Organizational Safety Culture

Safety culture refers to the ways that safety issues are addressed in a workplace. It often reflects “the attitudes, beliefs, perceptions and values that employees share in relation to safety.”

The way that safety issues are addressed in the workplace and how an employer can benefit by listening and asking questions of their employees is crucial to developing a long-lasting safety culture. It’s never a “my way or the highway” but an understanding and agreement to how “our way of safely doing business” works for the mutual benefit of the employer and employee.

Safety culture is the attitude, beliefs, perceptions and values that employees share in relation to safety in the workplace. Safety culture is a part of organizational culture, and has been described by the phrase “the way we do things around here“. That old adage just doesn’t cut it any longer. Today’s employees are better educated and business and social media savvy that they can see that the old hard line of “my way or the highway” is dead on arrival with today’s workers. They know that it’s their lives that are at stake when job tasks and operations are permitted to be done in an unsafe manner in order to drive down manufacturing and production costs at their expense.

It is understood that small companies must control their costs to complete locally, domestically and in some cases, internationally. Companies have known that in order to be competitive they must find ways to reduce the costs of raw materials, supplies, parts, labor, and increase production volume to the highest levels possible, based on anticipated sales. What is often missing from these cost saving measures is how many of these business decisions adversely affects their employees, in particular, their employee’s health and safety.

Studies have found that workplace related disasters are a result of a breakdown in an organization’s policies and procedures that were established to deal with safety, and that the breakdown flows from inadequate attention being paid to safety issues by management.

A good safety culture can be promoted by senior management commitment to safety, realistic practices for handling hazards, continuous organizational learning, and care and concern for hazards shared across the workforce.

The U.K. Health and Safety Commission developed one of the most commonly used definitions of safety culture:

“The product of individual and group values, attitudes, perceptions, competencies, and patterns of behavior that determine the commitment to, and the style and proficiency of, an organization’s health and safety management. Organizations with a positive safety culture are characterized by communications founded on mutual trust, by shared perceptions of the importance of safety and by confidence in the efficacy of preventive measures.”

Broken Safety Culture

Although there is some uncertainty and ambiguity in defining safety culture, there is no uncertainty over the relevance or significance of the concept. It has been stated that “safety culture is an important concept that forms the environment within which individual safety attitudes develop and persist and safety behaviors are promoted.”

With every major disaster, considerable resources are allocated to identify factors that might have contributed to the outcome of the event. Consideration of the considerable detail revealed by inquiries into such disasters is invaluable in identifying generic factors that make organizations vulnerable to failures. From such inquiries, a pattern emerges; organizational accidents are not simply a result of randomly coinciding ‘operator error’, chance environmental or technical failures alone. Rather, the disasters are a result of a breakdown in the organization’s policies and procedures that were established to deal with safety, and the breakdown flows from inadequate attention being paid to safety issues, thus a broken safety culture.

Culture-Building Tips

Here are a couple of tips from OSHA to get you started on building a strong safety culture at your organization:

  1. Define safety responsibilities: Do this for each level within your organization. This should include policies, goals and plans for the safety culture.
  2. Share your safety vision: Everyone should be in the same boat when establishing goals and objectives for their safety culture.
  3. Enforce accountability: Create a process that holds everyone accountable for being visibly involved especially managers and supervisors. They are the leaders for a positive change.
  4. Provide multiple options: Provide different options for employees to bring their concerns or issues full-face. There should be a chain of command to make sure supervisors are held accountable for being responsive.
  5. Report, report, report: Educate employees on the importance of reporting injuries, first aids and near misses. Prepare for an increase in incidents if currently there is under-reporting. It will level off eventually.
  6. Rebuild the investigation system: Evaluating the incident investigation system is critical to make sure investigations are conducted in an effective manner. This should help get to the root cause of accidents and incidents.
  7. Build trust: When things start to change in the workplace, it is important to keep the water calm. Building trust will help everyone work together to see improvements.
  8. Celebrate success: Make your efforts public to keep everyone motivated and updated throughout the process.

Joseph DeMaria, Ph.D., CFC, CSHM, CHCM, DACFEI, MIIRSM, President & CEO, Americana Safety Associates, LLC



March 1, 2017

Top Story:

Delay of beryllium rule effective date proposed to allow for further review. For more information, see the news release.

Upcoming Events:

National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls set for May 8-12.  To receive a personalized certificate of participation, visit OSHA’s webpage.

Nationwide Safe + Sound Week event being held June 12-18 to promote safety and health programs. Visit the Safe + Sound Week webpage to sign-up for email updates on the event

Partnerships and Alliances:

OSHA’s alliance partners renew their commitment to better protect worker safety and health. For more information visit the OSHA Alliance Program.


Carbon Monoxide–Related Deaths

According to a new study by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, January is the deadliest month for carbon monoxide poisoning.  At least two people die each day from carbon-monoxide poisoning in January—three times the fatality rate recorded in August and July. Unintentional carbon monoxide exposure accounted for 15,000 emergency room visits annually between 1999 and 2004, with an average of 439 people dying each year.

Fatalities were highest among men and senior citizens: Men because they are engaged in more high-risk behaviors such as working with fuel-burning tools or appliances and seniors because they are likely to mistake the symptoms of CO poisoning (headaches, nausea, dizziness or confusion) for the flu or fatigue.

It should come as no surprise that CO deaths are the highest in winter (December is the second highest month). Cold weather increases the use of gas-powered furnaces as well as the use of risky alternative heating and power sources (portable generators, charcoal briquettes, propane stoves or grills) during power outages. It’s also understandable that the highest CO death rates are in colder states: Nebraska, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and North Dakota. By contrast, California has the lowest fatality rate.

With these sobering facts it’s a good time to remember the following safety tips to prevent CO poisoning:

  • Have your heating system, water heater and any other gas, oil or coal-burning appliance inspected and serviced by a qualified technician every year.
  • Install battery-operated CO detectors on every level of your home.
  • Don’t use a generator, charcoal grill, camp stove or other gasoline or charcoal-burning device inside the home, basement or garage or outside the home near a window.
  • Don’t burn anything in an unvented stove or fireplace.
  • Don’t let a vehicle idle inside a garage attached to a house, even if the garage door is left open.
  • Don’t heat a house with a gas oven.

If a CO detector sounds, leave your home immediately and call 911 from outside. Seek prompt medical attention if you suspect CO poisoning and if you or someone in your household is feeling dizzy, light-headed or nauseated.

Source: Consumer Reports News




OSHA’s Top 10 Violations for FY 2016


OSHA’s Top 10 list, it starts with Fall Protection (1926.501) as the most cited violation for the sixth straight year. Hazard Communication (1910.1200) and Scaffolding (1926.451) complete the top three most-cited categories, all unchanged from FY 2015.

Rounding out the top five most cited violations are Respiratory Protection (1910.134) and Lockout/Tagout (1910.147).

OSHA issued a total of more than 35,000 citations in its Top 10 categories during fiscal 2016, which ended Sept. 30.

OSHA’s Top 10 for fiscal year 2016

  Standard Total Violations
1 Fall Protection – General Requirements 6,906
2 Hazard Communication 5,665
3 Scaffolding 3,900
4 Respiratory Protection 3,573
5 Lockout/Tagout 3,406
6 Powered Industrial Trucks 2,855
7 Ladders 2,625
8 Machine Guarding 2,488
9 Electrical Wiring Methods 1,937
10 Electrical – General Requirements 1,704


A serious violation is defined by OSHA as “one in which there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result, and the employer knew or should have known of the hazard.”

OSHA’s Top 10 serious violations, fiscal year 2016

  Standard Total Violations
1 Fall Protection (1926.501) 5,635
2 Hazard Communication (1910.1200) 3,544
3 Scaffolding (1926.451) 3,535
4 Lockout/Tagout (1910.147) 3,414
5 Respiratory Protection (1910.134) 2,421
6 Ladders (1926.1053) 2,365
7 Machine Guarding (1910.212) 2,147
8 Powered Industrial Trucks (1910.178) 2,043
9 Electrical-Wiring Methods (1910.305) 1,424
10 Fall Protection Training (1926.503) 1,285


A willful violation is defined by OSHA as one “committed with an intentional disregard of or plain indifference to the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and requirements.”

OSHA’s Top 10 willful violations, fiscal year 2016

  Standard Total Violations
1 Fall Protection (1926.501) 173
2 Lockout/Tagout (1910.147) 114
3 Lead (1910.1025) 52
4 Excavations (1926.652) 49
5 Mechanical Power Press (1910.217) 44
6 Scaffolding (1926.451) 40
7 Machine Guarding (1910.212) 19
8 Specific Excavation Requirements ( 1926.651) 19
9 General Duty Clause (5(a)(1) 16
10 Grain Handling (1910.272), Welding, Cutting and Heating (1915.53) 14


Not being prepared for an OSHA compliance audit is NOT AN OPTION

Americana Safety provides occupational health & safety and engineering compliance consultations to general and construction industry companies and specialty trades. Our client base includes a cross section of local, regional, national and international companies, large and small.


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October is Fire Prevention Month

The U.S. Fire Administration reports that fires kill more than 4,000 Americans each year and approximately injure 20,000 more. U.S. fire departments respond to nearly 2 million fires each year, with three-quarters of them occurring in residences.


10 Home Fire Safety Tips

A home is often referred to as a safe haven. This month, make sure your home is protected from (and your family is prepared for) a fire. Here are 10 simple tips to help you avoid fires and reduce the risk of injury should one occur:

1) Smoke Alarms – These are still a very important addition to your home. Smoke alarms are widely available and inexpensive. Install a smoke alarm on every level of your home and test it monthly.

2) Prevent Electrical Fires – Don’t overload circuits or extension cords. Cords and wires should never be placed under rugs or in high traffic areas. Avoid loose electrical connections by checking the fit of the plug in the wall outlet. If the plug loosely fits, inspect the outlet right away. A poor connection between the plug and the outlet can cause overheating and can start a fire in minutes.

3) Keep Plugs Safe – Unplug all appliances when not in use. Follow the manufacturer’s safety precautions and use your senses to spot any potential disasters. If a plug is overheating, smells strange, shorts out or sparks – the appliance should be shut off immediately, then replaced or repaired.

4) Alternate Heaters – Make sure there is ample space around any portable heating unit. Anything that could catch fire should be at least three feet away. Inspect your chimney annually and use fire screens to help keep any fires in the fireplace.

5) Fire Safety Sprinklers – When combined with working smoke alarms, home fire sprinklers greatly increase your chance of surviving a fire. Sprinklers are affordable and they can increase property value and lower insurance rates.

6) Create An Escape Route – Create and practice your escape plan with your family from every room in the house. Practice staying low to the floor and checking for hot doors using the back of your hand. It’s just like a routine school fire drill – but in your home.

7) Position Appliances Carefully – Try to keep TV sets, kitchen and other appliances away from windows with curtains. If there is a wiring problem, curtains can spread a fire quickly. Additionally, keeping your appliances away from water sources (like rain coming in from windows) can help prevent wiring damage which can lead to a fire.

8) Clean Dryer Vents – Clothes dryers often start fires in residential areas. Clean the lint filter every time you start a load of clothes to dry or after the drying cycle is complete. Make sure your exhaust duct is made of metal tubing and not plastic or foil. Clean the exhaust duct with a good quality dryer vent brush to prevent blockage & check for lint build up behind the dryer at least twice a year.

9) Be Careful Around the Holidays – If you fill your home with lights during the holiday season, keep them away from anything that can easily catch fire. Check all of your lights prior to stringing them up and dispose of anything with frayed or exposed wires.

10) Conduct Regular Inspections – Check all of your electronic equipment and wiring at least once a month. Taking a little time to do this each month can really pay off.

Following these simple tips could potentially save your life or the life of a loved one. Pass this list on to your friends and family and make this fire prevention month count!

OSHA Increasing Penalties August 2016


In November 2015, Congress enacted legislation requiring federal agencies to adjust their civil penalties to account for inflation. The Department of Labor is adjusting penalties for its agencies, including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

OSHA’s maximum penalties, which were last adjusted in 1990, will increase by 78%. Going forward, the agency will continue to adjust its penalties for inflation each year based on the Consumer Price Index.

The new penalties will take effect after August 1, 2016.  Any citations issued by OSHA after that date will be subject to the new penalties if the related violations occurred after November 2, 2015.

Type of Violation  Current Maximum Penalty New Maximum Penalty
Posting Requirements
$7,000 per violation $12,471 per violation
Failure to Abate $7,000 per day beyond the abatement date $12,471 per day beyond the abatement date
Willful or Repeated $70,000 per violation $124,709 per violation

Adjustments to Penalties

To provide guidance to field staff on the implementation of the new penalties, OSHA will issue revisions to its Field Operations Manual by August 1. To address the impact of these penalty increases on smaller businesses, OSHA will continue to provide penalty reductions based on the size of the employer and other factors.

State Plan States

States that operate their own Occupational Safety and Health Plans are required to adopt maximum penalty levels that are at least as effective as Federal OSHA’s.

Americana Safety Consulting Services

Americana Safety provides occupational health & safety and engineering compliance consultations to general and construction industry companies and specialty trades. Our client base includes a cross section of local, regional, national and international companies, large and small. Contact us today to schedule a meeting and learn how we can help you avoid OSHA penalties and maintain regulatory compliance. Visit us on the web at and call 888.339.8540.

Extreme Heat Safety Tips for Outdoor Workers


The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), provides guidance on a number of safety topics, including outdoor safety and heat hazards. Extreme heat buildup occurs internally during physical labor and externally during weather and temperature changes. OSHA offers a wide selection of tips for employers and supervisors to follow to protect outdoor workers — such as landscapers, pool cleaners, road crews and construction laborers — from heat-related illness that could be deadly.


Learn to recognize heat-related illnesses, because exposure to extreme heat can cause organ damage, stroke and even death. Symptoms of heat illness vary but may include dry skin, high body temperature, red skin or rash, rapid pulse, dizziness and confusion. Employers, crew chiefs and other supervisors should pair workers and ask them to check each other for symptoms on high heat index days. Workers should also receive heat illness reminders at the start of every shift and instructions on where to find emergency medical staff, supplies and rest areas.


OSHA recommends monitoring of worker fluid intake, as extreme heat and intensive labor can cause rapid dehydration. In high heat, workers should drink at least four 8-ounce cups of water per hour, but no more than six cups per hour, for a total of 12 quarts per day. Supervisors should remove fluids known to increase dehydration, such as cold coffee and tea; sodas; and sports drinks containing sugar or caffeine. To increase water intake to desirable levels, OSHA recommends that supervisors treat plain water with flavorings or set up water stations with 8-ounce cups to remind workers to measure how much they drink.


Outdoor workers need to rest when working in extreme heat. OSHA recommends that supervisors distribute heavy workloads across longer schedules and among several workers to prevent buildup of internal body heat — especially if workers wear thick, heavy or impermeable clothing or equipment that prevents good air flow. Schedules should provide workers with frequent breaks to help them cool down. Workers who haven’t been exposed to high temperatures in the previous week should start with small tasks and limited heat exposure until they become acclimated.


Besides water and rest, OSHA recommends that workers receive shade from direct sunlight whenever possible during work and breaks. Supervisors should consider using sources of shade, such as trees with thick foliage, to their advantage. Additionally, supervisors should consider setting up tents and canopies. They should provide or advise workers to wear wide-brimmed hats and lightweight, breathable or reflective clothing whenever possible. In shaded areas, offer fans, misting stations and cooling vests filled with cold packets.

Other Tips

Businesses that can accomplish necessary outdoor work at night or early in the morning should change worker schedules to take advantage of cooler temperatures.

Workers, regardless of the length of their breaks, should always remove heavy or impermeable clothing or gear to cool down faster.

Supervisors should refer to their local National Weather Service for current heat index warnings.

Worker Rights during the OSHA Inspection Process


Here is some interesting information that every leader or manager should be aware of in the event of an OSHA inspection of your workplace.

Right to representation

The OSH Act gives employees or a workers’ representative the right to accompany an OSHA compliance officer (also referred to as a Compliance Safety and Health Officer, CSHO, or inspector) during an inspection. The labor union, if one exists, or the employees must choose the representative. Under no circumstances may the employer choose the workers’ representative.

If more than one union represents the employees, each union may choose a representative. Normally, union representatives will accompany the inspector in the areas of the facility where their members work. An OSHA inspector may conduct a comprehensive inspection of the entire workplace or a partial inspection limited to certain areas or aspects of the operation.

Right to help the compliance officer

Workers have a right to talk privately to the compliance officer on a confidential basis, whether or not a workers’ representative has been chosen. Workers are encouraged to:

  • Point out hazards;
  • Describe accidents or illnesses that resulted from those hazards;
  • Discuss past worker complaints about hazards; and
  • Inform the inspector if working conditions are not normal during the inspection.

Rights to information following the inspection

At the end of the inspection, the OSHA inspector will meet with the employer and the employee representatives in a closing conference to discuss how any hazards that may have been found will be abated. If it is not practical to hold a joint conference, the compliance officer will hold separate conferences. OSHA will provide written summaries, on request.

How to challenge the abatement period

Whether or not the employer accepts OSHA’s findings, the employee (or representative) has the right to contest the time OSHA allows for correcting a hazard. This contest must be filed in writing with the OSHA area director within 15 working days after the citation is issued. The Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, an independent agency that is not part of the Department of Labor, will decide whether to change the abatement period.

 Right to information if no inspection is conducted or no citation issued

The OSHA area director evaluates complaints from employees or their representatives and decides whether they are valid. If the area director decides not to inspect the workplace, he or she will send a certified letter to the complainant explaining the decision and the reasons for it.

OSHA will inform complainants that they have the right to request further clarification of the decision from the OSHA area director. If still dissatisfied, they can appeal to the OSHA regional administrator for an informal review. Similarly, in the event that OSHA decides not to issue a citation after an inspection, employees have a right to further clarification from the area director and an informal review by the regional administrator.

Worker Rights to Protection from Retaliation

PHOTO2Right to confidentiality

Employees who make a complaint to OSHA about safety and health hazards in their workplaces have a right to confidentiality. If the employee requests that his or her name not be used, OSHA will not tell the employer who filed the complaint or requested an inspection.

Whistleblower protections

Employees have a right to seek safety and health on the job without fear of punishment. That right is spelled out in Section 11(c) of the OSH Act. The law forbids the employer from punishing or discriminating against employees for exercising such rights as:

  • Complaining to the employer, union, OSHA, or any other government agency about job safety and health hazards; and
  • Participating in OSHA inspections, conferences, hearings, or other OSHA-related activities.

I trust with your leadership, an OSHA inspection will not be necessary, but in the event one does occur, it’s important for you to be prepared and to ensure your company’s employees know what to do and how to respond during the OSHA inspection process.

Why have safety & health programs?

The best safety and health programs involve every level of your company, instilling a safety culture that reduces accidents for workers and improves the bottom line for business owners. When Safety and Health are part of a company’s and a way of life, everyone wins.

Taking risk is part of running a business, particularly for small businesses, like doing research, where available funds are limited and competition for them is fierce. But some risks are just not worth the gamble. One of these is risking the safety and health of those who work for you.

Does a safety and health program really make a difference?  Definitely!

Major corporations, small business owners, safety organizations, and government agencies alike all recognize that the actual cost of a lost-workday injury is substantially greater than meets the eye, and those costs keep escalating. For every dollar you spend on the direct costs of a worker’s injury or illness, you will spend far more to cover the indirect hidden costs.  Consider what one lost-workday injury would cost you in terms of:

• Productive time lost by an injured employee;
• Time lost by the supervisors and others attending the accident victim;
• Clean up and start of the interrupted operations;
• Hiring and training the replacement for the injured worker, until he/she returns;
• Time and cost for repair or reordering of any damaged equipment;
• Time and cost of restarting and repeating the experiment;
• Cost of continuing the employee’s wages and possible compensation; and
• Cost of litigation, if employee or union takes it to court.

In addition, the company may lose credibility as a caring and safety-conscious employer, resulting in reduced employee morale, lowered efficiency and high turnover rate. Increase in workers’ compensation insurance rates and the time spent in completing the paperwork generated by the accident are additional costs.

Thus, accidents cost money, in addition to potentially causing injuries and even death.

Americana Safety Associates, LLC helps to protect businesses by mitigating dangers, risks and injuries.  Our qualified safety and engineering professionals are located nationwide and ready to assist you.

Contact our office today at 888.339.8540 or email us at

Frequently Cited OSHA Standards

OSHA’s Top 10 Most Frequently Cited Standards for Fiscal Year 2015

The following are lists of the top 10 most frequently cited standards following inspections of worksites by federal OSHA. OSHA publishes this list to alert employers about these commonly cited standards so they can take steps to find and fix recognized hazards addressed in these and other standards before OSHA shows up. Far too many preventable injuries and illnesses occur in the workplace.

OSHA’s Top 10 Most Frequently Cited Standards

  1. 1926.501 – Fall Protection
  2. 1910.1200 – Hazard Communication
  3. 1926.451 – Scaffolding
  4. 1910.134 – Respiratory Protection
  5. 1910.147 – Lockout/Tagout
  6. 1910.178 – Powered Industrial Trucks
  7. 1926.1053 – Ladders
  8. 1910.305 – Electrical, Wiring Methods
  9. 1910.212 – Machine Guarding
  10. 1910.303 – Electrical, General Requirements