Friday, November 2, 2007

OSHA and Stone Fabrication

Coming Soon to Your Shop- An OSHA Inspection
By Frederick M. Hueston

If you haven’t had the pleasure or should I say the displeasure of an OSHA inspector knocking at your shops door, be warned, it will eventually happen. OSHA, otherwise known as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is starting to pull surprises inspections on many stone and solid surface shops across the US. My phone rings on a daily basis with calls from frantic shop owners who are have been inspected and in many cases have been fined heavily for OSHA violations.

This article is intended to help you get your shop ready for an inspection as well as explain the what happens when Mr. OSHA shows up at your door. Of course I can’t include everything that an OSHA inspector will look for but I can point out some of the top violations and problems that occur with an inspection.

Who is OSHA and why do they make inspections?

The following is a quote directly from OSHA, which explains the reason for these inspections:

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (the Act), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is authorized to conduct workplace inspections and
investigations to determine whether employers are complying with standards issued by the agency for safe and healthful workplaces. OSHA also enforces Section 5(a)(1) of the Act, known as the “General Duty Clause,” which requires that every working man and woman must be provided with a safe and healthful workplace.

Can an OSHA inspector just show up without an appointment and do I have to let them in?

Yes, they usually do show up without any notice whatsoever. The first thing an OSHA inspector will do is show you his/her credentials. He will then explain why your facility was chosen for an inspection, the scope of the inspection, and the standards that apply.
At this point feel free to ask the OSHA inspector where you can get a copy of the standards that apply. This will not delay the inspection process, but will give you some ammo later if you need it.
Next he will ask for an employee, owner or whoever is responsible for compliance to accompany him/her during the inspection process.

Do you have to let the OSHA inspector in? Yes, you do. If you don’t you are looking for trouble. You want to be as cooperative as possible. Be polite and don’t argue with the inspector. There will be plenty of time for that later.

What Will the OSHA inspector be looking for during the inspection?

The OSHA inspector observes safety and health conditions and practices; consults with employees privately, if necessary; takes photos, videotapes, and instrument readings; examines records; collects air samples; measures noise levels; surveys existing engineering controls; and monitors employee exposure to toxic fumes, gases, and dusts. He may also require employees to wear dust collection monitors for a period of time.

What Specifically will the OSHA inspector be looking for?

OSHA and its inspectors are sticklers for recording keeping . The following is a quote directly from one of OSHA’s documents:

OSHA places special importance on posting and recordkeeping requirements. The compliance officer will inspect records of deaths, injuries, and illnesses that the
employer is required to keep. He or she will check to see that a copy of the totals from the last page of OSHA Form Number 300 are posted as required and that the
OSHA workplace poster (OSHA 3165), which explains employees’ safety and health rights, is prominently displayed. Where records of employee exposure to toxic
substances and harmful physical agents are required, the compliance officer will examine them for compliance with the recordkeeping requirements. The compliance officer also requests a copy of the employer’s Hazard Communication Program. Under
OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard, employers must establish a written, comprehensive communication program that includes provisions for container labeling, material safety data sheets, and an employee training program. The program must contain a list of the hazardous chemicals in each work area and the means the employer will use to inform employees of the hazards associated with these chemicals.

What happens next?

Once the inspection is complete the OSHA inspector will have a closing conference where he/she will go over everything found in during the inspection: The following is a summary of what the OSHA inspector will do during this conference:

The compliance officer gives the employer and all other parties involved a copy of Employer Rights and Responsibilities Following an OSHA Inspection (OSHA
3000) for their review and discussion. The compliance officer discusses with the employer all unsafe or unhealthful conditions observed during the
inspection and indicates all apparent violations for which he or she may issue or recommend a citation and a proposed penalty. The compliance officer will not indicate any specific proposed penalties but will inform the employer
of appeal rights.

What kind of fines can I expect?

These will all depends on what the OSHA inspector finds as well as other factors. The following is a summary of the fines that can be expected:

These are the types of violations that may be cited and
the penalties that may be proposed:

• Other-Than-Serious Violation—A violation that
has a direct relationship to job safety and health, but
probably would not cause death or serious physical
harm. OSHA may assess a penalty from $0 to $1,000
for each violation. The agency may adjust a penalty for
an other-than-serious violation downward by as much
as 95 percent, depending on the employer’s good
faith (demonstrated efforts to comply with the Act),
history of previous violations, and size of business.2

• Serious Violation—A violation where there is a
substantial probability that death or serious physical
harm could result. OSHA assesses the penalty for a
serious violation from $1,500 to $7,000 depending
on the gravity of the violation. OSHA may adjust a
penalty for a serious violation downward based on the
employer’s good faith, history of previous violations,
and size of business.

• Willful Violation—A violation that the employer
intentionally and knowingly commits. The employer is
aware that a hazardous condition exists, knows that the
condition violates a standard or other obligation of the
Act, and makes no reasonable effort to eliminate it.
OSHA may propose penalties of up to $70,000 for each
willful violation. The minimum willful penalty is $5,000.
An employer who is convicted in a criminal proceeding
of a willful violation of a standard that has resulted in
the death of an employee may be fined up to $250,000
(or $500,000 if the employer is a corporation) or
imprisoned up to 6 months, or both. A second conviction
doubles the possible term of imprisonment.

• Repeated Violation—A violation of any standard,
regulation, rule, or order where, upon reinspection, a
substantially similar violation is found and the original
citation has become a final order. Violations can bring a
fine or up to $70,000 for each such violation within the
previous 3 years. To calculate repeated violations,
OSHA adjusts the initial penalty for the size and then
multiplies by a factor of 2, 5, or 10 depending on the
size of the business.

• Failure-to-Abate—Failure to correct a prior violation
may bring a civil penalty of up to $7,000 for each day
3 For more information, see United States Code Annotated,
Title 18, Crimes and Criminal Procedures 3331 to 4120,
West Publishing Company, St. Paul, MN, 1991, pp. 53–54.
that the violation continues beyond the prescribed
abatement date.

Additional violations for which OSHA may issue citations
and proposed penalties are as follows:

• Falsifying records, reports, or applications can, upon
conviction, bring a criminal fine of $10,000 or up to
6 months in jail, or both.

• Violating posting requirements may bring a civil penalty
of $7,000.

• Assaulting a compliance officer or otherwise resisting,
opposing, intimidating, or interfering with a compliance
officer in the performance of his or her duties is a
criminal offense and is subject to a fine of not more than
$5,000 and imprisonment for not more than 3 years.
Citations and penalty procedures may differ somewhat
in states with their own occupational safety and health

Can I Appeal the findings?

Yes, you can and you should. The following are some guidelines for the appeal process:

Within 15 working days of receiving a citation, an employer who wishes to contest must submit a written objection to OSHA. The OSHA Area Director forwards the objection to
the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC), which operates independently of OSHA. When issued a citation and notice of proposed penalty,
an employer may request an informal meeting with OSHA’s Area Director to discuss the case. OSHA encourages employers to have informal conferences with the Area
Director if the employer has issues arising from the inspection that he or she wishes to discuss or provide additional information. The Area Director is authorized to
enter into settlement agreements that revise citations and penalties to avoid prolonged legal disputes and result in speedier hazard abatement. (Alleged violations contested
before OSHRC do not need to be corrected until the contest is ruled upon by OSHRC.)

I know many shop owners who have greatly reduced fines and penalties through the appeal process. In my opinion, it is worth the effort.

Can I avoid an OSHA inspection?

The answer to this question is yes and no. OSHA does have a program known as volunteer compliance. Here is how the program works. You simply call OSHA and tell them that you would like to request an inspection so that you can find out what you need to do to be compliant. Under the OSHA rules they usually cannot fine you for what they find, however if you don’t remedy the findings then you could get fined. I know several shops that have opted for this program and have been successful. Its better to call them first than to have them pull a surprise inspection that could be costly. On the other hand if you are not prepared to comply then called OSHA is like calling the IRS to tell them you don’t think you paid enough taxes.

Some Specifics

Unfortunately OSHA’s rules and guidelines are not specific for the stone, engineered stone or solid surface industry. Sometimes these rules are not clear. However the following are some specific issues you should address in your shop.

MSDS- you will not only need MSDS for all the glues, solvents etc, but you will also need an MSDS for any stone, engineered stone or solid surface product you have in and around your shop. These MSDS are available from the manufacturer. In the case of natural stone, such as granite, marble and limestone, ISI( International Stone Institute) has them on their web site.

Storage of Solvents and Chemicals- I am surprised at how many shops store their glues and solvents on a bench or on a storage shelf. Even worse, I have seen glues and solvents next to propane torches in use. All glues and solvents should be stored in a fireproof cabinet. These cabinets can be purchased from most safety supply stores as well as Grainger, etc.

Grinder and Polisher Guards- This is an area that most shops get busted on. While most grinders and saws require a blade guard, it is unclear if polishers require one. I have seen many shops fine do the fact that had no guards on polishers. Well, most of us in the industry know that it is nearly impossible to operate a polisher with a guard on it. There are several people including myself who are working with OSHA to try and get a variance on this rule.

Silica Dust- granite and engineered stones contain quartz, which will produce silica borne dust. Silica dust is harmful and will eventually cause Silicosis, which can result in lung damage and death. OSHA is a stickler for compliance in this area and is one area that many shops fail. For this reason, if you do any dry cutting you need to not only have your employees where protective gear such as respirators etc. You also need an air entrapment system. On way around cutting dry is to do everything wet. This way the silica dust is contained and dust is not an issue. However, I know of at least two shops who have high silica dust despite that fact that they did everything wet. The reason is that they failed to hose the floor down on a daily basis. Once the water that contains the silica dries, simply simply walking across the floor can kick up the dust.

Slab storage- one of the areas where OSHA has busted stone and E stone shops is the way there slabs are stored. Many A frames are overloaded, unbalanced and are in jeopardy of falling over. There has been many cases where slabs have fallen over on workers and customers resulting in not only injury but also death. The one area I see with almost all the shops that I have visited is that none of their slabs are tied down. I would recommend that all your slabs be stored on well constructed A frames or slab racks ant that each A frame be equipped with straps to tie the slabs down so they don’t accidentally fall over.

Hard Hats- OK, a show of hands…how many shops have their employees wear hard hats when lifting slabs off an A frame? I would guess almost no one. If you lift a slab high off the ground with a clamp and a forklift, hardhats are required safety equipment.

No HAZCOM Program-most shops are unaware that OSHA requires you to have a Hazcom Program.

OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) is based on a
simple concept—that employees have both a need and a right to
know the hazards and identities of the chemicals they are exposed to
when working. They also need to know what protective measures
are available to prevent adverse effects from occurring. OSHA
designed the HCS to provide employees with the information they
need to know.
Knowledge acquired under the HCS will help employers provide
safer workplaces for their employees. When employees have information
about the chemicals being used, they can take steps to reduce
exposures, substitute less hazardous materials, and establish proper
work practices. These efforts will help prevent the occurrence of
work-related illnesses and injuries caused by chemicals.
The HCS addresses the issues of evaluating and communicating
chemical hazard information to workers. Evaluation of chemical
hazards involves a number of technical concepts, and is a process
that requires the professional judgment of experienced experts.
That’s why the HCS is designed so that employers who simply use
chemicals—rather than produce or import them—are not required to
evaluate the hazards of those chemicals. Hazard determination is the
responsibility of the manufacturers and importers of the chemicals,
who then must provide the hazard information to employers that
purchase their products
Employers that do not produce or import chemicals need only
focus on those parts of the rule that deal with establishing a workplace
program and communicating information to their workers.
This publication is a general guide for such employers to help them
determine what the HCS requires. It does not supplant or substitute
for the regulatory provisions, but rather provides a simplified outline
of the steps an average employer would follow to meet those

HAZCOM programs can be purchased from many sources. The National Training Center for Stone & Masonry Trades has a custom made HAZCOM program for shops in this industry. Go to or call 800-841-7199 for further information.

NO safety Retainers on air tools- OSHA requires that all air tools have safety clips or retainers on all air tools to prevent them from becoming accidentally disconnected. I have rarely seen a shop where safety retainers are installed on air connections.

Improper Grounding of electrical Tools OSHA requires that all electric tools be approved double insulated or properly grounded. I have seen many electric tools sold in our industry that do not meet this requirement.

Hearing Protection- If your shop exceeds the permissible noise exposure than OSHA will require you to have a hearing conservation program which will include having employees tested on a regular bases, as well as providing the proper hearing protection and training your employees on the dangers of high noise levels.

Poor or improper Lighting- OSHA can also cite you for not having the proper lighting in your shop as well as your office. OSHA publishes a table, which shows Minimum Illumination Intensities in Foot-candles various areas in the shop.

Of course there are many other safety issues that you should look at in and around your shop. Cords across the floor, GFI’s ., door ways clear, safety goggles and respirators etc.

It’s only a matter of time before OSHA comes knocking at your door, so be prepared.

some of the quotes used in this article come from OSHA documents that are public domain and are not copyrighted.

Fred Hueston is founder of The National Training Center for Stone and Masonry Trades and Stone University.

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