OSHA Violations

Features - Human Resources

Noncompliance can lead to injured employees and large fines.

DREAMSTIME.COMFew words strike more uniform fear into the hearts of landscapers than the word “OSHA.”

OSHA regulations are extensive, detailed and costly if noncompliance is found. Furthermore, OSHA violations are often publicized by the media, who reflexively report the citations across broad communication markets, thereby damaging a company’s reputation to current and prospective clients, employees and investors.

This article summarizes the most prevalent violations cited within the landscape industry and provides best practices that maximize employee safety and minimize OSHA impact. 

Landscape Violations
Each year the Department of Labor summarizes the frequency with which OSHA violations occur by industry classification. According to the Department of Labor, the five most frequently-cited OSHA violations from October 2009 through September 2010, for the landscape and horticultural services industry group were:

Personal protective equipment: Equipment designed to protect the eyes, face, head and extremities from potential injury.

Vehicle-mounted elevating and rotating work platforms: This includes aerial ladders, boom platforms and/or vertical towers.

Head protection: Equipment that meets the American National Standard for Industrial (ANSI) criteria for preventing potential head injury from falling objects.

Eye and face protection: Equipment that meets the ANSI criteria for protecting the eyes or face against flying particles, molten metal, liquid chemicals, acids or caustic liquids, chemical gases or vapors or  injurious light radiation.

Hazard communication: Protection against chemicals and hazardous elements by means of comprehensive training, container labeling and other warnings, and Material Safety Data Sheets.

Best in Class Practices
These best-in-class practices can help landscapers minimize company risk, employee injury or financial cost associated with the different OSHA regulations.

Safety audit: Best-in-class companies conduct a self-administered comprehensive OSHA safety audit annually to ensure they remain legally compliant.

Training: Best-in-class employers possess extensive safety training programs involving new employee orientation, weekly tailgate sessions, hands-on equipment training and all other OSHA required classes. 

Accountability: Best-in-class employers hold all of their employees accountable (e.g., performance evaluations, rewards and recognition, safety panels) for compliance to OSHA standards (e.g., PPE, hazard communication, lockout/tagout, IIPP).

OSHA inspection guidelines: Best-in-class organizations have developed a systematic routine they will conduct when an OSHA inspector arrives at their doorstep unannounced, and they periodically practice that routine to ensure its effective execution. 

Record keeping: Best-in-class companies document training attendance, compile injuries on the appropriate OSHA forms as they occur and post the OSHA Form 300A from Feb. 1 through April 30 each year.

While landscapers already know the impact that OSHA can have on their business operations, they must continually work to implement a true safety culture that permeates their entire organization, rather than simply having a basic safety program that occurs briefly and is then quickly forgotten by everyone.

Only then will the threat of an OSHA investigation be viewed by landscapers with confidence.

The author is an industrial psychologist with the Harvest Group, a landscape consulting group. Send your HR questions to scesare@giemedia.com.