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January 19, 2023

How to Prevent OSHA Citations in 2023

Latest posts by Atlantic Research Team (see all)

Introduction: Prevent OSHA Citations in 2023

Everyone deserves to feel safe at work. This isn’t really something that’s a nice to have. It’s nice to have a vending machine in the breakroom. Safety at work is a necessity, not an option. Congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health act in 1970 creating the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The role of OSHA is to ensure safe, healthy working conditions for all workers. This consistent level of safety expectations is managed by the standards OSHA puts into place by sector: Agriculture, Construction, Federal Agencies, Healthcare, Maritime, Oil and Gas, Warehousing, and general industries. General industry is a catch all that ensures OSHA can oversee safe work environments for companies that may not fall under the main sectors. Now let’s talk about how to prevent OSHA citations in 2023.

OSHA Standards:

The best first stop for any employer to become familiar with OSHA standards is www.osha.gov. OSHA standards are the rules and regulations an employer must follow to protect their employees from hazards and safety risks. Some of these standards apply across industries, but each specific sector has additional expectations for safety hazards unique to their work environments. For example, the Maritime sector has specific standards for shipyards that likely do not align directly with standards for other industries such as Healthcare. The first step is to go to OSHA’s website and look up the standards for your industry specifically. You can use these quick links to access the laws and regulations that will directly impact your company:

Trying to Prevent OSHA Citations in 2023 sounds simple, until it isn’t.

Let’s look at an example:

A new employee on the shop floor is using a ladder to change a light bulb. You’d think everyone knows how to change a light bulb, right? It’s one of the longest standing jokes in history. However, this new employee walks up the ladder with both hands holding the fragile light bulb because they don’t want to screw up on the first day by breaking it. The employee reaches up, loses his balance, and falls. Not only has the employee been injured, but this is a safety incident that is reportable to OSHA. Lack of fall protection (including ladder safety) is the number one most common OSHA citation. 

The employer should be asking: Did I provide the training necessary for the safe use of a ladder? 

The employer is required to provide employee training for ladder safety. According to OSHA standard 1910.23, no employee should carry any object or load that could cause the employee to lose balance and fall while climbing up or down the ladder. All employees should always have three points-of-contact on the ladder. Now, if you didn’t know that, then you have homework to do in understanding the OSHA standards that impact your company and ensuring you to keep up with the changes. These standards are subject to change as OSHA creates new requirements or amend existing rules.

If your goal is preventing OSHA citations in 2023 you should know that OSHA is rolling out three major changes in 2023:

Updated electronic recordkeeping requirement and forms

Hazard communication rule update

Lockout-Tagout update

Lack of compliance with these new standards will increase the likelihood of an OSHA citation.

Recordkeeping

Last year OSHA proposed changes to not only expand electronic submission requirements but are also expected to roll out updates to the 300, 300A, and 301 forms. Employers are required to submit these logs annually to OSHA. Previously employers with 250 or more employees were required to submit the 300 logs. Now that requirement will be expanded to companies with 100 or more employees. Smaller companies will only be required to submit the 300A form electronically. This rule is expected to be finalized in March 2023, and, until the rule is finalized, employers may continue to follow the current standards. 

With this increased focus on electronic submission, employers will need to invest in electronic recordkeeping or a Learning Management System (LMS).

An LMS is a whole package and could be crucial if you need to know how to prevent OSHA citations in 2023.. Your safety team will be able to track recordable incidents, non-recordable incidents, and near misses directly into the software. Many common LMS options include a mobile app so that your teams are not required to find a desktop in order to record an incident. Tracking and recording incidents the entire year through the software makes electronically submitting 300 logs painless. The software includes all the necessary logs, inputs the information into the necessary format, and electronically submits. Investing in a good Learning Management System will be an important consideration for 2023.

You can check out our Learning Management System (LMS) below:

Hazard Communication

It’s important to ensure your safety team has the most information and strict understanding of the OSHA standards that impact your industry. Current Hazard Communication (HazCom) standards can be viewed here. You can expect updated requirements for HazCom in 2023. All companies will have one year from the finalization of the new standards to get into compliance. Lack of compliance after that grace period will open employers to the risk of receiving citations for violations of the new standards. You can expect changes to the classifications of flammable gasses or aerosols, requirements for shipping or shipments, and a need for an expanded classification for “normal conditions of use” to be included in the safety data sheets (SDS). 

Lockout Tagout

Lockout Tagout includes the procedures or processes that must be followed when shutting down equipment or machinery for maintenance. These rules are in place to protect the employee from injury or the accidental release of hazardous energy. Lockout Tagout hasn’t had many changes to the standards over the years and does not reflect computer-based controls as acceptable. However, due to advances in technology, in 2019 OSHA sent a request for information as they acknowledge computer-based controls have improved since the 1980’s. An expected notice of proposed rule-making (NPRM) is expected in July 2023. 

OSHA Citations and How to Prevent OSHA Citations in 2023

For work environments that are not in compliance with the standards, OSHA will give a citation. A citation lists the specific law, regulation, rule or standard the employer violated which resulted in a hazardous work environment. The citation requires the employer to “abate” the hazard, which means the citation is in place until the employer resolves the issue. There are varying levels of citations, each with increasing levels of seriousness. 

In 2023 OSHA is expanding its Severe Violator Enforcement Program to improve compliance.

The new criteria will put more focus on repeat offenders. Two willful or repeat violations who receive failure to abate notices will become serious violations. Follow-up inspections can be made in 1-2 years after the final order. Employers can be removed from the program if there are no further violations after 3 years in the program. However, employers can reduce the program to 2 years if they consent to have an agreement which includes a safety and health program system based on OSHA’s Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs.

Investing in an Employee Safety and Wellness Program

Investing in an Employee Safety and Wellness Program is a great way to stay proactive with compliance. The entire goal of this type of program is to prevent injuries, illnesses or deaths due to unsafe working conditions. It’s easy to get overwhelmed when trying to create a program from the start. While OSHA standards are in place to help regulate safety, they’re also overwhelming when trying to proactively begin a safety and wellness program. It’s best to start small and build over time. Preventing OSHA citations in 2023 starts with educating your employees with proper training. 

OSHA even provides a step-by-step guide to get started!

This guide has resources for each of the 10 steps to creating a safety and wellness program.

When you’re ready, you can download a “Starting Your Journey” resource from www.osha.gov. Taking safety and wellbeing seriously means the difference between a day when everyone can go home to their families and a day when that may not happen. OSHA citations aren’t just about violation regulations. It’s about putting your people at risk through unsafe practices or lack of awareness. 

Importance of Safety Inspections

Conducting safety inspections allows you or your safety team to spot issues before they lead to an injury or incident.

The types of safety inspections vary based on industry and so does the frequency of those inspections. For example, there should be a daily inspection checklist for machinery or vehicles to ensure they are properly functioning prior to use. In addition to the checklists, each vehicle requires frequent, in-depth safety inspections which should uncover maintenance needed or functional issues that need to be addressed. 

The following are examples of the types of safety inspections various industries require:

There are specific inspection standards that an employer is responsible for depending on the industry, equipment available, and the type of materials being handled. These frequent inspections will help maintain compliance. OSHA does enforce the rules and regulations in place. You can learn more about OSHA enforcement here

OSHA Inspections Due to Noncompliance

OSHA inspections or investigations are the result of noncompliance with a safety standard.

All safety incidents that result in injury, illness or death are legally required to be reported to OSHA. All companies with 100 or more employees are required to submit Form 300 Log, or a record of incidents, yearly to OSHA. You can learn more about recordkeeping on OSHA’s site. Depending on these logs and the types of incidents reported, this can trigger a citation or inspection. You can learn more about OSHA inspection in this OSHA Fact Sheet: Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Inspections.

There are six types of OSHA inspections that take priority:

OSHA typically conducts inspections without any advance notice.

This is why it’s vital to have a safety program in place that proactively trains on proper safety procedures, monitors incidents and injuries, and ensures proper controls are put in place to show proactive measures to correct any violations or noncompliance with OSHA standards.

OSHA can ask for a phone or onsite inspection.

When it’s a lower-priority hazard, OSHA may reach out to the employer to get more information around the safety and health concerns. The officer will request a fax providing details of the problems and corrective actions taken or planned to be implemented. An employer will have five days to respond. An onsite inspection is not required if OSHA is satisfied that the information supplied corrects the safety concerns that have been reported. 

However, for the higher priority safety concerns, OSHA will conduct an onsite inspection. Without any notice. The inspection consists of an officer producing credentials and holding an initial meeting to explain the scope of the inspection, procedures and ensure there is proper representation. Then, after this opening conference, the employer representative will take the OSHA officer for a walkthrough of the site and review any records. During the walkthrough, the officer will likely point out apparent violations for citation, but immediate correction is best as it’s seen as a sign of good faith.  After the walkaround, the officer will have a closing conference with the appropriate employer representatives to discuss citations, penalties, and possible courses of action. 

Conclusion on Preventing OSHA Citations in 2023

The best way to prevent OSHA citations in 2023 is to create proactive safety training programs, implement safety checklists or inspections, and track your own incidents to see patterns of risk. These citations not only cost companies thousands of dollars in penalties, but they also reflect an unsafe work culture. If OSHA is giving citations or conducting investigations, it’s time to take a hard look at the safety training, policies, and procedures currently in place to improve alignment with OSHA regulations and standards.

Proving you’ve taken measures to address safety concerns proactively can mean the difference between OSHA signing off on your faxed report versus showing up unannounced onsite to do a walkthrough.

OSHA gets a bad reputation as being the authority that comes in to shake you down. But in truth OSHA is in place to create guidelines that allow all employees a safe place to work and protect employers from creating unsafe conditions. At the end of the day, we all just want people to be safe from hazards and safety risks as much as humanly possible. 

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