Category: OSHA

OSHA’s Walking-Working Surfaces Standard and Fall Prevention

At the end of May, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) proposed updates to its stair rail system requirements related to walking-working surfaces and protective equipment.

As is often the case with new safety standards, many employers have asked for clarification. At Cornerstone Insurance Group, we want you to have peace of mind about your risk management strategies. Here is what you need to know about the latest in walking-working surfaces and general fall prevention standards.

What is New in the Walking-Working Surfaces Standard?

The biggest change in the Walking-Working Surfaces requirements is related to new handrails and stair rail systems with a width of less than 44 inches (found in Table D of this standard). The previous stair rail provision was unclear, stating:

“One stair rail system each open side”

But OSHA intended it to say:

“One stair rail system with handrail on each open side”

They hope that the new language clarifies any confusion in this particular safety standard. In addition, OSHA has eased restrictions on previously installed stair rail systems by allowing the top rail of those systems to act as a handrail if it’s as low as 30 inches.

What Do I Do if I’ve Abided by the Old Wording?

OSHA does recognize that many employers may have implemented stair rail safety standards that follow the previous language (i.e. stair width that’s less than 44 inches and open on both sides). 

However, there’s no need to worry. You do not have to modify your stair rail system if it was installed before the effective date of the new final rule as long as it was in compliance with OSHA standards at the time of installation.

OSHA now has two separate provisions for stairs with two open sides and a width of less than 44 inches. Flights of stairs that have two open sides, are less than 44 inches and installed before the effective date of a final rule would be required to have a stair rail system on each open side but do not need to have a handrail. 

Are There Other Revised Standards I Should Know About?

OSHA is also proposing provisions to Section 1910.29 called “Fall Protection Systems and Falling Object Protection-Criteria and Practices.” Many have expressed confusion over whether or not the top rail of a stair rail system can also serve as a handrail. 

The new proposed standard states that the top rail of stair rail systems installed prior to January 17, 2017 (the date of the final rule) can serve as a handrail if the top rail is 30 to 38 inches tall and meets OSHA’s other handrail requirements. Employers are not required to modify their stair rail systems if they complied with the previous ruling.

Cornerstone’s Risk Management team wants to ensure your workplace is as protected as possible from falls and other injuries. If you’re looking for a specialist to walk you through OSHA’s standards or want to create a risk management plan that works for you, contact Cornerstone today.

What We Can Learn From the 10 Most Cited OSHA Standards for 2020

Workplace safety will always be a trending and important topic, but many companies fall short of achieving a hazard-free workplace. Each year, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) releases its 10 most frequently cited standards from the year before. 

At Cornerstone Insurance Group, our loss control team wants to keep clients informed on how to maintain the safest and most efficient workplace possible. 

Take a look at what your company can learn from these common OSHA citations.

1. Fall Protection – General Requirements

Falls are the most common causes of serious work-related injuries and deaths. In 2020, there were 5,424 violations in this category. It’s imperative that your workplace is set up to prevent employees from falling off of overhead platforms, elevated workstations or into holes in the floor and walls. 

Make sure you review OSHA’s guidelines on fall protection to know the specific requirements your company must follow.  

2. Hazard Communication

With 3,199 violations, hazard communication — which looks at chemical safety — is an often-cited category for OSHA. The Hazard Communication Standard outlines how businesses must disseminate chemical safety-related information to its employees.

Read OSHA’s hazard communication standard to make sure your workplace is compliant.

3. Respiratory Protection

There are millions of workers in the U.S. who are required to wear respirators at work to protect themselves from harmful dust, smoke, vapors and other respiratory hazards. However, when employers fail to provide their employees with sufficient respirator equipment, they’ll receive a citation. This category increased in ranking from 5 to 3 from 2019 to 2020, with 2,649 violations last year.

Take a look at OSHA’s respiratory protection page for resources such as standards and training videos.

4. Scaffolding

With an estimated 65 percent of construction workers utilizing scaffolding, it’s vital that companies protect their employees from injuries and deaths. There were 2,538 scaffolding violations in 2020. Injuries often occur when the structure’s support gives way or an employee loses their footing. The most common causes of accidents involving scaffolds involve the planking or support giving way, or the employee slipping or being struck by a falling object

Consult with OSHA’s scaffolding standards to check that your worksites meet these requirements. 

5. Ladders

Working on or around ladders presents many potential hazards for employees. While in the top 10 in 2019, this citation climbed to the top 5 last year. There were 2,129 violations in this category. 

If your workplace requires the use of ladders, it’s vital that they are properly inspected, set up and used as intended. You can find guidelines under OSHA’s ladder safety requirements.

6. Lockout/Tagout

Lockout/tagout is commonly known as the control of hazardous energy. Energy sources may include electrical, mechanical, pneumatic, hydraulic, chemical and even gravity. While servicing and maintaining machines and equipment, the unexpected startup of stored energy can be dangerous to workers. There were 2,065 total violations in 2020.

Review OSHA’s guidance on proper lockout/tagout practices.

7. Powered Industrial Trucks

Commonly called forklifts or lift trucks, powered industrial trucks are used in many industries to move, raise and lower materials. There are many hazards associated with these trucks, and in 2020 there were 1,932 total violations related to their operation.

Take a look at what your workplace needs to do to adhere to OSHA’s powered industrial trucks standards.

8. Fall Protection – Training Requirements

In addition to the general requirements for fall protection in the workplace, OSHA also sets guidelines for employers to provide a training program for employees who are at risk. In 2020, there were 1,621 total violations of this safety category.

Get familiar with OSHA’s fall protection training program standards if it’s relevant to your business.

9. Personal Protective and Life Saving Equipment – Eye and Face Protection

Last year, there were 1,369 violations that could have been prevented with proper eye and face protective equipment. Workplaces that are frequently exposed to chemical, environmental, mechanical or radiological hazards should offer employees the right eye and face equipment.

Take a look at OSHA’s eye and face protection standards for resources to stay compliant.

10. Machine Guarding

Does your workplace rely on machinery to get tasks done? If so, your employees are at a higher risk of workplace injuries related to the point-of-operation and moving machine parts. There were 1,313 total violations of this safety standard in 2020. 

Learn how to control and minimize hazards with OSHA’s machine guarding resources.


Are you unsure if your workplace’s safety practices are meeting OSHA’s standards? Cornerstone’s loss control services offer expertise related to:

  • Safety program GAP analysis and benchmarking
  • Safety training for employees and leadership
  • OSHA compliance assistance
  • Workplace safety audits
  • … and more.

Let our specialists help your company provide a safe and effective work environment for your employees. Contact Cornerstone today.

What You Need to Know About COVID-19 Prevention in Your Workplace

After having lived in this pandemic for nearly one year, most of us are no stranger to the standard precautions: wash your hands and keep your distance. However, now that more and more people in non-essential industries are returning to work, there are health and safety standards that can keep your employees safe and productive. 

At Cornerstone, our loss control team helps companies of all sizes keep their workplaces as safe and healthy as possible, and COVID-19 has added a new layer to safety programs. Here is what you should know about mitigating the spread of COVID-19 in your workplace.

COVID-19 Prevention Programs in the Workplace

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has recently published guidelines for workplaces to help mitigate and prevent the spread of COVID-19. While these do not imply any legal obligations — though OSHA can cite workplaces under their General Duty Clause — they are standards that should be implemented to reduce transmission. 

Conduct a Hazard Assessment

See where and how workers might be exposed to COVID-19 at work. Involve employees in this process as they are often the most familiar with conditions within the workplace. Depending on your workplace, you may be able to classify workers as lower risk, medium risk or high risk. This will depend on their job description, their health status, and where they live and work. Consider additional protections for higher-risk employees.

Assess your occupational hazards to which your employees may be exposed, which may require the need for additional PPE or distancing measures.

Identify and Implement Tactics that Limit Spread

Go through your workplace and identify the measures that can be implemented to limit the spread of COVID-19. This may include:

  • Implement physical distancing in all communal work areas or install barriers where physical distancing can’t be maintained
  • Encourage or require the use of face coverings
  • Evaluate and improve (if needed) office ventilation
  • Offer applicable PPE to protect workers (this may be industry-dependent)
  • Provide necessary supplies for good hygiene practices
  • Conduct routine cleaning and disinfection of all spaces

Adopt Measures for Infected Employees

Unfortunately, you may encounter an employee who has been infected or potentially infected with COVID-19. Instruct those in that category to stay home and isolate or quarantine. Make sure your current policies do not encourage workers to come to work sick and that, when possible, your employees are set up for success at home or in isolated areas. If this is not possible, allow workers to use paid sick leave or consider implementing paid leave policies to reduce the risk for those in the workplace. 

If someone has been infected or exposed, conduct a more thorough cleaning and disinfection process in your facilities. 

Implement Protections from Worker Retaliations

Section 11(c) of the OSH Act prohibits the discharging of and discrimination against an employee for participating in occupational safety and health activities. In terms of COVID-19, this may mean they have raised a reasonable amount of concern regarding infection control in the workplace. Ensure that workers know who they need to contact with questions or concerns about COVID-19 and safety measures. 

The COVID-19 landscape — as well as its accompanying rules, regulations and recommendations — are still changing. If you have any questions on how to create a safe workplace, please contact your Cornerstone Insurance Group representative today.

Top Cited OSHA Violations

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) releases a list each year of the most frequently cited violations. Knowledge of these violations can assist you in identifying and correcting similar risks in your company.

In November 2015, Congress enacted legislation requiring federal agencies to adjust their civil penalties to account for inflation. OSHA citation fees increased seven-fold in 2016 and will continue to go up with annual inflationary adjustments. The increase from 2019 to 2020 was 1.8%.

If you assess your safety program with an emphasis on correcting these commonly cited hazards, and you will be safer and save money in penalty fees!

Here are a few tips for mitigating some of the most frequently cited hazards associated with 3 of OSHA’s Top 10 citations. For the complete list, please watch my webinar presentation.

Fall Protection

Falls continue to be the leading cause of death in the construction industry accounting for over 33% of fatalities. Almost two-thirds of fall accidents are from roofs, ladders, and scaffolds.

The construction industry is a unique place to work, with job site conditions changing from day-to-day or even hour-to-hour. Fall exposures are frequent and varied. This safety challenge can be met with success if we pay attention to OSHA’s requirements under the “Fall Protection Standard (1926 Subpart M)”, “Scaffolds (1926 Subpart L),” and “Stairways and Ladders (1926 Subpart X)”.

Additional information and resources for Fall Protection can be found here:

https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/fallprotection/

Eye and Face Protection

Conduct a hazard assessment and identify those work tasks that require eye and face protection to guard employees from hazards like flying particles, chemicals, or optical radiation. Your assessment must include evaluation of exposures to both the employee performing the task or job, as well as other employees that might be working in the same area. These assessments will help you choose the correct eye and/or face protection to help prevent eye and face injuries. Keep in mind, normal prescription eyewear does not provide protection from impact or penetration hazards. To provide appropriate protection, prescription eyewear must be manufactured per the requirements of the “American National Standards Institute, ANSI Z87.1”. Otherwise, you could provide “wear-over” type eye protection.

Eye and face protection requirements are addressed in OSHA’s Construction Industry under the “Personal Protective and Lifesaving Equipment Standard, 1926 Subpart E“.

Hazard Communication

The Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) helps employers classify and identify chemical hazards and controls for safe use. It’s basically chemical safety in the workplace. Employers need to ensure that their employees understand the hazards presented by the chemicals they’re using, AND most importantly, what measures must be taken to prevent injury while using these chemicals.

Safety Data Sheets (SDS) for each chemical must be readily available to all employees and updated as needed. SDS contain important information from the manufacturer regarding the chemical hazards and safeguards.

Watch for improperly labeled or unlabeled containers. Accurate and compliant labeling will contain the following information:

  • The product identifier, i.e. the name of the chemical
  • The manufacturers’ name and address
  • A “Signal Word” to quickly ascertain the level of hazard, either “Danger” or “Warning.”
  • A “Hazard Statement” that describes the nature of the hazard(s), e.g. “causes serious eye damage”
  • A “Precautionary Statement(s)”, e.g. “wear appropriate eye protection”
  • And a “Hazard Information” pictogram(s)

Here is a great resource for employers to ensure compliance with “OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard.”

Hazard identification and control are key components of a successful safety program.  Taking a closer look at OSHA’ s annual list of their Top 10 Most Frequently Cited Violations and appropriate measures to avoid them will help you in your ongoing safety efforts.  For more information please click the links below to watch the webinar or download the slide presentation.

OSHA’s Top Ten Cited Violations of 2019 – Webinar

Webinar Slide Presentation

Returning to Work Post COVID-19

As more and more states begin to loosen their stay at home restrictions, the question many business owners have right now is, “When can we get our employees back to work, and how do we do so, safely?” Many companies were able to transition to a remote working environment and subsequently have seen their employees really step up to the plate and become very productive working from home. As a result, numerous businesses are making the decision to allow their employees to continue to work from home even as regulations begin to allow a return to work. St. Louis County specifically stated that if a business has been able to efficiently operate remotely, they should consider allowing employees to continue to work from home for a little longer.

Getting Back on the Job

However, not all businesses can operate remotely and may be eager to get their employees back to work as soon as possible. First and foremost, those businesses must follow the protocol outlined in the applicable reopening guidelines as directed by their states or counties. This could include limited staff or patrons in the building, or enhanced cleaning and employee health screenings. In order to effectively follow these guidelines, employers may choose to allow employees back in waves, or stagger office hours, thus, limiting the exposure each employee has to other coworkers. This may be a great solution for the manufacturing industry where employees work closely to one another.

Safety and Sanitization

Not only may enhanced sanitization be required, it can also help ease employee’s minds when returning. Sanitizing shared or frequently used work surfaces multiple times per day will help reduce potential exposure to the virus. We recommend providing access to hand sanitizer or hand washing stations for employees. Many companies are requiring all employees who return to work, wear masks and/or gloves to help protect themselves. Though it is not a requirement, it’s recommended that if the organization is requiring employees to wear masks and gloves, those should be supplied by the company. Furthermore, management should also consider putting new policies in place for all employees returning to work, so staff is aware of these expectations and mandates prior to returning to work.

Health Screenings and Considerations

As businesses reopen, they may be required to perform daily health screenings under applicable legislation, or they may choose to do so in an effort to protect staff. These screenings can include daily health questions to confirm the employee is not exhibiting any symptoms of COVID-19 and has not been around anyone with those symptoms. It could also include taking the temperatures of staff or visitors. This may cause an issue with privacy concerns, so employers should take great caution with those administering these tests and protecting the data. Employers do have the right to refuse work to anyone who is sick with COVID-19-like symptoms.

Adjustment Period

The environment employees are returning to may look very different from the environment they left a few months ago. The dynamic in the office will be a little foreign and helping employees get back into the swing of things and adjusting to the changes, is important. Reminding and enforcing guidelines on sanitization, masks, social distancing, and health screenings can help ease concerns of employees apprehensive of returning. However, there may be employees who are simply too scared to return, and these situations should be handled carefully. Overall, employers should strive to provide peace of mind to know staff and remind them the primary concern is employee safety.

As we continue to navigate this uncharted territory as a society, we will start to learn more about what works best and create new best practices for our businesses. Below are some helpful links from the CDC and OSHA that will help you make informed decisions on how to proceed with safely opening your businesses and getting back to work. Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to us.

https://www.osha.gov/pls/publications/publication.html#c19
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/guidance-business-response.html
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/guidance-small-business.html
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/general-business-faq.html
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/reopen-guidance.html

Post Your OSHA Log Summary by Feb. 1, 2016

OSHA Log SummaryIt’s that time of year again. Employers need to tabulate their annual OSHA Log Summary (OSHA Form 300A) and post it in a common area by Feb. 1, 2016.

To be an effective risk management solution, the OSHA Log Summary must list the total number of job-related injuries and illnesses that occurred in 2015. These should also be logged on your OSHA 300 Form. And don’t forget to leave the Summary posted until April 30, 2016. 

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