While Minnesota’s Occupational and Health Administration (MNOSHA) is known to focus on hazardous working conditions, a surprisingly large percentage of citations they issue to employers relate to safety-program failures most could fairly easily avoid.
Often the citations arise because the employer failed to develop a written policy, or more likely, failed to regularly update the policy and train employees. These deficiencies can have very serious consequences for both the workers and the employer.
Top 10 List
The following is a list of the top 10 most frequently cited standards for all industries in the State of Minnesota (and the number of citations issued).
- Hazard communication*
- Machinery and machine guarding – general requirements
- The control of hazardous energy (lockout/tagout)
- Fall protection in construction
- Respiratory protection*
- A Workplace Accident and Injury Reduction (AWAIR) program*
- Powered industrial trucks
- Electrical wiring methods, components and equipment in general industry
- Carbon monoxide monitoring
- Employee right-to-know training*
Those marked with an asterisk (*) – Hazard Communication, Respiratory Protection, AWAIR, and Right-To-Know – specifically require that covered employers develop and regularly update written programs, and provide regular training to employees on those programs. With some variations related to subject matter, the programs must describe workplace hazards, and the worksite specific safety procedures and equipment employees must utilize to limit the risk of work-related illness or injury. Citations in these areas account for roughly one half of all citations issued in the list.
Cost of Non-Compliance
For smaller employers, the cost of developing, updating, and training on these programs (and others not appearing on this list) may seem daunting. However, the cost of ignoring obligations imposed by State and Federal safety standards may be far greater. For one thing, workplace injuries can present significant monetary liability and administrative nightmares under the Minnesota workers compensation law.
In addition, OSHA citations cost money – penalties can run up to a maximum of $7,000 for each violation deemed “serious,” and up to $70,000 for each violation deemed “willful” or “repeated.” A record of receiving OSHA citations could also limit businesses when competing for contracts, thereby injecting even greater costs into a business’s noncompliance.
Take the time to learn and understand the state and federal safety and health standards that may apply to your business. If written programs and employee training are required, make sure you commit the time and resources necessary to develop or update a safety program that will help deter workplace accidents and subsequent OSHA scrutiny.
Developing effective workplace safety programs just makes good sense. You can make dramatically reduce the likelihood of an OSHA citation while optimizing good will with OSHA in the event that an investigator visits your workplace. This could be the deciding factor in whether OSHA issues a citation, or if it does, may result in a reduction of the classification and penalty of any such citation.