OSHA Update—Surge in Enforcement Efforts to Reduce Amputations Hazards in Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas

14 November 2016 Labor & Employment Law Perspectives Blog

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) recently announced that it will have a “heightened focus” on amputation hazards in Region 6, which comprises Arkansas Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas.  OSHA reports that 2,600 amputations occurred nationwide in 2015, most of which were in the manufacturing industry.  OSHA’s goal in this initiative will be on increased enforcement.

With that in mind, OSHA will begin with “targeted enforcement, including on-site inspections” of employers with machinery or equipment that could expose employee to amputation hazards.  These on-site inspections will be broad and will encompass all aspects of operations, working conditions, recordkeeping, and safety and health programs.  OSHA stated that it will “conduct a surge of planned inspections” immediately but confirmed that it will continue to inspect based on complaints, hospitalizations, and fatalities as well.

In its announcement, OSHA stated that amputations occur “most often” due to lack of proper or adequate guards.  The machine guarding standard is contained in 29 C.F.R. § 1910.212.  Generally, the standard states that “[o]ne or more methods of machine guarding shall be provided to protect the operator and other employees in the machine area from hazards such as those created by point of operation, ingoing nip points, rotating parts, flying chips and sparks.”  29 C.F. § 1910.212(a)(1).  The agency specifically identifies the following examples of machines that require “point of operation” guarding: “guillotine cutters,” “shears,” “alligator shears,” “power presses,” “milling machines,” “power saws,” “jointers,” “portable power tools,” and “forming rolls and calenders.”  29 C.F.R. § 1910.212(a)(3)(iv).  But there certainly could be other types of machines or equipment that are subject to the standard as well.

Employers in Region 6 with any type of machinery and other equipment that could pose an amputation hazard should therefore get and stay prepared for this surge of inspections.  In previous posts on the Work Knowledge Blog, we identified several tips for employers to consider before, during, and after OSHA inspections.  Here are the related links:

(1) Review, revise, and update safety policies, procedures, and safety information.

(2) Be proactive in training and coaching employees in workplace safety.

(3) Know what rights they can assert during OSHA inspections.

(4) Be (cautiously) cooperative with OSHA compliance officers.

(5) Remember key deadlines.

As always, if you have any questions about the applicability of the OSHA regulations to your business and/or your rights and obligations as an employer before, during, and after an OSHA inspection, reach out to an attorney knowledgeable about the agency and its requirements.

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