Working in a countertop fabrication shop can be dangerous if safety precautions are not followed. Many of the most hazardous situations are very specific to the industry, but employees may also become injured or killed by general hazards that are common in all types businesses. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) makes its data available to the public, and the latest release is for 2015.
In 2015, federal compliance officers conducted 35,820 inspections and state officers conducted 43,471 inspections, and following are the top 10 most frequently cited violations for the year:
- Fall protection – Falls are, by far, the most common type of accidents in the construction industry, accounting for nearly 40 percent of worker injuries in the construction industry. In most cases, citations can be avoided by simply keeping floors clean, dry and unobstructed, providing personal protective equipment (PPE) for falls and training employees about known dangers.
- Hazard communication standard – The hazard communication standard (HCS) requires businesses to label and provide safety data sheets for all hazardous chemicals used while on the job. All employees who are exposed to these chemicals must also be appropriately trained to handle them.
- General scaffolding requirements – Approximately 50 people each year are killed in scaffolding accidents while on the job. Injuries often occur when the planks or supports are not used properly. It is also common for workers to slip and fall or be struck by fallen objects while on scaffolding.
- Respiratory protection – About 5 million workers in the U.S. are required to wear respirators while working in environments with insufficient oxygen or harmful substances are in the air. For most countertop fabricators, the respirators are primarily used to reduce exposure to silica dust.
- Control of hazardous energy – Hazardous energy can from a variety of sources, including electrical, mechanical, thermal, chemical and hydraulic and pneumatic. Injuries can easily occur when employees are cleaning or maintaining heavy machinery. Examples include burns while repairing steam valves, getting crushed by a faulty conveyer-belt system and getting shocked while working on electrical equipment. The most effective way to prevent or reduce these types of injuries is to implement an approved lockout/tagout (LOTO) practice.
- Powered industrial trucks – Powered industrial trucks, more commonly known as forklifts, present several dangers, such as overloading, collisions with objects or people and falling off loading docks or trucks. Specialized training is recommended for all workers operating forklifts.
- Ladders – While ladders are common household tools, but they can be extremely deadly when care is not taken and proper procedures are not followed.
- Electrical, wiring methods, components and equipment – Because electricity is so deadly, federal and state safety precautions are very strict, very specific and designed to prevent several types of injuries, including shock, fire and explosions.
- Machinery and machine guarding – Heavy machines with moving parts are responsible for a great many workplace injuries and deaths. While many of these machines cannot be tamed, they can be sufficiently guarded to lower risk.
- Electrical systems design – In addition to components, wiring methods and equipment, you entire electrical system design could be a hazard.
Fabrication shops of all types are inherently dangerous, but injuries can be prevented by following all health and safety regulations. Even though compliance usually carries a high upfront cost, the cost of paying your workers’ compensation premiums is even more costly. For further information on common workplace injuries, contact the nearest OSHA office, a trade organization such as the Natural Stone Institute or a private compliance consultation firm.