Answers From The Expert

Answers From The Expert

Q Who is this?

A My name is Jill.

I work for HSI Learning Systems as Chief Safety Officer. We are a safety training online company.

I’ve been in the field of safety for 20 years, with 12 years of experience as a Senior OSHA Safety Investigator with the State of Minnesota, and nearly a decade in the private sector as a safety program manager.

Each Monday, we give folks the opportunity to connect with me as a peer or to ask questions.

Q Where can I get an digital copy of a "fall protection plan"?

A I do not have a template plan for you; however I have a couple of ideas that may help you along your way.

Here is a link to Federal OSHA's assets regarding fall protection. This area of their webpage is broken-down by type of fall hazards based on work and industry type, perhaps one or more of these assets will help you build your plan.

You could also contact your workers compensation insurance provider or insurance broker. Often, the Loss Control (the safety people) department for your carrier will have template written programs to share with their insured.

Finally, if you belong to a trade association for your type of work, your association may have resources to share with you as well.

Q When working on an extension ladder do you require fall protection? Also, what would be considered appropriate fall protection?

A There isn't a fall protection requirement for an extension ladder.

However, there is a fall protection requirement for a 'fixed' ladder, fixed meaning fastened to a structure. If you have a fixed ladder that is over 20-feet tall, then fall protection must be provided, such as a cage or well. A couple of things to keep in mind regarding extension ladders...ensure the feet of the ladder are secured and on a level, solid surface. If the persons climbing the ladder are using it to access another level or surface, the top of the ladder must extend at least 3-feet past the landing point, so they have something to hold on to while getting on and off the ladder. The top of the ladder can also be secured at the top.

In my time with OSHA, I investigated an injury where an employee used an extension ladder to access the bottom of a well. He placed the ladder down in the well, pulled the rope on the ladder, listening for the "click" of the engaging mechanism and began to climb down into the well. The two parts of the extension ladder did not stay locked in place and the employee "rode" the ladder to the bottom of the well promptly falling to the floor, striking his head. Luckily, he was wearing a well-fitting hard hat. The hard hat broke, however saved his skull from fracture.

I contacted the ladder manufacturer to determine what may have gone wrong with the engaging mechanism of the ladder. The manufacturer said the answer was simple. The employee used the ladder incorrectly. That's right, an extension ladder's engaging mechanism is only guaranteed (by that manufacturer) when the ladder is set from the bottom of the ladder up, not when it is placed from the top down. I learned something that day, as did the surviving employee.

I've included a link for you to a Federal OSHA document explaining different requirements for various ladder types.

Q What are the signage requirements for an AED (automated external defibrillator) unit in a facility?

A OSHA does not have regulations specific to AED's, however, they have some guidance documents available.

Q Are very small businesses exempt from OSHA rules/requirements?

A Thank you for asking this question; it's a common assumption that OSHA doesn't cover small businesses which is an incorrect assumption.

Those not covered by the OSHA Act include: self-employed workers, immediate family members of farm employers, and workers whose hazards are regulated by another federal agency (for example, the Mine Safety and Health Administration, the Department of Energy, or Coast Guard).

I have a feeling the small employer exemption assumption comes from the Federal OSHA requirement to keep a log of injuries and illnesses occurring in workplaces which is called the OSHA 300-Log. There is a size exemption as to who does and does not have to maintain an OSHA 300 log. Here is what OSHA says regarding the 300-log:

"Businesses with 10 or fewer employees and those in certain low-hazard industries are exempt from OSHA recordkeeping and posting requirements. As of Jan. 1, 2015, certain previously exempt industries are now covered. Lists of both exempt and newly covered industries are available on OSHA's website. Visit OSHA's Recordkeeping Rule webpage for more information on recordkeeping requirements."

There is an inspection exemption for employers with 10 or less employees meeting certain criteria as well. Here is the OSHA Directive explaining that exemption if a small employer has met all of the exemption criteria that does not mean they don't have to comply with OSHA laws, only that they are exempt from inspection.

Q Can you be cited by OSHA for asking whether or not something is a hazard?

A Let's say, you are walking past a band saw with a compliance officer and stop to ask if it's properly guarded and their response is, "No, you are missing the adjustable guard to protect employees from the unused run of the blade." Could you be cited for drawing attention to a hazard? Yes, you can. If the compliance officer believes an employee has exposure to a hazard, then yes, the employer can be cited for that violation.

Should that prevent you from asking questions, particularly if you are trying to learn or teach yourself? I hope not. In the nearly 12 years I was with OSHA, many of the companies I inspected would call or email me with questions for years after and used me as a resource of help. I felt that was part of my job and happily helped them when I could. Additionally, throughout the course of an inspection it was common for employers or safety professionals to ask for my opinion or help on interpreting parts of laws.

Q Is fall protection required when using a scissors lift?

A I am guessing you mean, does an employee working from a scissor lift need to wear a personal fall arrest system, i.e., a body harness and lanyard?

The answer is, no they do not, as long as they are protected from falling by a complete guardrail system on the scissor lift and they are working within the confines of the guardrail and not, standing on the guardrail; or on an over-turned bucket; toolbox or on a ladder to make themselves taller to reach something.

Federal OSHA has written a letter of interpretation on this. Specifically, the interpretation states: “. . . a worker need only be protected from falling by a properly designed and maintained guardrail system. However, if the guardrail system is less than adequate, or the worker leaves the safety of the work platform, an additional fall protection device would be required.”

Q How can you get upper level management to completely buy in to Safety?

A You are asking the million dollar safety question! I don’t know a safety professional who doesn’t wrestle with this one and, to date, I don’t know the definitive answer.

However, I have more than one possible answer for you today. So that has to be a bonus!

I’ve written two blog posts (One and Two) regarding this subject. Perhaps you will find the content useful.

Additionally, David Rodriguez, a fellow safety professional from Illinois and I were chatting today and I asked if he would weigh-in with an answer to your question. Here is what David had to say...

“We at Anning Johnson start at the top, management is explained to from our CEO and Corporate Risk Manager what is going to work best, if we truly believe Safety 1st; then we need to train to best practices following the OSHA standards and kicking it up a notch above the minimum safety requirements. We are a construction company that has several different trades and by including all of them to wear PPE 100% while working, we expect the Supervisors walking through jobs to do the same.

There is benefit from no injuries with Insurance, and this allows us to bid only projects that we feel can make the most bang for the buck. Stretching is on all jobs at the start of the day, led by the foreman or lead person.

Glasses, gloves, hard hats, and hearing protection is every day and minute equipment. We want our valued employees to go home safe to their families every day!”

Q We have a silicon bead blaster that consistently leaks a fine dust particulate. How bad can that affect our respiratory system?

A If I were you, I would do three things:

  1. Find the SDS (Safety Data Sheet) for your silicon beads and read it to determine if the dust particles pose a health risk and if so, what and what the recommendations are for protecting people. If there isn’t a hazard, you have a nuisance dust.
  2. Determine if there is a way to engineer the hazard out. That’s a fancy safety term which basically means, what can you fix or change to prevent the dust from leaking from the blaster? Are there seals to be replaced? Perhaps you have already tried this.
  3. Depending on what you learn from the SDS, you could have air monitoring done by an Industrial Hygienist to determine if the dust levels in the breathing zone of the employees in that work levels are over the OSHA PEL (Permissible Exposure Levels). How do you find an industrial hygienist? Start with your Workers Compensation Insurance company or Insurance Broker. Most offer Loss Control and Industrial Hygiene services or access to them and can arrange for monitoring and, in my experience for no or little charge.

Q What is OSHA's requirement for inspecting chainfalls? At what frequency? What records need to be kept? And is there a standard form that can be filled out?

A Good question and here is the OSHA resource for you (

As for an inspection form, there are specialty companies who make them and you could reach out to some. I have personally had training from two different organizations in my tenure as a safety professional and can recommend them to you.

Olsen Chain and Cable:
Crane Institute of America:

You could also reach out to your Workers Compensation Insurance company or insurance broker and ask to be put in contact with their Loss Control people. Many have checklists and forms to give their insured.

Q Are stair towers on scaffolds required to be inspected similar to your typical scaffold?

A The stair tower is part of the scaffold, therefore the competent person requirement would apply to the stair tower as well. Here is the Federal OSHA Reference:

The competent person is responsible for determining the safety and feasibility of installing and using safe means of access, based on site conditions and the type of scaffold involved. [29 CFR 1926.451(e)(9)(i)]

Q What are the guardrail and handrail requirements for stair towers on scaffolds?

A The source for this can be found here:

Stair towers (scaffold stairway/towers) must have

Q Do you have a confined space program template for construction?

A I do not have a template for you. Contact your Workers Compensation Insurance Company and ask to be connected with your Loss Control person. They often have templates and programs to give you as part of the service they offer.

Have you found the FAQ on the Federal OSHA webpage? It has some pretty decent content.

Q What about fall protection on a roof with a 4/12 pitch while doing residential roofing work? The eve-to-ground distance is approximately 11 feet. Do I have to enforce the use of fall protection?

A If your work involves home building, which is classified as residential construction work in the eyes of OSHA. Fall protection must be provided in this situation when the fall distance is greater than 6’.

Also, you correctly measured the fall distance from the eave to the ground. Some mistakenly measure from the rake-end to the ground. Additionally, a pitch of 4/12 or less is considered a low-slope roof.

So, if you combine the fact your work meets the criteria of residential construction AND you are engaged in low-slope roofing work, then, there is an allowance for the use of warning lines and safety monitoring systems under the provisions of 29 CFR 1926.501(b)(10). Here is a federal OSHA fact sheet for you discussing this scenario and here is a link to the aforementioned regulation, scroll to .501(b) (10)

Q When doing construction work do we have to require employees to wear hardhats when they are using air powered or battery powered nail guns?

A The Federal OSHA regulation on head protection for construction is found in: 29 CFR 1926.100. The criteria for head protection is when . . . “there is a possible danger of head injury from impact, or from falling or flying objects, or from electrical shock and burns . . .” If you feel there is impact or flying object risks, then by all means your requirement is justified.

Q Currently we use gas containers with spark arrestors on them. We carry 2.5 to 5 gallon containers to refill generators and compressors. Can a less expensive type be used?

A Federal OSHA wrote a letter of interpretation on this subject and especially around the size you reference. That interpretation can be found here:

Q Where do HR and Safety typically overlap within a company and where the two should overlap in order to be effective. What should HR do to assist the safety departments in being efficient and successful?

A I always used to think safety and HR jobs where two different animals completely. Well, they are, however the people doing the work are often the same person.

Prior to joining HSI, my “safety job” was within an HR department and included workers compensation case management. I thought it was so odd, but it turned out to be a good thing, especially because HR training is compliance driven like safety and the workers compensation management required the same amount of privacy as all personnel issues.

It seems pretty common now, especially in smaller companies that HR persons are getting the additional job of safety. And, sadly they are already overwhelmed with responsibilities; it’s difficult in that many HR folks know little about safety.

One tip, I have is that any enforcement policies you have for HR, make them the exact same for safety. It gives the same “weight” as matter of importance for safety rules. Example: Progressive discipline policy for attendance can be the same for a safety rule.

Q While working on scaffold erected and inspected by another company. Would the company working on scaffold need to have their own competent scaffold person available?

A If it were my people working on a scaffold erected by another company, I would want to have my own set of "competent" eyes check it out, unless a registered professional engineer had designed or inspected it as required for specific circumstances.

Why would I want my own competent person eyes? Because, at the end of the day, you have complete care and custody of your employees and if the worst were to happen, OSHA would apply their, Multi-Employer Work Site policy, which breaks down safety responsibility in the following manner:

Q We have always required the employee to wear the safety glasses under the clear face shield when grinding, and under the welding helmet when welding, is this in fact the requirement?

A It really depends on the hazards to which your employees are exposed. And, what sort of hazards the PPE you named is designed to protect.

I did a little research for you on the Federal OSHA website, so if you needed an official reference you’d have one.

Here is what I pulled from OSHA regarding your question on safety glasses and face shields:

Q: Can face shields protect employees instead of safety goggles or spectacles?

A: Face shields alone do not protect employees from impact hazards. Face shields may be used in combination with safety goggles or spectacles to protect against impact.

Source -

Regarding use of safety glasses under welding helmets, here is an OSHA fact sheet on this subject. Your answer is in the 4th paragraph on the 1st page.

Q OSHA audit preparation: Is there a checklist that can be referenced to make sure that all programs exist and are up to date and training/checklists are complete.

A If you like reading, here is a big handbook from OSHA. I used to carry around paper copies of it when I was with the agency and direct people to some of the checklists within.

Here are the items I would start off every inspection which I was mandated to do as an investigator from a paperwork perspective:

  1. 3 years and the current year of OSHA 300 logs
    1. Written safety programs and employee training records for subjects that would pertain to that type of environment. (at least one year-be prepared to show 3 years), which could include
      1. Hazard Communication
      2. Personal Protective Equipment (with the written PPE hazard assessment)
      3. Lock out tag out (with written step-by-step lock out procedures for equipment with more than one energy source)
      4. Emergency Response
      5. Fire Extinguisher
      6. Respiratory Protection
      7. Confined Space
      8. Electrical Safety
      9. Forklift Operator
      10. Welding
      11. Hearing conservation
      12. Aerial and scissor lift
      13. Compressed gas
      14. Arc Flash (NFPA 70E)
      15. The above is a good start and guess-some may not apply.
  2. In the coming months, watch for a webcast from us. I am working on a presentation on what to expect from an inspection.

Q Any suggestions on how to best train employees in First Aid / CPR / AED?

A Well, it depends. Do you have a need for your employees to have a certificate card? Meaning, does their work location(s) meet the OSHA requirements for “certified” persons at a location? OSHA defines locations in “high hazard” locations needing some certified persons if you are 4 minutes or more from health care and in general office settings if you are more than 15 min. If you are close to care, then you could use online training courses which give you all the information you need and want, with the exception of the actual certification card.

Q As a contracted employer who is responsible for training, mitigation and PPE when our employee's could be exposed to high lead levels or other hazards? Is it the utility, the contractor performing the work, me, or all of the above?

A Your instinct is correct, in that it’s everyone. OSHA has a specific enforcement policy regarding this situation. They call it, Multi-Employer Worksite Policy. Here is the full text of it: OSHA Multi-Employer Worksite Policy.

Now, here is the nutshell version. OSHA looks at the following criteria when evaluating who is responsible for what regarding employee safety. And, it DOES mean what you suspect; many employers can be responsible for one or more of the same hazards/exposures.

Here is how employers are labeled within their policy:

Q When elevating a person in a basket on the front of a forklift do they need Fall Protection? Some say yes and others no.

A Basically think of the basket as an aerial lift rather than a scissor lift because the basket has the ability to tilt or rather, the forks of the forklift do, risking possible ejection. Rules for the basket:

Q Where can I find a Safety Plan Template?

A It’s a general safety program. It’s what Federal OSHA would like everyone to have, but they haven’t been able to pass a law requiring one. Many states have however, and you might be in a state requiring one.

A general safety program addresses how your company handles workplace safety. It sets the stage for all other safety pieces.

Take a read through it, you’ll get it. Pretend you just got hired and you are given this document; it clearly explains how safety works, what you can expect, what’s expected of you and for which subjects training will be provided.

Here’s my blog post about the topic and here’s the template - Download

Q What is the most common safety problem?

A There is no specific answer, but here are a few examples:

What is the most common type of physical hazard? Depends on the industry.

What is the most common type of unsafe work practice? Depends on the human.

Most frequently cited OSHA regulations? Here is a link to get that answer, which is based on type of industry.

And, this link will give you the most cited regulations across the country (Scroll to Top 10)

Most common question asked by safety professionals? That one I know. Journal articles are constantly written about it. “How do I get upper management buy-in to support safety?” Or, some iteration thereof.

I do know that the top 4-hazard types that kill and injury across industry sectors are: Falls, Electrocutions, Struck-by and Caught-in hazards.

I do know that in the 20 years I’ve been working safety, 12 of which were with OSHA, all but one of the fatalities I investigated where people working alone. I also, know that of those, the majority were head injuries and the victims were either very young or close to retirement. But those are my personal experiences and don’t speak for the masses.

Q Do employees working on a dock in a marina need to wear life jackets?

A Under 1910.132, an employer is to provide personal protective equipment, “wherever it is necessary by reason of hazards of processes or environment...encountered in a manner capable of causing injury or impairment in the function of any part of the body through absorption, inhalation or physical contact.” If they are over water deep enough to drown in, they should have life vests. (This is especially true if the lake is choppy or rough due to weather or in flowing floodwater.) The Coast Guard does not have jurisdiction over wharfs or docks. The maritime standards do not apply, as they pertain to commercial fishing and cargo work.

Q Where can I find a comprehensive list of OSHA required training requirements for construction and general industry?

A Your question on required training is a common one, in fact, the question I get asked most often. OSHA does have a resource and it’s recently updated, however daunting to digest. Here it is:

It’s 270 pages long! It’s divided into sections for General Industry, Construction, Maritime, Agriculture, and special federal programs, so if you open it, use the table of contents to help reduce blurring your vision. I have read the entire thing and from it produced two things:

The checklist attached and this tool: It’s a little quiz that covers 45 training subjects, the questions are written in a manner to help you determine if the subject pertains to your workforce. It’s short and takes about 10 minutes-I liken it to taking one of those FaceBook quizzes to determine your spirit animal or something!

Q What is a good tip when on how to trip a breaker?

A Stand to side, use the hand you need the least (non-dominant) to actuate the breaker, identify breaker, turn head, TAKE A BREATH AND HOLD IT, then trip breaker. Our “fight or flight” reflex kicks in and we take a breath to feed the oxygen our muscles need to run. If this occurs during a flash, the employee can inhale vaporized copper or steel, even if most is going over the shoulder.

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