If these officers identify any safety concerns, Parker said OSHA is prepared to help.

“OSHA stands ready to assist any employer who needs help to comply with our trenching and excavation requirements,” Parker said. “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.”

Contact us today for the latest OSHA developments.

DOL Issues Significant Penalties Against Business Chain for Workplace Safety FailuresThe U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recently proposed hundreds of thousands of dollars in penalties against Family Dollar Stores Inc. following a shoplifting incident at a store in Orlando, Florida. On Dec. 11, 2021, a store employee struggled with a shoplifter in a failed attempt to stop the criminal from escaping with any merchandise. Afterward, the employee began experiencing nausea and shortness of breath. The store manager responded by calling 911, but the employee later died at the hospital. Upon investigation of the incident, OSHA discovered multiple willful and repeat safety violations at the store. Specifically, the store kept an emergency exit door locked with a single key held by management and failed to keep pathways unobstructed by carts and merchandise boxes in order for employees to safely walk through—both actions that could have played a role in the employee’s death. As a result of these violations, Family Dollar Stores Inc. is facing a total of $330,446 in penalties..   

Federal Agencies Report 11% Increase in Workplace Homicides

The number of workplace homicides increased 11% from 409 in 2014 to 454 in 2019, according to a joint study recently published by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. As a whole, data from the BLS reported that nearly 18,000 people were killed on the job or as a result of workplace violence from 1992 to 2019.

What About Nonfatal Workplace Attacks?

Research from the Bureau of Justice Statistics found an annual average of 1.3 million nonfatal workplace attacks occurred from 2015 to 2019.

Examples of such attacks include:

  • Rape or sexual assault
  • Robbery
  • Aggravated assault or simple assault

In instances of nonfatal workplace violence, the majority of attackers (78%) were unarmed. Additionally, nearly half (47%) of these attacks were perpetuated by strangers.

Women were more likely than men to be attacked at work by someone they knew. Female victims also accounted for a greater percentage (65%) of nonfatal injuries from hitting, kicking, beating or shoving that resulted in days away from work.

On the other hand, male victims accounted for a greater percentage (82%) of nonfatal workplace shooting injuries, also resulting in missed days from work.

How Common Is Workplace Violence?

The previously mentioned study found there were more than half a million (529,000) nonfatal workplace violence injuries treated in hospital emergency departments from 2015 to 2019. Younger victims were more likely to have injuries treated in emergency departments than older victims.

The most common injuries from nonfatal workplace attacks were:

  • Contusions and abrasions (33%)
  • Sprains and strains (12%)
  • Traumatic brain injuries (12%)

Considering these numbers, it’s crucial for employers to implement effective workplace violence prevention and response protocols.

Contact us today for more information on workplace violence prevention and related OSHA resources.

Approximately 18,000 people were killed on the job or as a result of workplace violence between 1992 and 2019.