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How to Use OSHA’s Top Ten List for Your Safety Program

An industrial warehouse workplace safety topic. A worker in the danger zone, working behind a forklift carrying a load.

Every year, OSHA’s list of most-cited violations remains mostly unchanged. This can make safety professionals wonder what it means for individual organizations in North America. Is this list still relevant for them? In his recent article for Safety Decisions, Ray Prest dives into the topic of OSHA list and analyzes its usefulness: 

The conundrum with OSHA’s list is that if you care enough about safety to pay attention to it, then the list doesn’t accurately depict the state of safety at your company. In fact, it’s safe to say that it’s not an accurate representation of any individual organization’s safe­ty concerns. I can’t think of a single worksite that’s likely to have concur­rent violations in all those areas. 

But far from discounting the importance of OSHA’s violations summary, Prest urges readers to take inspiration from it and create two lists of their own—one that focuses on potential violations and another that collects the incidents that are most likely to happen in their organization. Prest says:

Begin the first list by writing down “OSHA inspection.” Underneath it, write down all the violations and other concerns that a government safety in­spector might find if he or she were to spend a day at your workplace. (…) 

Now, make a second list. This time, we’re going to forget about OSHA entirely. Instead, I want you to think about what the next few incidents at your workplace might look like. This list will likely be a collection of com­mon types of incidents like tripping on stairs, twisting an ankle while walking across a construction site, or cutting a hand with a utility knife.

The point of this exercise is to create a “road map to better compliance and safer workers.” Because as much as the most-cited violations in the country are relevant and important to know, they don’t necessarily apply to your company. 

Creating your own top 10 list and updating it regularly may not only help keep you compliant but also move you beyond compliance. It can make it easier to predict and avoid incidents that could happen but that aren’t necessarily related to regulations.

You can use it to target individual factors that may cause multiple issues or to get at the root cause of problems that otherwise seem unsolvable.

(…) you’ll replicate one of the great out­comes of OSHA’s top 10—regular, widespread awareness of your top safety issues and priorities through­out your organization.

In his article, Prest delves deeper into the subject of the two lists, the way they should be compiled and their importance, so if you’d like to learn more and download the article, click here

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