WARNING:  This will probably be very boring to most of you but important if you are in manufacturing.  Consider this a public service announcement.

OK, first let us take a look at the following definition:

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is an agency of the United States Department of Labor. Congress established the agency under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, which President Richard M. Nixon signed into law on December 29, 1970.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, more commonly known by its acronym OSHA, is responsible for protecting worker health and safety in the United States. Congress created OSHA in 1971 following its passage of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 to ensure safe and healthy working conditions for workers by enforcing workplace laws and standards and also by providing training, outreach, education and assistance.  Congress enacted the OSH Act in response to annual workplace accidents that resulted in 14,000 worker deaths and 2.5 million disabled workers annually. Since its inception, OSHA has cut the work-fatality rate by more than half, and it has significantly reduced the overall injury and illness rates in industries where OSHA has concentrated its attention, such as textiles and excavation. The administrator for OSHA is the Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health; the position answers to the Secretary of Labor, a member of the Cabinet of the United States.

You know how the FED works, laws are passed WITH penalties for violations.    OSHA works in the same fashion.  As of August 1, 2016, the dollar amounts for maximum civil penalties have increased considerably.  If you are an employer and violate an OSHA regulation you can be fined.  Congress has not raised the dollar figures since 1990, but last year they included a provision in budget legislation allowing all federal agencies to increase fines and penalties to match inflation.  That twenty-six (26) year combination inflation rate total of seventy-eight percent (78%) was used to establish new amounts announced by OSHA on 1 July of this year.   The new amounts will apply only to civil penalties after 1 August 2016 for associated violations that occurred after November 2, 2015, the date of enactment of the budget legislation.

In addition to the catch-up adjustment this year, the bill allows OSHA to continue raising fines annually to keep pace with inflation. While most statute violation penalties have been inflated every four years, OSHA and a few other federal agencies were previously exempted from raising their fines under the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act. Moving forward, businesses can expect to see these annual increases by no later than January 15 of each year. The goal of this new change is to keep the fines up-to-date as a relevant penalty.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that administrative civil penalties like those OSHA imposes on employers “are intended to punish, and label defendants wrongdoers”, which means they could be found to fall under the ex post facto ban. NOTE: The definition of ex post facto is as follows:

A law that makes illegal an act that was legal when committed, increases the penalties for an infraction after it has been committed, or changes the rules of evidence to make conviction easier. The Constitution prohibits the making of ex post facto law.

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition

To illustrate the impact of this change, we see the following:

  • Other-than-serious violation, from $7,000 to $12,471
  • Serious violation, from $7,000 to $12,471
  • Repeat violation, from $70,000 to $124,709
  • Willful violation, from $70,000 to $124,000
  • Failure to abate violation, from $7,000 to $12,741 per day.
  • Violation of a posting requirement from $7.000 to $12,471

If you manufacturer a product and have responsibility for safety in your facility, please take a look at all changes to the OSHA document and make sure you are aware of additional penalties.  I have no idea as to why the FED decided to “catch up” with increases being other than incremental.  I suppose they do it because they can do it.


March 18, 2014

In 1986 I joined a Fortune 100 company as a product design engineer.    The company had an extensive safety program which included a three -day course with first aid and bio-hazard training.  The instructur made one introductory comment I will never forget.

“I don’t care if your time with us is five minutes or fifty years.  We want you safe while on your way to work, while you are here and then during your commute home”.

This statement, or some version of this statement, has probably been made thousands of times– with feeling.  No one wants injuries to occur whatever the environment and certainly not a workplace injury.  It is absolutely imperative employees perform their functions under safe conditions.  With that being said, the employee must realize accomplishment of this goal means he or she must meet the company half way.  Provisions for a safe working environment are a team effort.  OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) has specific guidelines relative to safe working conditions companies and individuals need to follow to avoid injury.  Each state has adopted guidelines to govern working conditions.  These may be more stringent than OSHA but generally, they fall along the same guidelines hoping to produce the same results.

Employers that invest in workplace safety and health related activities can expect to reduce fatalities, injuries, and illnesses. This will result in cost savings in a variety of areas, such as lowering workers’ compensation costs and medical expenses, avoiding OSHA penalties, and reducing costs to train replacement employees and conduct accident investigations. In addition, employers often find that changes made to improve workplace safety and health can result in significant improvements to their organization’s productivity and financial performance.  If an employee knows the company he or she works for is involved with providing a safe working environment on a day to day basis, that employee will work with less tension and less fatigue at the end of the day.   With this in mind, let us take a look at several rules that may govern workplace safety.

The following safety rules are admittedly somewhat “generic” but definitely apply to commercial concerns working to insure safety of personnel in the physical facility and in areas such as parking lots and out buildings.  It is imperative that companies examine and develop their safety methodology depending upon need.  This list might be a very good place to consider and begin.

  • Report all incidents or injuries immediately to your supervisor or lead coordinator.  Failure to report may result in additional medical problems that could have been prevented.  Never “work through” an injury.  Never “push on” thinking the condition will get better as time goes by.  Seek medical attention immediately to forestall additional difficulties.
  • Be alert at all times and never take shortcuts that conflict with safe procedures.  When in doubt, seek advice from supervisory personnel or lead coordinator.
  • Safety devices, such as interlocks and machine guards are not to be removed or made inoperative unless under the control of safe maintenance practices and lockout/tagout procedures are being utilized.
  • Report defective machinery, equipment or unsafe conditions immediately to your supervisor or lead coordinator.   It is recommended that a written, as well as verbal, communication be used when discussing the problem.
  • Safety procedures and personal protective equipment (PPE) must be utilized as specified by the safety committee or safety coordinator.  All necessary PPE; I e., gloves, safety glasses, steel-toed boots, hard hats, hearing protection, respirators, wrist bands, protective sleeves, waist belts,etc. must be worn at all times and never removed when in the work cell.
  • Make sure you are dressed appropriately for the environment you are working in.  In most industrial facilities, wearing short pants, open-toed shoes, sandals, high heels, loose or baggy clothing, tank tops, halter tops, etc is prohibited.
  • Long hair extending beyond shoulder level can be very hazardous when operating moving machinery.   It must be pulled back.  (Use common sense.)
  • Use proper lifting techniques.  Consider the load, keep your back straight and use your legs for lifting.  Seek help if the load is too heavy.  Don’t do the macho-man thing and assume you can lift a load over forty (40) pounds.    Anything over forty (40) pounds requires assistance.
  • Good housekeeping practices are a must in an industrial environment.  Keep your work area clean and free from clutter.  Keep all aisles clear and all items stored properly in specified locations.  Be aware of boxes and components protruding into work areas and remove as needed.
  • Walk—do NOT run in the facility or on facility grounds.
  • Horseplay is definitely never condoned and practical jokes may cause injury to you or your co-workers.  DON’T DO IT.
  • Always be aware of overhead work such as cranes and conveyor equipment performing overhead work.  Make sure you are not directly under an elevated conveyor system carrying parts through the facility. (NOTE:  Industrial engineering departments and personnel must NEVER position a pedestrian walkway directly under an overhead conveyor.)
  • If you are operating an overhead crane, always use a fall-protection device such as a safety belt or guard rail.
  • Seatbelts MUST be worn while operating forklifts. Operators must drive at safe speeds and sound their horns when approaching ALL intersections.  All forklift rules must be followed implicitly. NEVER DRIVE WITH FORKS ELEVATED.
  • Compressed air must never be used to clean dust from your clothing.  Hand-actuated air nozzles must not exceed the OSHA thirty (30) PSI maximum pressure rating.
  • Safety glasses or safety goggles combined with face shields MUST be worn while using pedestal bench grinders, portable grinders, reciprocating saws, skill or circular saws and jig saws.  Appropriate gloves must also be worn.
  • Follow all plant security procedures while entering and exiting the facility.  Keep your personal belongings stored and secured in a way that does not invite theft.
  • Be committed to safety by creating a workplace free of recognized hazards.  Work as a team to improve safety and reduce “at risk” behavior.
  • NEVER “ride” a conveyor, static or moving.  Use the appropriate “step-overs” when moving from side to side.
  • In many facilities robotic systems are used for processes.  Always be aware of equipment movements and the path those movements may take.  If safety barriers around robotic systems become inoperable, report this to your supervisor and DO NOT OPERATE until the condition is fixed.
  • Do not allow extension cords to lie on floors where abrasion and tearing can occur.  Equipment should be hard-wired where insulated wiring runs through conduit.  Temporary wiring should be located above floor level and never placed on the floor.  Call your supervisor when problems of this nature arise.
  • Anytime ladders are needed they must be in good repair AND non-skid feet firmly placed against flooring.  Never use a ladder on a sloping surface.  Never use a ladder to reach excessive heights.  Scissor lift or “cherry-pickers” are much preferred.


It is imperative that any vendor or contractor be advised of safety rules within your facility.  They must abide by the very same rules you adopt for safety.  THIS IS A MUST.

I certainly hope you benefit from this very brief write-up and would enjoy your comments.

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