Hazard Communication Tops OSHA Violation List


Hazard Communication Tops OSHA Violation List
New ergonomic rules may set operators even farther behind the statutory eight-ball

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has released its 1999 violation statistics, and hazard communication violations top the list for the general industry sector.

Overall, failure to have a written plan was the most cited problem--more than 2,000 violations for general industry in 1999. Hazard communication violations also came in third, fourth and fifth on the list, cumulatively another 2,000 violations for problems with training information, container labeling and material safety data sheets.

For carwashes, hazard communication problems were also the most frequent type of violations recorded. More than twice as many penalties were assessed in that category than in the second most common area of violations, personal protective equipment. Carwashes were assessed more than $14,000 in fines, far more in that period than either gas stations or c-stores.

Hazard communication violations topped the gas station violation list for violations issued between October 1998 and September 1999, the most recent statistics available. Nearly half of the inspections uncovered a hazard communication problem, with almost 25 percent of the violations issued under the hazard communication umbrella.

For food stores, the division including both grocery and convenience stores, hazard communication violations were second in frequency.

The good news is, hazard communication violations often don't result in major fines. For small facilities-- those with fewer than 10 employees-- hazard communication violations accounted for about one-quarter of violations, but no fines were issued. For all stores, violations averaged a $150 fine. Failures regarding medical and first aid rules, on the other hand, averaged 10 times that per violation.

But operators may soon have another worry. New OSHA ergonomic rules, created to help prevent musculoskeletal disorders, could be the next big compliance problem. The rules are geared toward preventing injuries caused by repetitive or awkward motions or lifting, including tendonitis, back pain or carpal tunnel syndrome. Final comments on a proposed plan were recently wrapped up, with public hearings to come.

Under the OSHA proposal, about 1.6 million employers would need to implement a basic ergonomics program, including:

  • assigning someone to be responsible for ergonomics
  • providing information to employees on the risk of injuries, signs and symptoms to watch for and the importance of reporting problems early
  • setting up a system for employees to report signs and symptoms.

Full programs would be required only if one or more work-related injuries actually occurred. The proposal also offers a "quick fix" alternative to setting up a full ergonomics program: correct a hazard within 90 days, check to see that the fix works and no further action is necessary. In addition, a "grandfather" clause gives credit to firms that already have effective ergonomics programs in place and are working to correct hazards.

According to OSHA, only 25 percent of general industry companies with fewer than 20 workers -- 1.3 million -- will need to adopt basic ergonomics programs for one or more of their jobs involving manual handling or production work. Over a 10-year period, about 1.1 million small employers will need full programs or "quick fixes" at some point because one or more of their workers will have experienced an musculoskeletal injury.

OSHA says most employers in general industry will incur "minimal costs." It says that employers who need to correct problems will spend an average of $150 per year per work station fixed. The total cost to employers would equal $4.2 billion each year.

But the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) joined other business groups objecting to the draft rule on ergonomics proposed by OSHA.

In November, Marc Katz, NACS' vice president of government relations, said the draft rule was too vague and would allow the standard to be applied to almost any employer. If passed, NACS says many owners will have to implement costly modifications that could put some out of business.

"NACS continues to oppose any standard, rule or regulation that is too vague and could unduly harm business," Katz says.

Business groups are pushing to delay the plan until more information is available. A study by the Small Business Administration said costs to employers would be much higher than those estimated by OSHA. A study by the National Academy of Sciences on ergonomics is pending.

More information on NACS' government relations' activities related to ergonomics can be found on NACS Web site C-Store Central under "Congressional Locator" at www.cstorecentral.com.

OSHA offers a HAZCOM information for small business owners--including a training manual (shown) on the Web at http://www.osha-slc.gov/SLTC/


  • Is there a list of hazardous substances used in your workplace?
  • Is there a written hazard communication program dealing with Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS), labeling, and employee training?
  • Is each container for a hazardous substance (i.e., vats, bottles, storage tanks, etc.) labeled with product identity and a hazard warning (communication of the specific health hazards and physical hazards)?
  • Is there a Material Safety Data Sheet readily available for each hazardous substance used?
  • Is there an employee training program for hazardous substances?

Does this program include:

  • An explanation of what an MSDS is and how to use and obtain one?
  • MSDS contents for each hazardous substance or class of substances?
  • Explanation of "Right to Know?"
  • Identification of where an employee can see the employer's written hazard communication program and where hazardous substances are present in their work areas?
  • The physical and health hazards of substances in the work area, and specific protective measures to be used?
  • Details of the hazard communication program, including how to use the labeling system and MSDSs?

Are employees trained in the following:

  • How to recognize tasks that might result in occupational exposure?
  • How to use work practice and engineering controls and personal protective equipment and to know their limitations?
  • How to obtain information on the types selection, proper use, location, removal handling, decontamination, and disposal of personal protective equipment?
  • Who to contact and what to do in an emergency?

Source: OSHA

Top 5 OSHA Violations-Carwashes

Number Total Penalties Description
26 $14,519 Hazard communication
11 $2,729 Personal protective equipment, general requirements
7 $860 Eye & face protection
7 $6,000 Electrical, wiring methods, components & equipment
6 $4,818 The control of hazardous energy, lockout/tagout
6 $4,265 Medical services & first aid

Top 5 OSHA Violations-Gas Stations

Number Total Penalties Description
13 $1,950 Hazard communication
9 $0 Electrical, wiring methods, components & equipment
7 $2,500 Electrical systems design, general requirements
5 $1,125 The control of hazardous energy, lockout/tagout
5 $1,125 Portable fire extinguishers
5 $0 Abrasive wheel machinery

Top 5 OSHA Violations-Grocery Stores (Includes C-stores)

Number Total Penalties Description
15 $2,837 Electrical, wiring methods, components & equipment
15 $2,775 Hazard communication
15 $1,125 Lead
14 $24,987 Machines, general requirements
11 $3,985 Walking-working surfaces, general requirements
10 $15,725 Guarding floor & wall openings & holes

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