Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Fall Protection on an elevated platform: body belts or harnesses?

Question 1: In regards to the use of fall arrest equipment and the use of body belts, do OSHA regulations require that a body belt be attached to a lanyard and used to protect personnel against falls from elevated "operator-up" high lift truck platforms, or do the standards state that a 5-point harness must be worn as a part of a fall arrest device?

Response: OSHA's powered industrial trucks (PITs) standard, contained in 29 CFR 1910.178, does not have provisions that require either the use of a body harness or safety belt to protect personnel against falls from elevated platforms. However, in the absence of a specific standard, OSHA can enforce Section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) -- which requires employers to protect employees from serious recognized hazards. Industry consensus standards, such as ASME B56.1-2000 Safety Standard for Low Lift and High Lift Trucks would be taken into consideration by OSHA when determining whether a hazard is "recognized" and that there is a feasible means of abating such a hazard. Section 4.17.2(c) of ASME 56.1-2000 requires that whenever an operator-up high lift truck is used to elevate personnel, restraining means such as railings, chains, cable, body belt(s) with lanyard(s), or deceleration devices, etc. are in place and properly used. Although the ASME standard calls for the use of body belts, OSHA strongly encourages employers to use body harnesses in place of body belts. You should also be aware that, as part of a rulemaking to revise Subpart D of 29 CFR 1910, OSHA has proposed the inclusion of a fall protection requirement that would apply to work platforms used in conjunction with powered industrial trucks. See the No. 68 Federal Register 23528 (May 2, 2003). A copy of the relevant portion this Federal Register is enclosed.

Question 2: Can OSHA give me information on fines and the circumstances surrounding the fines, if a plant is found to be violating the fall arrest guidelines set forth by OSHA?

Response: During the course of an inspection, if an employer is found to expose his or her employees to fall hazards which could result in serious injuries, citations would be issued along with proposed penalties. The amount of proposed penalties varies, depending on the type of violation: Willful, Serious, Other-Than-Serious, Failure-to-Abate, and Repeat; and on the employer's size, good faith, previous history of violations, and the gravity of the violation. For example, OSHA may propose a penalty of up to $7,000 for each serious violation, whereas penalties for each willful violation may range from $5,000 to $70,000. Our penalty calculation procedures also give consideration for any employer with 250 or fewer employees. Normally, a reduction of 60 percent may be applied to penalties if the employer has 25 employees or fewer; 40 percent if the employer has 26-100 employees; and 20 percent if the employer has 101-250 employees. Although no reduction for size is applied if an employer has more than 250 employees, the employer may still be accorded up to a 10 percent reduction for a lack of previous violations, and a 25 percent reduction for "good faith," which mainly depends upon the effectiveness of the employer's safety and health program. When these three factors are combined, it is possible for the smallest employers to receive up to a 95 percent reduction in the initial monetary penalty. The enclosed OSHA 3000 publication, entitled "Employer Rights and Responsibilities Following an OSHA Inspection," which has additional details on the types of violations and associated penalties, may assist you in understanding our penalty structure associated with different types of violations for which citations are issued.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Forklift Regulation 1910.178 "in need of repair," "defective," and "unsafe."

Issue: The language of 29 CFR 1910.178(p)(1), requiring that "[i]f at any time a powered industrial truck is found to be in need of repair, defective, or in any way unsafe, the truck shall be taken out of service until it has been restored to safe operating condition," and 1910.178(q)(1), requiring that "[a]ny power-operated industrial truck not in safe operating condition shall be removed from service" are seemingly inconsistent.

Question 1: Can OSHA provide specific definitions of "in need of repair" and "defective?"

Reply: It is first necessary to note that 1910.178(p) addresses the operation of a powered industrial truck, while 1910.178(q) addresses maintenance of industrial trucks, accounting for the difference in language between the two standards. While the former focuses on conditions under which a vehicle cannot be safely operated, the latter addresses when maintenance should be performed and by whom ("authorized personnel").

Neither 29 CFR 1910.178, its source standard ANSI B56.1-1969, nor the current ASME B56.1-2000 defines any of the words for which you request clarification. However, in determining whether a truck is " . . . in need of repair, defective, or in any way unsafe," OSHA would take a variety of factors into consideration. These factors include, but are not limited to, the condition of the truck itself, the manufacturer's limitations on the truck, and other safety issues, such as those considerations found in consensus standards like ANSI B56.1. While specific definitions of these words are not available, in this context OSHA will consider the totality of the circumstances surrounding a powered industrial truck in determining whether it is "in need of repair" or "defective."

Question 2: What does OSHA mean when the word "unsafe" is used in the standard, and can OSHA provide examples of an unsafe condition on a powered industrial truck?

Reply: "Unsafe," as used in 1910.178(p)(1), carries the general connotation of presenting a harm or risk. As stated above, OSHA will consider a number of factors in determining whether a powered industrial truck is unsafe. For example, all gauges must be functioning properly for the truck to be considered safe. Should a gauge not be functioning properly, that truck will usually be considered defective and in need of repair, thereby making the truck unsafe. Broken welds, missing bolts, or damage to the overhead guard would indicate that a truck is unsafe. Tires that are missing large pieces of rubber would present a risk to the truck operator, thereby making the truck unsafe. Such conditions must be repaired and corrected before the truck is placed back in service. It must be noted, however, that these are simply examples of unsafe conditions on a powered industrial truck; this list is not inclusive and there are certainly other conditions that would render a truck unsafe.

Forklift Operator Safety Training (29 CFR 1910.178 Compliance)