New numbers from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) show a 30% increase in collected fines for the top ten most common violations. Although the types of citations remained consistent, the recent addition of 227 compliance officers meant more than 2000 more inspections in 2023. Now more than ever, compliance helps you keep employees safe while protecting your organization from legal and financial risks. 

Achieving and maintaining compliance, though, requires a robust, ongoing effort across departments. For facility managers, a modern maintenance management platform helps ensure work is on time and up to code. 

How does OSHA set health and safety standards? 

OSHA is responsible for setting and enforcing safety and health standards for private and public sector employers and workers in the United States. The agency also provides training, outreach, education, and assistance services. 

The agency requires that employers provide their employees with a safe, hazard-free, and healthy work environment. To comply, companies must find and correct safety issues. While some OSHA standards are industry specific, the following are examples of standards that apply more generally: 

  • Supply safety goggles, masks, and hard hats to workers 
  • Make first aid kits available 
  • Maintain clean air ventilation systems 
  • Provide training on ladder and scaffold use 
  • Provide training on the safe use of facility equipment 

OSHA requires that all employers comply with these other broad standards, including: 

  • Prominently display official OSHA requirements 
  • Inform workers of hazards 
  • Maintain accurate work-related injury and illness records 
  • Perform workplace safety and illness testing 
  • Provide workplace protective equipment to employees at employers’ cost 

The agency looks after more than just safety onsite. It also ensures that organizations do not retaliate against workers exercising their right to a save workplace. 

How does OSHA enforce health and safety standards? 

OSHA compliance officers conduct routine facility inspections without advance notice. Compliance officers can present themselves to the facility manager and together, they walk through the facility and inspect it for hazards. After completing the inspection, the compliance officer discusses their findings with the managers. If they find any OSHA violations, they issue a citation and/or a fine outlining the specific issues, how it can be addressed, and timelines and dates for completion. To get a sense of the fines levied: Maximum fines for minor and major violations was $13,260 with $132,590 for repeat violations. 

What are the top 10 OSHA violations? 

While the following may not apply to all companies and industries, these were the top ten OSHA violations levied in 2023: 

  • Fall Protection, construction (29 CFR 1926.501)  
  • Hazard Communication, general industry (29 CFR 1910.1200)  
  • Ladders, construction (29 CFR 1926.1053)  
  • Scaffolding, construction (29 CFR 1926.451)  
  • Powered Industrial Trucks, general industry (29 CFR 1910.178)  
  • Control of Hazardous Energy (lockout/tagout), general industry (29 CFR 1910.147) 
  • Respiratory Protection, general industry (29 CFR 1910.134) 
  • Fall Protection Training, construction (29 CFR 1926.503) 
  • Eye and Face Protection, construction (29 CFR 1926.102) 
  • Machinery and Machine Guarding, general industry (29 CFR 1910.212) 

How can you avoid OSHA violations? 

Maintenance managers and their teams need to invest time and energy in adhering to OSHA safety and health standards to ensure a safe work environment. Here are some examples of ways to avoid problems, and how a modern facility management solution can help. 

Fall Protection 

According to OSHA’s fall prevention campaign, preventing accidents is a three-step process: Plan the job, provide the right equipment, and train everyone to use it safely. For a roofing job, for example, you can start by listing the potential dangers and then select appropriate fall protection for each. So, if you know there will be holes, skylights, and leading edges, you can plan to bring personal fall arrest systems (PFAS). Having the equipment onsite helps only if people know how to use it correctly. You need to train crews on how to use everything from ladders to scaffolding to ensure their safety.  

When working with a diverse group, make sure you provide instruction in the appropriate language. Depending on the campaign, OSHA provides multiple versions of some of its documentation, including for example English, Spanish, and Russian.    

But you could be doing even more. With the right facility management software, you can identify workers that are certified to operate certain equipment, making it easy for you to ensure you’re assigning the right employees to the right work orders, keeping you compliant with OSHA standards. 

Also, maintenance managers must provide workers with appropriate safety gear to operate equipment that could potentially pose a safety risk. When it comes to fall protection, these include harnesses, gloves, and anchors. Because the software includes many different inventory features, you can track safety supplies and their locations, so that techs can easily find them when they need them. 

Personal Protection and Lifesaving Equipment (PPE) 

In some situations, you need masks, while in others, you need goggles or gloves. Lifesaving equipment may include basic first-aid kits, but in some environments, it may also require chemical eye or skin washes. Regardless of a company’s industry or facility set up, the equipment required must be always on hand. 

There’s a lot to track, and it’s all critical. Maintenance managers can help ensure techs have what they need and are using the PPE properly by including step-by-step instructions and checklists in every on-demand and scheduled work order. 

Eyewash station preventive maintenance

Eyewash stations are a good example of what a OSHA-related PM would look like. 

Both OSHA and ANSI have requirements for eyewash stations. ANSI sets the standards while OSHA is responsible for enforcing them.  

The official OSHA 1910.151(c) guidance for eyewash stations states that: “Where the eyes or body of any person may be exposed to injurious corrosive materials, suitable facilities for quick drenching or flushing of the eyes and body shall be provided within the work area for immediate emergency use.” 

OSHA does not give more detail about what constitutes “suitable facilities” or “immediate emergency use.” That comes from ANSI. ANSI Z358.1-2014 sets out the standard for the installation, equipment selection, operation, and maintenance of eyewash stations: Eyewash stations have a water flow of 0.4 gpm at 30 psi. The water nozzle should be mounted between 33 and 45 inches above the floor and be at least six inches from any obstruction. You can use an eyewash gauge to test the flow pattern. 

According to OSHA, weekly testing and maintenance are required to ensure that emergency eyewash stations are operating safely and properly. As part of the inspection, you should activate plumbed eyewash stations for long enough to clear the supply lines of the sediment and bacteria build-up caused by stagnant water. 

Weekly eyewash inspection checklist 

These are the weekly steps that you must take to keep your eyewash stations compliant and functioning properly: 

  • Make sure all pathways to your eyewash stations are free from obstructions and trip hazards 
  • Replace any broken or missing parts immediately 
  • Check that nozzle caps are present to prevent contamination 
  • Check that the nozzles, nozzle caps, and the bowl or sink are in a clean and sanitary condition 
  • Activate all eyewashes to make sure they are operational  
  • Verify that the nozzle caps come off when the eyewash is activated 
  • Check that the water flows within one second of activation 
  • Verify that the water continues to flow until it’s manually turned off 
  • Check that the water flow is gentle and continuous and provides a full 15-minute compliant flush 
  • Continue to run the water until all sediment is cleared from the supply line 
  • If you operate a dual-stream eyewash, make sure both streams rise to an equal height in a pattern that will flush both eyes simultaneously 
  • Make sure the equipment is protected against freezing temperatures 
  • Measure the water released by eyewash using a flow meter to make sure it’s compliant 
  • Check that the water is tepid using an industrial thermometer  
  • Report any problems to your building maintenance provider 
  • Document the inspection on the unit’s inspection tag and in a centrally controlled documentation log 

Weekly eyewash inspection can become a useful refresher course for employees in the operation of and travel path to your eyewash station. 

Even for something as seemingly simple as an eyewash station, there are lots of steps — too many for any maintenance technician to commit to memory. By saving everything, from the scheduling to all the steps, inside a digital facility management solution, you can ensure that the team completes the work on time and properly.  

What are some common myths about safety compliance? 

There are almost as many misconceptions about safety compliance as there are rules and regulations. An important part of achieving and maintaining compliance is having access to the facts. 

Myth: Every industry has its own governing body in charge of compliance 

Although a lot of compliance requirements are industry specific, there are both government agencies and private organizations that cover multiple types of workplaces. For example, OSHA sets safety standards for most private sector and some public sector workplaces across every state. Although OSHA coverage applies across industries, it does not apply to operations of all sizes. For example, a small farm is exempt if all workers are related. But once that family-run farm hires unrelated employees, the entire farm falls under OSHA rules.  

At the same time, organizations in the same industry but different locations can be covered by different rules. In Canada, for example, there are fourteen jurisdictions, federal, provincial, and territorial, each with its own set of workplace health and safety legislation. So, a dairy farm in Manitoba follows a different set of rules than one in Saskatchewan. The most famous example of cross-border compliance is the European Union, where countries have agreed on a shared set of regulations to make it easier to trade goods and services. 

Myth: OSHA compliance is a single-step process 

Compliance is an ongoing effort, and it’s possible to achieve compliance and then lose it. In fact, there are two common ways to fall out of compliance. The first is by not keeping up with compliance schedules. If you install machine guarding around potentially dangerous equipment, you can comply with local safety regulations. But if you fail to maintain them, you eventually fall out.  

The second way a company can fall out of compliance is when the rules change. OSHA is constantly looking at trends across accidents and can update regulations to better address new dangers on worksites. They can also change reporting requirements. For example, as of January 2023, employers with 100 or more employees in “high hazard” industries must now electronically submit annual reports of every significant incident of workplace injury or illness. 

Myth: Facility and maintenance managers should only worry about mandatory compliance 

Voluntary standards can offer many benefits, too, and for asset-heavy industries, a great example is ISO 55000, a three-part set of standards for every aspect of asset management. ISO 5500 covers the principles and terminology. ISO 55001 deals with the requirements, while ISO 55002 layouts out general recommendations for applying the ideas in ISO 5500. The good news is that everyone refers to the three separate sections collectively as ISO 5500, making it a lot easier to remember. On top of the benefits of a properly planned and executed asset management plan, adopting these standards helps organizations prove they’re serious about delivering value to customers and shareholders. 

For facility managers, a good example of voluntary standards delivering value is the LEED program, an internationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of buildings. The standards are high but meeting them creates a lot of new efficiencies. 

Fact: Facility management software keeps employees safe, companies compliant

On top of having effective maintenance management operations aimed at optimizing production and profits, organizations must also provide a safe and healthy work environment. And it’s more than a simple responsibility. It’s a legal requirement. Maintenance management must be holistic in its approach, incorporating OSHA safety and health standard practices into their ongoing routines.  

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Jonathan writes about asset management, maintenance software, and SaaS solutions in his role as a digital content creator at Eptura. He covers trends across industries, including fleet, manufacturing, healthcare, and hospitality, with a focus on delivering thought leadership with actionable insights. Earlier in his career, he wrote textbooks, edited NPC dialogue for video games, and taught English as a foreign language. He hold a master's degree in journalism.