VOSH Top 10 Violations: What Do They Mean to State Agencies?
Purpose of Virginia Occupational Safety and Health Enforcement
Many agencies hear “VOSH” and panic. If an agency is properly prepared, there is no need for apprehension or nervousness during a VOSH inspection. The purpose of VOSH Enforcement, also called the Virginia Occupational Safety and Health Compliance Program, is to assure that all private and public sector employers are in “compliance with the laws, standards, and regulations of the Commonwealth” 1of Virginia. The Commonwealth has the authority to “regulate occupational safety and health within its jurisdiction for General Industry, Construction, Agriculture, and the Public Sector.”2
Most Frequently Cited VOSH Standards
During Virginia Occupational Safety and Health inspections, the compliance officers are charged with identifying areas in which a business or state agency is not in compliance with VOSH (Commonwealth) and Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations. Some non-compliant items may carry monetary fines but in all cases the deficiencies are documented as violations with a citation. Public sector agencies can be issued citations but are not subject to monetary penalties.
The violations can range from De Minimus to Willful. De Minimus citations denote that the “violations of standards have no direct or immediate relationship to safety and health”3 while Willful violations state that the employer “knowingly commits or commits with plain indifference to the law.”4 The most frequently cited standards resulting in violations, according to the Virginia Occupational Safety and Health Administration are:
- Fire Extinguishers-training and education
- Hazard Communication-written hazcom program
- Wiring Methods-cabinets, boxes, and fittings
- Respiratory Protection Program
- Flexible Cords and Cables
- Machine Guarding
- Powered Industrial Trucks-operator training
- PPE-Hazard assessment and equipment selection
- Hazard Communication-employee information and training
Let us visit each one a little more closely to see what is needed to be compliant.
Lockout/Tagout (LOTO) 1910.147(c)
Lockout/tagout is defined as the control of hazardous energy. Section (c) of the standard addresses establishing a program consisting of energy control procedures, employee training and periodic inspections. Many agencies may practice LOTO but do not have a written program in place. Even if employees know the correct steps to perform lockout/tagout, the agency is in violation of the VOSH requirement if there is no written program.
The procedures must include the scope, purpose, authorization, rules and techniques to be used. The program also must contain a means to enforce compliance of the LOTO program. The written program must also contain documented systematic procedures for locking and tagging each type of equipment. Employees should be provided proper locking and tagging devices that are to be used exclusively for LOTO and not for personal use.
Additionally, an inspection of the procedure must be conducted at least annually to correct any inadequacies or deviations. The inspection should include a review between the inspector and each authorized employee of the employee’s responsibilities. The employer must also certify that the inspections are being conducted. The certification involves more than just signing a piece of paper: It must identify the machine or piece of equipment that the energy control procedure was performed on, the date of inspection, the employees included in the inspection, and the person conducting the inspection.
Fire Extinguishers – Training and Education 1910.157(g)
Properly protecting employees from a fire does not stop with just providing fire extinguishers on-site. Section (g) of this standard addresses training and education of employees in the proper use of fire extinguishers. The program for employees must include information to familiarize employees with the operation and use of a fire extinguisher as well as hazards and dangers associated with incipient (beginning stage) fire fighting. If employees are a part of an emergency action plan, they must be trained on the proper use of the equipment. Training is required upon initial assignment and at least annually for employees trained for incipient fire fighting and for employees involved in the emergency action plan.
Hazard Communication – Written Hazcom Program 1910.1200(e)
VOSH requires employers to develop a written hazard communication program. This program describes how the agency will meet labeling and warning system, employee training, and material safety data sheet (MSDS) requirements. The agency must also include a list of the hazardous chemicals known to be present on the premises. The MSDS sheet for each chemical or product contains information to help the agency determine if a substance is hazardous.
If there are employees from another organization or contractors working on-site, the agency must include additional information in the hazard communication program. Access to on-site MSDSs for all possible hazardous chemical exposures, any necessary precautions to protect employees under normal conditions and in emergencies, and the nature of the agency’s labeling system must be included. A separate program is not necessary as long as all required criteria are met.
If agencies have multiple worksites and an employee must travel between locations during a work shift, a copy of the hazard communication program may be kept at the employee’s primary work location.
Wiring Methods – Cabinets, Boxes, and Fittings 1910.305(b)
This standard discusses requirements of electrical cabinets, boxes, and fittings. The agency should examine electrical boxes during facility inspections to ensure that the conductors entering the electrical cabinets, boxes, and fittings are protected from damage and closed if unused and that appropriate covers or canopies are provided.
Respiratory Protection Program 1910.134(c)
If employees are exposed to hazardous environments requiring respirator use, a written, worksite-specific respiratory protection program is required. The program must include procedures for respirator selection, medical evaluations, fit testing, routine and emergency situations, cleaning and maintaining respirators, ensuring appropriate standards are met for atmosphere-supplying respirators, employee training, and evaluating the effectiveness of the respiratory protection program.
If respirators are not required, an employer may still provide respirators to employees or allow employees to wear personal respirators as long as an additional hazard is not created. The employer must still implement the written respiratory program and ensure that employees are medically able to wear the respiratory protection.
Flexible Cords and Cables 1910.305(g)
All cords throughout the agency should be included in the facility inspection process. This section of the standard requires all flexible cords and cables to be approved and suitable for their actual use. It also specifies that flexible cords and cables must only be used for pendants, wiring of fixtures, connecting portable lamps and appliances, elevator cables, wiring cranes and hoists, connecting stationary equipment to facilitate a frequent interchange, preventing the transmission of noise or vibration, and data processing cables as part of the data processing system.
Flexible cords and cables are not to be used in place of a fixed wiring structure, when run through holes in walls, ceilings, floors, doorways, or windows, attached to building surfaces or concealed behind building walls, ceilings, or floors.
Machine Guarding 1910.212(a)
Machine guards are designed to protect employees from rotating parts, pinch points, flying chips, sparks, and any other hazards that may be created by operating the machine. While some may consider machine guards a nuisance or an obstruction to the flow of work, all machinery has the potential to cause serious injury or death to employees. The agency should not allow the removal or bypass of machine guards at any time.
An agency can comply with this regulation by having machine guards affixed to the machine if possible and secured elsewhere if attaching it to the machine is not possible. In either case, the guard itself must not create a hazard. Periodic inspections of equipment and tools should be conducted to ensure ongoing compliance with this standard.
Powered Industrial Trucks-Operator Training 1910.178(l)
Powered industrial trucks (PIT) is another regulation that emphasizes employee training. Any employee who operates PITs or forklifts is required to successfully complete training and be evaluated before being considered a competent operator. Before permitting an employee to operate a PIT, formal training (lecture, discussion, etc.), practical exercises, and a workplace operation evaluation must be completed.
The training should address all aspects of operating a powered industrial truck and all of the hazards that can be encountered. Refresher training needs to occur when an employee has been unsafe with the PIT or when they are involved in an accident or near-miss. Employees should also receive training when they have been assigned to a different type of vehicle, when the workplace conditions affect the safe operation of the PIT, or when the operator evaluation, which should occur at least every three years, reveals unsafe operation of the PIT.
Certification by the agency should be documented and must include the name of the operator, date of the training, date of the evaluation, and the name of the evaluator.
PPE – Hazard Assessment and Equipment Selection 1910.132(d)
Hazard assessments are one of the most important elements of any agency safety program. An agency cannot effectively protect employees from hazards until the workplace has been assessed to identify the hazards. Once the hazards have been identified, the agency should determine what type of personal protective equipment (PPE) is required to protect employees. The hazard assessment needs to be verified by a written certification identifying what areas in the workplace were evaluated, the date the assessment was conducted, and the person conducting the assessment. The document serving as the certification should be properly identified.
The employee is not left out of this process. The agency must communicate the type of PPE selected to the employee and the agency must ensure that the employee receives properly fitted PPE with appropriate training for its use and maintenance.
Hazard Communication – Employee Information and Training 1910.1200(h)
The operative word when it comes to hazard communication is “COMMUNICATION.” Employers have a responsibility to protect employees by providing information and training about hazardous chemicals in the workplace. Agencies are required to ensure that employees receive effective information and training on the hazardous chemicals in their work areas when they are first hired and whenever a new physical or health hazard is introduced into the work environment. The categories of hazards must be covered with employees. MSDSs and properly labeled chemical-specific information must always be available and accessible.
It is important to provide agency employees with specific information to meet the training requirements in the standard. Information about operations where hazardous chemicals are present in the work area, the location and availability of the hazard communication program, the hazardous chemicals list, and the material safety data sheets are to be accessible to employees.
Employees should receive training about any monitoring being conducted by the employer in the work area and the physical and health hazards of the chemicals in the work area. Employees should be trained to protect themselves from the identified hazards.
Remember, communication is key and the more information you can provide to protect your employees, the better. Make sure all MSDSs are kept current and that all chemicals brought into the workplace have a corresponding MSDS. Discourage employees from bringing household chemicals on-site unless the appropriate documentation can be obtained.
Resources and Assistance
While these are not the only issues state agencies should focus on, this list of common violations definitely offers a starting point. In addition to VOSH/OSHA regulations, there are templates available to assist state agencies with developing some specific VOSH compliant programs and policies mentioned in this article.
Contact the VOSH office closest to your agency for regulation or inspection-specific questions. The Office of Workers’ Compensation is also available to answer questions about VOSH regulation requirements.
Successful programs protect employees by providing training and appropriate physical protection to employees for all identified hazards.
1 Virginia Occupational Safety and Health Compliance Program (VOSH Enforcement). Retrieved January 5, 2005 from, http://www.doli.state.va.us.
2 Virginia Unique Standards. Retrieved January 5, 2005 from, http://www.doli.state.va.us.
3 The Biological monitoring requirements under the Final Rule for Lead. Retrieved January 31, 2005 from, http://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?
4 OSHA Regional News Release, November 8, 2004. “Chicago Tortilla Maker Penalized $163,350 for Willful and Serious Workplace Safety and Health Violations”. Retrieved January 31, 2005 from, http://www.osha.gov.
Virginia Department of Labor and Industry “OSHA/VOSH Standards”, Viewed January 13, 2005 at http://www.doli.state.va.us.
Virginia Department of Labor and Industry “Virginia Unique Standards”, Viewed January 13, 2005 at http://www.doli.state.va.us.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration “General Industry Occupational Safety and Health Standards”, Viewed January 18, 2005 at http://www.osha.gov
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