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May 31, 2023
Amputations: OSHA's ongoing enforcement

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has an ongoing National Emphasis Program (NEP) of enforcement and outreach to address amputation hazards across several manufacturing industries. Is your facility a target for OSHA’s enforcement?

Industries targeted by the NEP include fabricated metal products, food, furniture and related products, machinery, nonmetallic mineral products, paper, plastics and rubber, primary metals, transportation equipment, and wood products. The latest directive for the NEP, issued December 10, 2019, remains in effect for 5 years.

Inspections under the NEP focus on compliance with five standards: Control of Hazardous Energy (lockout/tagout; 29 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) §1910.147); General Requirements for All Machines (machine guarding; 1910.212); Woodworking Machinery Requirements (1910.213); Mechanical Power Presses (1910.217); and Mechanical Power-Transmission Apparatus (1910.219).

Lockout/tagout is OSHA’s sixth most frequently cited standard, cited 1,977 times in fiscal year (FY) 2022. Machine guarding is the tenth most frequently cited standard, cited 1,370 times in FY 2022.

OSHA’s ‘instance-by-instance’ citations

Earlier this year, OSHA released new enforcement guidance authorizing the agency’s regional administrators and area office directors to issue “instance-by-instance” citations for “high-gravity” serious violations of several agency standards. Those include the lockout/tagout and machine guarding standards and fall protection, permit-required confined space, respiratory protection, and trenching standards.

The January 26 directive took effect March 27.

Even without instance-by-instance citation, OSHA penalties for lockout/tagout and machine guarding violations can be high.

This month, OSHA cited United Hospital Supply Corp. of Burlington, New Jersey, after an employee on his first day at work suffered the amputation of three fingers while operating a press brake without required safety guards. The 3 willful, 17 serious, and other-than-serious violations resulted in proposed penalties totaling $498,464. Inspectors determined supervisors and employees deliberately bypassed the press brake’s light curtain, which led to the amputation.

OSHA inspected Pepsi Guam Bottling under Region 9’s amputations and warehousing operations regional emphasis programs (REPs). The agency cited Pepsi Guam with one willful, one repeat, and six serious machine safety­—lockout/tagout and machine guarding—violations and failures to comply with electrical safe work practices and respiratory protection standards. The facility faces $180,807 in OSHA fines.

After OSHA cited an Alabama plastics manufacturer for a willful violation of the machine guarding standard and a violation of the lockout/tagout standard following a worker’s death, the company entered into a plea agreement with the Labor Department earlier this year. ABC Polymer Industries LLC agreed to pay $242,928 in restitution, plus funeral expenses, to the worker’s estate. A 45-year-old worker died at ABC Polymer’s Helena, Alabama, facility in August 2017 when she was pulled into the moving rollers of a plastics extrusion machine. The company also must pay $167,928 in penalties and serve 2 years of probation.

This spring, OSHA cited a LaFayette, Georgia, insulation manufacturer with 2 willful, 2 repeat, and 10 serious violations after a line operator suffered severe head trauma after being caught in a machine’s roller. The agency levied fines totaling $423,432.

In Atlanta, Illinois, a 27-year-old worker suffered a partial right leg amputation when a paddle conveyor was left running when he and two other employees entered a soybean bin for cleaning. OSHA cited the grain cooperative with lockout/tagout and grain handling violations, proposing fines that totaled $629,946.

OSHA has used lockout/tagout and machine guarding violations to place employers in its severe violator enforcement program (SVEP), which includes mandatory follow-up inspections. Last summer, during a follow-up inspection, the agency cited an Ohio vehicle parts manufacturer in the SVEP for lockout/tagout and machine guarding violations. As a result, the company faced $315,952 in new OSHA fines on top of $1.6 million in penalties from inspections a year earlier.

National, regional, local emphasis programs

During an inspection under OSHA’s amputations NEP, an agency compliance safety and health officer (CSHO) will begin with an opening conference and a review of OSHA 300 logs and OSHA 301 incident reports for the previous 3 years.

During the facility walkaround, the CSHO will look for worker exposures to the guarding of cutting actions, nip points, pinch points, shear points, and other machine points of operation. The CSHO will also evaluate exposures during setup and regular operation of the machine, as well as tasks that require de-energization (lockout/tagout) of machinery: clearing jams or upset conditions, machine cleaning, making machine adjustments, oiling or greasing of machinery or machine pans, and scheduled or unscheduled maintenance.

Several agency local emphasis programs (LEPs) and REPs also include inspections for lockout/tagout and machine guarding compliance:

  • The Region 4 auto parts manufacturing REP in the region’s Atlanta; Jackson, Mississippi; and Birmingham and Mobile, Alabama, area offices is focused on lockout/tagout and machine guarding compliance.
  • Region 5’s LEPs for food manufacturing in Illinois, Ohio, and Wisconsin address lockout/tagout and machine guarding compliance, eye and face protection, noise and hearing conservation, and respiratory protection. 
  • An LEP in Illinois, Ohio, and Wisconsin for wood pallet manufacturing is focused on combustible dust, powered industrial truck, and amputation hazards. The inspection procedures include checks of combustible dust and associated hazards, electrical safety, machine guarding, noise exposure, woodworking and lockout/tagout, and respiratory hazards.
  • Region 7’s meat processing LEP in Nebraska targets lockout/tagout and machine guarding, as well as the hazards of ammonia refrigeration.
  • Compliance and hazards targeted by Region 8’s beverage manufacturing REP include lockout/tagout, chemical hazards, confined spaces, ergonomics, noise, and powered industrial trucks.
  • The region’s wood manufacturing and processing REP focuses on lockout/tagout and machine guarding compliance, electrical hazards, noise exposure and hearing loss, personal protective equipment (PPE), and wood dust and explosions.

Your lockout/tagout compliance

OSHA’s lockout/tagout standard—“control of hazardous energy” (§1910.147)—is intended to protect workers from amputation hazards, burns, electrocution, and crushed, cut, fractured, or lacerated body parts. Your compliance with the standard must include developing formal practices and procedures for disabling equipment or machinery while servicing or maintaining.

Your lockout/tagout program must provide safety instruction for your employees who work in an area where machines must be de-energized for cleaning and maintenance or where lockout/tagout procedures are used. Instruction must include the purpose and use of the energy control procedures. In addition, your employees need to understand the standard’s prohibition against restarting or reenergizing machines or equipment that has been locked or tagged out.

Contract employees must also be trained to recognize the hazards of energized machinery and the need for de-energization before cleaning and maintenance and that only authorized personnel may remove locks or tags and restart machinery. Federal and state safety and health agencies will cite host employers and staffing agencies for training violations. For example, Cal/OSHA cited a Los Angeles noodle manufacturer and its staffing agency after a temporary worker lost two fingers cleaning dough-rolling machinery. Neither the host nor the contract employer had trained the worker to follow lockout/tagout procedures before cleaning machinery.

You must provide additional training for employees authorized to lock out machines or equipment for service or maintenance operations. Their training must cover recognizing sources of hazardous energy in the workplace, the type and magnitude of energy found in your facility, and the means and methods of isolating and/or controlling energy as part of your facility’s lockout/tagout procedures.

You should also provide regular retraining to maintain proficiency in your facility’s lockout/tagout procedures.

You need to develop, implement, and enforce an effective tagout program if machinery or equipment in your facility can’t be locked out. You also must train your employees in your program’s specific procedures for tagout systems for machinery that can’t be locked out and the limitations of those systems.

Additionally, you must ensure any newly acquired or overhauled machinery or equipment can be locked out, and you must retrain all your employees when new hazardous energy sources are installed in your facility or updated lockout/tagout procedures are introduced.

Along with developing, documenting, implementing, and enforcing lockout/tagout procedures in the facility, you must ensure your employees only use the lockout/tagout devices authorized for the specific equipment and machinery in your facility.
Your lockout/tagout devices must be durable, standardized, and substantial, and they must identify the individual who locked out or tagged out a machine or piece of equipment.

Your machine guarding compliance

The federal machine guarding standard (§1910.212, “general requirements for all machines”) protects operators and other employees from hazards created by flying chips and sparks, ingoing nip points, and rotating parts.

The types of machine guarding you might use could include barrier guards, light curtains, and two-hand operating devices. Machine guards should be attached to your facility’s machinery whenever possible. You may attach guarding elsewhere when guards can’t be attached directly to a machine.

The guarding devices you use to protect your employees from mechanical hazards must conform to OSHA’s standard (§1910.212(a)(3)(ii)). When the standard’s specifications don’t apply, the machine must be constructed in such a way as to prevent the operator from having any body part in the danger zone while performing machine operations.

The area of a machine where work is performed is called the “point of operation.”

Machines that require point-of-operation guarding include “calenders” or forming rolls that finish or smooth materials, guillotine cutters, jointers, milling machines, portable power saws and other power tools, power presses, and shears and alligator shears. In addition, if your operators must use special hand tools for placing and removing material from the point of operation, such tools must allow the operator to handle material easily without putting a hand in a danger zone.

Revolving barrels, containers, and drums must be guarded by an enclosure that interlocks with the drive mechanism so the barrel, container, or drum can’t revolve unless the guard enclosure is in place. Machine blades also must be guarded, and the guard must not have openings larger than one-half inch. Machinery for a fixed location must be securely anchored to prevent the machine from moving or “walking.”

Your enforcement exposure

OSHA has its ongoing NEP for amputations focused on inspection for and enforcement of its lockout/tagout and machine guarding standards—two of the agency’s top 10 most frequently cited standards. In addition, the agency’s regional and local area offices may issue “instance-by-instance” citations for lockout/tagout violations, increasing the fines you could face. In addition to the NEP, several of OSHA’s regions have REPs and LEPs targeting lockout/tagout and/or machine guarding compliance in specific areas and industries.

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