Safety Myths Debunked

When it comes to safety, myths and rumors often cloud what are acceptable practices in the lifting equipment industry. Jeff Stachowiak, national safety training director for Sunbelt Rentals, Fort Mills, S.C., developed the following list of items in order to set the record straight on many common myths.

Are there other Safety Myths you’d like debunked? Contact Jeff at safetytraining@sunbeltrentals.com or toll free at 866-455-4106 with any further questions.

Myth: Training wallet cards are required by OSHA.

Wrong!

Wallet cards or personal training identification is NOT an OSHA requirement. OSHA will always look to the employer to prove the employer has trained its employees. Wallet cards are a convenient way to determine if someone has attended training without having to ask the employer for written records or proof of training. Many larger general contractors may require wallet card identification for operator training, but that is a jobsite requirement—not an OSHA requirement. Remember though, you can have a wallet full of training cards, but if OSHA determines upon observation that you are doing something wrong, those wallet cards will not do you any good.

Myth: Stay 6 feet from the roof’s edge, and you do not need to be fall protected.

Wrong!

Even many OSHA people believe this one. Although I’m not sure where this idea came from, I think people confuse the 6-foot vertical fall distance with this myth. OSHA only has seven options for fall protection, and they are guardrails (which may include a parapet wall high enough to satisfy OSHA guardrail height and strength requirements), safety nets, personal fall arrest systems, positioning device systems, warning line systems, controlled access zones, and safety monitoring systems. The last three requires a physical barrier between the worker and the fall hazard. If you are on a roof, you need one of these options to protect you from a fall no matter how far you are from the roof’s edge or fall hazard.

Myth: A harness and lanyard are fall protection.

Guardrails are your best fall protection.

Tying off or using a harness/lanyard is “hitting the ground protection,” not fall protection. In order for a harness/lanyard to work, you have to fall. Therefore the harness/lanyard does not prevent a fall; guardrails prevent falls.

Myth: Harness/lanyards are required on scissor lifts.

Partially true.

While OSHA and ANSI A92.6 currently do not require occupants in a scissor lift to wear personal fall protection, some manufacturers of scissor lifts may recommend or require their use (see the scissor lift operating manual). If the manufacturer recommends or requires a harness and lanyard in a scissor lift, then OSHA can enforce its use. If OSHA determines that a harness/lanyard might have lessened or prevented someone from getting hurt or killed in a scissor lift accident, it also may issue a citation based on the use.

Myth: Equipment training (boom and scissor lifts, skid steer loaders, backhoes, excavators, etc.) is not an OSHA requirement.

Wrong!

OSHA requires that employees know the hazards that they might be exposed to at work.

• OSHA Construction Standard “1926.21(b) (2) The employer shall instruct each employee in the recognition and avoidance of unsafe conditions and the regulations applicable to his work environment to control or eliminate any hazards or other exposure to illness or injury.”

• OSHA Industry Standard “1910.9(b) Training. Standards in this part requiring training on hazards and related matters, such as standards requiring that employees receive training or that the employer train employees, provide training to employees, or institute or implement a training program, impose a separate compliance duty with respect to each employee covered by the requirement. The employer must train each affected employee in the manner required by the standard, and each failure to train an employee may be considered a separate violation.”

Myth: Lock Out-Tag Out (LOTO) does not apply to construction equipment.

Wrong!

This one is complicated. While OSHA does not have a LOTO standard in construction (1926), only in the industry (1910) standard, there are references to locking out hydraulic arms/buckets on construction equipment, and you must follow the manufacturers’ operator and maintenance manuals with regard to all repairs wherever that equipment might be. OSHA can cite based on the General Duty clause, referencing the Operator or Maintenance manual’s instructions.

Myth: A 5,000-pound warehouse forklift can pick up 5,000 pounds.

Maybe, but typically not.

Although the ID plates states the forklift’s lifting capacity, the stated capacity is often not the same as the ID plate. Both three-section masts and side-shifting take away capacity from the original rating. OSHA and ASME/ANSI require manufacturers to test and state on the ID plate the maximum capacity at maximum  or full height. Therefore, the taller the lift height and the more mast sections there are, the less capacity the forklift will lift. The stated capacity on the ID plate is the maximum capacity. PERIOD.

Myth: This _______is OSHA-approved or OSHA-certified.

Wrong!

OSHA does not approve or certify any product, service, or training. You can attend OSHA Outreach classes that will make you an OSHA Outreach instructor/trainer. That is as close as OSHA gets to certifying training. Products or training may “meet” or “exceed” OSHA regulations or requirements, but OSHA does not endorse, test, review, approve, or certify any products. The same goes for ANSI—it does not approve products.

Myth: Training employees will make them work safe.

Maybe.

Training is, no doubt, an important part in preventing accidents but only a small part. There are many other elements to a successful safety program that need to happen simultaneously to help reduce accidents. Other important aspects of a successful safety program include leadership supervision to correct unsafe behavior, encouragement of safe behavior, and effective accident and near-miss investigation. Also share results with all employees involved in safety and obtain their input to help develop processes, correct unsafe conditions, and measure your progress.

Myth: OSHA recordable rates are the score to measure safety success.

Wrong!

OSHA TIR or TTIR can be a measure to use, but it is not the only measure. Lost time rates, lost days, claims management, safety attitudes or culture, audits, observations, and training all play important roles in measuring safety success. Using the OSHA TIR as your only score to measure success or failure is like looking at the final score of a baseball game and saying we won or lost without analyzing any other aspects of the game. You can be “lucky” and not have accidents with little or no safety effort.

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jeff stachowiak

Jeff Stachowiak

Contact Jeff Stachowiak, national safety training director Sunbelt Rentals, at safetytraining@sunbeltrentals.com or toll free at 866-455-4106 with any further questions.