How Maintenance Teams can Avoid the Top OSHA Violations

Everything maintenance teams need to know about OSHA, its regulations, compliance standards and how to avoid OSHA violations.

Here’s a scary stat: 85 health and safety violations were committed every day across the US in 2018. In total, there were more than 31,000 fines doled out for breaking the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) top 10 health and safety violations alone.

Besides the potential for accidents, injury, and death, these fines inflicted a heavy toll on the bottom line, costing businesses over $400 million last year.

Many of the top OSHA violations have a connection to everyday maintenance tasks, especially for those working in manufacturing. Another thing they had in common? They were all preventable.

With solid planning and some helpful technology, it’s easy for maintenance teams to avoid health and safety violations while creating a better health and safety program.

What is OSHA?

OSHA is the government-run organization in charge of assuring safe and healthy working conditions for millions of public and private sector employers and workers across the US. They do this by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance.

What is the purpose of OSHA?

OSHA is responsible for the hefty price tags attached to noncompliance and is the organization that maintenance teams have to impress most often when it comes to health and safety audits.

OSHA regulations, OSHA compliance, and OSHA penalties

The following is a brief rundown of the rules and responsibilities mandated by OSHA and the impact of breaking these regulations.

What are employers responsible for?

Under OSHA law, employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthy workplace for their workers. Employers must provide workers with a hazard-free workplace and must follow all OSHA standards. Employers must find and correct all safety and health problems, first by changing working conditions, like switching to safer chemicals, and then by providing protective equipment.

Besides the potential for accidents, injury, and death, OSHA violations inflicted a heavy toll on the bottom line, costing businesses over $400 million last year.

Other guidelines that employers must follow include:

  • Prominently displaying official OSHA requirements, OSHA citations, and injury and illness data.
  • Informing workers about hazards in a language they can understand through training, labels, alarms, and other methods.
  • Keeping accurate records of work-related injuries and illnesses.
  • Performing tests in the workplace, such as air sampling.
  • Providing the required personal protective equipment at no cost to workers.
  • Not retaliating against workers for using their rights under the law.

These are some examples of the broad policies employers at production facilities need to follow. However, there are many OSHA regulations that apply to specific industries or in certain regions. Some examples of these standards include providing fall protection, ensuring safety in confined spaces, putting guards on dangerous machines, and providing respirators to employees.

What rights and responsibilities do workers have?

Workers also have a responsibility to attend training, ensure they report unsafe work, and follow guidelines set out by employers and OSHA. In addition to their responsibilities, workers also have several rights under OSHA laws, including:

  • The right to file a confidential complaint to have their workplace inspected.
  • The right to receive copies of the results from health and safety tests and monitoring.
  • The right to participate in an OSHA inspection and speak in private with the inspector.
  • The right to file a complaint with OSHA if they have been retaliated against by their employer.
  • The right to file a complaint if punished or retaliated against for acting as a whistleblower.

How are OSHA standards created?

OSHA standards-setting process is a multi-step activity that relies heavily on public engagement. New standards can be recommended either by OSHA itself or through third-party petitions from organizations like the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, state and local governments, and labour representatives.

After deciding to move forward with a new standard, OSHA often asks the public for their feedback and insight. After considering all information and testimonies, OSHA develops and issues a final standard that becomes enforceable.

What happens during an OSHA inspection?

When OSHA finds employers who are in violation of the regulations, inspections are initiated without advance notice by compliance officers. Here’s how the on-site inspections usually happen:

  • The compliance officer presents their credentials.
  • They explain why the workplace was selected for inspection and describe the inspection process, including walkaround procedures, employee representation, and employee interviews.
  • The compliance officer and facility representatives walk through the workplace, inspecting for hazards.
  • The compliance officer talks with the employer and employee representatives about their findings.
  • If no hazards or OSHA violations are found, the inspection is over. If an inspector finds violations or serious hazards, they may issue a citation and/or fine. A citation outlines methods that can be used to fix a problem and a deadline for correcting the issue, as well as the date by which the corrective actions must be completed.

What are the fines for OSHA violations?

Fines for non-compliance of OSHA regulations can vary based on the seriousness of the violation and the organization’s record and the industry. However, OSHA has outlined maximum fines, which for 2018 include $13,260 for minor and serious violations and $132,598 for willful or repeat violations.

The most common OSHA violations

Below are the 10 OSHA violations most frequently committed by workplaces in 2018:

OSHA ViolationNumber of violations in 2018
Fall Protection – General Requirements (Standard 1926.501)7,270
Hazard Communication (Standard 1910.200)4,552
Scaffolds – General Requirements (Standard 1926.451)3,336
Respiratory Protection (Standard 1910.200)3,118
Lockout/Tagout (Standard 1910.147)2,944
Ladders (Standard 1926.1053)2,812
Powered Industrial Trucks (Standard 1910.178)2,294
Fall Protection – Training Requirements (Standard 1926.503)1,982
Machine Guarding (Standard 1910.212)1,972
Personal Protective and Lifesaving Equipment – Eye and Face Protection (Standard 1926.95)1,536

How maintenance teams can prevent OSHA violations

Here are a few tools and techniques maintenance teams can use to steer clear of violating some OSHA regulations. Each of these tips can be implemented through maintenance management software, such as a CMMS.

Hazard communication

It’s never easy to tear yourself away from a job when your to-do list is a mile long. Then again, when you don’t make time for health and safety tasks, it can result in a huge fine. Over 4,500 companies faced this exact situation in 2018 after they violating the OSHA’s hazard communication standard by failing to provide proper hazard training and maintain the necessary data sheets.

OSHA is also responsible for the hefty price tags attached to noncompliance, and is the organization maintenance teams have to impress most often when it comes to health and safety audits.

Maintaining records and providing health and safety training is often a hassle, even if it’s extremely important. Having an efficient method for storing employee information can go a long way in saving you time and helping you stay compliant. Create employee profiles for everyone on the maintenance team. On each profile, list the training that person has, the dates they completed training, and the training they still need. Make sure to note deadlines for certification renewals on each profile. Create a notification system so both you and the employee are alerted about any training that is about to expire. Lastly, use these profiles to communicate any hazardous situations or changes in policy to all staff.


Lockout/tagout violations ranked as the fifth-most-common breach of OSHA regulations during 2018, even with it being standard procedure across the maintenance and manufacturing world. Facilities were cited for failing to implement an energy control program and to provide training.

Energy control programs help maintenance staff avoid being injured by the massive amounts of hazardous energy that is often stored by equipment. Although many facilities have an energy control program, they are often not implemented properly.

One of the biggest obstacles to policy implementation is a lack of accessibility. Technicians are extremely busy and are often overwhelmed on a daily basis. If they are working on an asset, need to conduct a lockout/tagout and don’t know the proper procedure, it’s not likely that they will spend valuable time looking for the information. Making an energy control program document available digitally and accessible through a mobile device eliminates this problem, is a factor in the successful implementation and helps facilities avoid a costly OSHA violation.

Fall protection – training and general requirements

Companies were handed over 9,000 fines for inadequate fall protection in 2018, with these violations scoring top spot and eighth place on the OSHA’s list. The most common rules that were broken were failing to provide sufficient training and proper protective equipment.

Training your whole workforce might be the end goal of your fall protection plan, but it might not be realistic in the short term. However, there are a few ways employers can better manage their existing pool of trained maintenance staff to avoid violating OSHA regulations. You must be able to cross-reference work orders with staff who are certified (and who have proof of certification). The best way to do this is through a digital maintenance work order system. This system can tell you who is available and the best person to do the job, so no one is working at heights without the proper training.

Equipment for fall protection often includes harnesses, guardrails, anchors, and other, larger pieces. These items need to be maintained and stored properly. That is why a well-built inventory management system is a must for safety and to avoid OSHA violations. The ability to track where parts are stored, their history of use, and how often they’ve been maintained is crucial. It ensures that workers know where to find the proper protective equipment when they need it and that they know it will be in optimal working condition. Having a digital inventory system makes this information more accessible and creates a more efficient process.

Machine guarding

Machine guarding was another common OSHA violation in 2018, averaging 5.5 infractions per day. Inspectors cited companies for point of operation and for guards that were not attached to machines.

It’s easy to assume this violation can be avoided by simply walking around your facility, installing guards where needed and training staff to always use them when necessary. However, this isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it issue. It requires an ongoing effort to ensure guards are installed and maintained properly. A guard may rust over time, diminishing its effectiveness. An employee may remove a guard for a project and not replace it properly or at all. That is why you and your maintenance team must be diligent about machine guarding.

One way to ensure consistency with machine guarding at your facility is through automated work orders and maintenance triggers. Determining a maintenance trigger for each guard will help you plan an inspection, repair, or replacement well ahead of time. For example, a certain guard may be slated for replacement every three months. These maintenance triggers can then be scheduled using an automated work order system to ensure you’ll be alerted of upcoming maintenance or inspection for machine guards so tasks don’t fall through the cracks and leave you vulnerable to citations or fines.

Personal protective and lifesaving equipment

The last entry on the OSHA’s list of top violations is one that can apply to many maintenance activities and can have a huge impact on safety. There were over 1,500 instances of facilities failing to provide personal protection equipment (PPE) and lifesaving equipment or failing to ensure employees used them in the right situation.

PPE can vary from job to job in a facility. One maintenance task may require an individual to wear hearing protection while another may call for a dust-blocking face mask. It can be difficult for staff to remember what PPE is associated with which job, which means tasks are not always completed in the safest way (or in accordance with OSHA regulations).

Solving this problem can be as easy as attaching a checklist to each maintenance task or asset that outlines the required PPE. Not only will this standardize PPE practices at your facility, but it also reminds the staff what they should be doing. If the checklist is available in a digital format, it is even more accessible to staff, which means that the protocols are more likely to be followed.


Investigate Cause of An Incident to Prevent Recurrence

Incident investigation is a formal process for investigating incidents, reporting and tracking. This process also includes the resolution and recommendations generated by the investigations. The results/findings of the investigation process should be documented in a standard incident report form.

Incident investigation is a way of learning from incidents that occur over the life of a facility and communicating the lessons learned to the workers. By identifying and addressing the root causes of equipment failures and personnel errors, leveraged solutions can be developed that will reduce the frequency of incidents and/or reduce the consequences of the incidents. Output of the incident investigation should be used to improve the safety performance of the plant.

Incident investigations are conducted whenever and wherever incidents occur. The investigation team will collect information at the incident scene and conduct interviews with victim and witness. Reporting to the management is important as they are the policy makers. Investigation procedure is documented as guidelines for investigator(s) to perform investigation.

The incident investigation team would perform the following general steps:

  • Scene management and assessment (secure the scene, make sure it is safe for investigators to do their job).
  • Witness management (interview victim and witnesses).
  • Investigate the incident, collect data.
  • Analyze the data, identify the root causes.
  • Report the findings and recommendations.

Personnel who have formal training in incident investigation or root cause analysis typically perform investigations and lead investigation teams. A multidisciplinary team is appropriate for incident investigations with greater consequences and risks. At some facilities, the incident investigation is used to assign blame to personnel involved in an incident. A more effective approach is to develop recommendations that address the systemic causes of the incidents.

PTW – Trouble or Safety?

Permits to work will often be found in high-risk industries, but what is their purpose?

A permit to work system is a formal documented system, used to control high-risk activities. They are usually issued by a manager or supervisor and allow a person or group of people to carry out a task, under strict controls.

Permits will authorize certain personnel to carry out high-risk work at a specific time, providing that the procedures detailed in the permit are followed. Permits to work are likely to be required for activities such as electrical works, hot works, excavations, work at height and confined space works.

So how do permits to work ensure safety?

  • A manager or supervisor will give written permission to carry out a task
  • Ensure every aspect of the work is planned
  • Make sure every aspect of the work is checked
  • Communicate health and safety information
  • Provide control procedure in place
  • Return the area to a safe state on completion of the work
  • Give a means of communication and written record

Types of Work Permit:

  • Hot Work Permit – Authorization to perform tasks in conditions that produce sparks, flames, or any other source of ignition.
  • Excavation Permit – Authorization for personnel to mine or dig land to build infrastructure, extract resources, etc.
  • Work-at-Height Permit – Authorization to work on elevated spaces e.g. ladders, scaffolds, Mobile Elevated Work Platforms (MEWP), and other spaces that are elevated.
  • Electrical Isolation Permit – Authorization to work in high voltage zones. Common electrical isolation work is to manage and maintain lockout/tagout systems.
  • Confined Spaces Work Permit – Authorization to perform tasks in a narrow space that is prone to hazards like asphyxiation, fire, toxic atmosphere, etc.

In order for the permit to work and fulfill its purpose, it needs to cover all the legal requirements and strict adherence to the procedures by all workers.

5 Ways AI in Document Management Will Make Your Business More Efficient

Artificial intelligence (AI) digital transformation refers to using machine intelligence to help solve problems and work more efficiently. According to Xerox, 46% of employees of small- and medium-sized businesses still waste time on inefficient, paper-related workflows, daily. That means that smart document management systems can do plenty to improve these processes.

Companies that already employ sophisticated document management systems gain a competitive edge. The good news is that these smart tools may help most when organizations haven’t relied much upon tech in the past and need to catch up. Even better, smart document management systems have grown accessible and useful for all sizes and types of businesses.

5 Vital Efficiency Boosts from AI in Document Management

Many organizations and industries still struggle with paper documents. Even if the company doesn’t generate them, they may need to use paper forms from the government or business partners. Also, some businesses have moved away from physical paper. At the same time, they may have only made a small step towards digitization by attaching spreadsheets or scanned forms to emails and storing them on various disk drives in random, disorganized ways. All these practices waste time because they can result in the sort of poor data management that causes redundant, incorrect, lost, and insecure documents.

In contrast, consider just a few revolutionary ways that using AI in document management systems like M-Files can speed up and improve the integrity of common business practices:

Automate manual processes. After scanning or entering the document, the AI system can automate a lot of the drudgery while enforcing good standards. Examples include using smart systems to help categorize and tag entries, so they’re easy to find next time. This ability can speed up the initial digitalization efforts and help with future tasks. As employees use the system, efficient searches often rely on correct tagging and categorizing documents, but this is one area that’s often neglected at the time the information gets entered. Even if the system doesn’t automatically tag and categorize, it can enforce preset rules to ensure employees do this extra bit of work when submitting new ones.

Speed up business intelligence: Smart systems can speed up business intelligence. For instance, AI can spot patterns in very large sets of data much faster than people can. As one example, a hiring manager might search through resumes with an intelligent system that will find keywords associated with successful people hired in the past or based on preset rules. Another example could include looking for seasonal sales trends from past invoices or orders.

Applying structure to unstructured dataIT people are used to seeing data organized into formatted databases or reports. Nobody can expect that kind of organization in most documents. Instead, communication often arrives in the form of emails, text messages, letters, or another organization’s forms. In the past, people needed to comb through these kinds of communication to pull out and organize information. Today, intelligent data management can do a lot of heavy lifting. As an example, the Adobe blog mentions a superb use case:

“In a more dramatic example, some companies are using AI and machine learning to scour emails, texts, and other customer communications to understand words, semantics, and sentiments, and connect that data with billing and service history to predict who will buy what products and services. Most remarkably, these models regularly outperform models that use structured data only.”

Streamline document preparation. Instead of having to teach employees how to correctly format various documents, the AI can simply request the information for unique, new documents. For instance, the system can automatically generate an employment contract for new hires, based on the employee’s name and other information it already has from the recruiting process.

Enhance document security. AI’s ability to secure information may prove one of its biggest benefits.  The document management system can automatically scan for sensitive information and flag any documents that contain it. Even better, the software can detect unusual requests for private data and prevent access or alert security teams. According to Market Watch many of today’s cyber threats come from inside jobs, either intentionally or unintentionally. AI can offer a powerful weapon against all sorts of threats to data security.

Improve data quality. The smart document management system can help reduce data redundancy, catch input errors, and keep files from getting misplaced. Businesses need good data for efficient decision-making and business processing, and that’s another feature that AI can supply.

Document-Based Digital Transformation Can Streamline Most Businesses

From legal teams needing to parse discovery documents to retail stores that must predict sales trends, AI in document management can improve efficiency in revolutionary ways. It can bring order to chaos, deliver useful insights, and even help prevent such common occurrences as data entry errors. To make the most of your valuable data, you should consider getting some assistance from a smart document management system.