Care, Protect, Grow: The U.S. Compliance Blog

OSHA’s Top 10 for 2019


Every year, OSHA publishes a list of the Top 10 Most Cited Violations from the fiscal year across general industry and construction standards. Even with increased attention to health and safety in the workplace, the Top 10 has many constants year after year. Complex standards lead to a direct relationship between the Top 10 Most Cited and the top 10 highest penalties from the year (ranging from $530,592 to $1.792 Million in FY 2019). As was the case in 2018, the 2019 list was split down the middle with five standards for construction and five standards for general industry. Whether you are a large scale operation or a small business, these standards may apply to you.

  1. In the number one spot with 7,014 violations, is the construction industry standard for Fall Protection (1926.501) – the corresponding general industry standard would be 1910.28. Though the citations fall primarily within the construction industry, the general industry standard could also be cited at your facility. Employers are responsible for the following:
    • Assessing their facilities to ensure employees are not exposed to unprotected open-sided floors, leading edges, floor holes or runways
    • Evaluating facility tasks to ensure employees are not exposed to a risk of falling when performing service at an elevation
    • Protecting employees from the risk of falling from surfaces above 48 inches (4 feet) in height through the use of approved guard rails where feasible
    • Incorporating the use of personal fall arrest systems when working at elevated heights outside of an approved railing or guard rail system
    • Training employees on the proper use and care of the personal fall arrest systems used at your facility
    • Inspecting all personal fall arrest systems prior to each use
  1. Second on the list – but first on the minds of many of our general industry partners and clients – is Hazard Communication (1910.1200). One of the older standards, Hazard Communication or HazCom/GHS/Right-to-Know/WHMIS (Canada), is how we communicate chemical and non-chemical hazards to our employees and visitors. As we think about Hazard Communication, we can envision a wagon wheel with spokes touching many other standards, including Personal Protective Equipment and Respiratory Protection. It is easy to see how important hazard communication can be. As a general industry employer, it is the employer’s job to:
    • Inform and train their employees on the hazardous chemicals in their area (1,087 violations)
    • Have a site-specific written program (1,521 violations)
    • Establish a labeling system (352 violations)
    • Ensure that safety data sheets (SDS, formerly MSDS) are accessible (740 violations)
  1. Closely related to the #1 most cited standard, the construction standard that is third on the list is Scaffolding with 2,813 violations. The general industry standard that is most closely related to the Scaffolding standard is the Walking-Working Surfaces Standard. Standard 1910.22 requires that the employer:
    • Ensure all places of employment are kept clean, orderly and in a sanitary condition
    • Ensure that walking-working surfaces are maintained free of hazards such as sharp or protruding objects, loose boards, corrosion, leaks, spill, snow, and ice
    • Ensure that walking-working surfaces can support the maximum intended load for that surface
    • Ensure that each means of access and egress to and from all walking-working surfaces are safe
    • Ensure that walking-working surfaces are inspected regularly and as necessary to maintain a safe condition
    • Ensure that hazardous conditions are corrected or repaired before an employee uses the walking-working surface again
    • Ensure that when any correction or repair involves the structural integrity of the walking-working surface, a qualified person performs or supervises the correction or repair
  1. Number four on the OSHA Top 10 of FY 2019 was Lockout/Tagout (1910.147), also known as the Control of Hazardous Energy. As one of the standards with the highest applicability across all of our clients, this standard had 2,606 violations. As an employer, you must do the following:
    • Formalize a Lockout/Tagout (LOTO) program for use when maintaining, cleaning, or adjusting machinery where unexpected equipment activation could cause injury (300 violations)
    • Develop machine-specific procedures (1,063 violations)
    • Complete periodic inspections of authorized employees (500 violations)
    • Provide initial and periodic training to their employees (572 violations)
  1. Dropping one spot from the FY 2017 and FY 2018 list is the Respiratory Protection standard (1910.134). With 2,450 companies failing to meet the requirements of this standard, it is a consistent pillar of the OSHA Top 10. With citations including failure to establish a program, failure to perform fit testing and medical evaluations, this standard requires you to complete the following:
    • Quantify the chemical concentration level to which employees are exposed
    • Implement engineering or administrative controls where air contaminant levels exceed required thresholds
    • Develop, implement and maintain a Respiratory Protection program where respirators are used (449 violations)
    • Provide annual training and fit testing (446 violations)
    • Provide a medical evaluation to determine an employee’s ability to use a respirator (518 violations)
  1. At 2,345 violations, Ladders take the 6th spot on the list of the Top 10 Most Cited Violations. While the specific standard reference is the construction standard, Ladders in general industry (1910.23), it is also included in the fall protection standard. Standard 1910.23 requires that employers in general industry:
    • Provide ladders and step stools that have uniformly spaced rungs, steps, and cleats that are parallel, level and uniformly spaced
    • Ensure ladders are inspected before initial use in each work shift and more frequently as necessary to identify any visible defects that could cause employee injury
    • Ensure any ladder with structural or other defects is immediately tagged “Dangerous: Do Not Use” or with similar language in accordance with 1910.145
  1. At number seven on the list, there were 2,093 companies in general industry that did not follow the standard requirements that govern one of the biggest pieces of equipment in their facility in both size and quantity – Powered Industrial Trucks (or forklifts). Standard 29 CFR 1910.178 requires that the employer completes the following:
    • Ensure that each operator has successfully completed operator training before operating a powered industrial truck on the job (592 violations)
    • Conduct pre-use inspections prior to every shift (357 violations)
    • Practice safe operations in accordance with 1910.178(l)(1)
  1. Not to be confused with the standards in the first, third, or sixth spot, the construction industry standard for Fall Protection (1926.503) comes in at number eight with 1,773 violations. Having moved up two spots from the 2017 and 2018 ranking, this portion of the fall protection standard from construction focuses specifically on the training requirements. One of the biggest groups out of the 1,773 violations was the failure to certify training in writing. Always remember – if it didn’t get documented, it didn’t happen.
  1. The last general industry standard within the Top 10 is OSHA’s Machine Guarding Standard (1910.212) with a total of 1,743 violations. Often tied in closely with its cousin in the number four spot, the machine guarding standard requires that employers:
    • Affix guards and secure them to machines that do not introduce a new hazard (1,880 violations)
    • Anchor fixed machinery to prevent walking or moving during operation (101 violations)
  1. Finally, rounding off the Top 10 is Personal Protective and Lifesaving Equipment for the construction side with a focus on eye and face protection. At 1,411 violations and in the same position as last year, employers were commonly cited for failure to provide eye protection with side protection and failure to provide protection from causative hazards, such as gases and vapors. A common misconception within general industry when dealing with tasks like grinding and working with chemicals like battery acid is the idea that once an employee has safety glasses on, they are fully protected. That couldn’t be further from the truth. PPE only works if you’re wearing it and wearing the correct type. Safety glasses by themselves do not prevent acid splash or flying projectiles from hitting an employee’s mouth, forehead or ear.


The OSHA Top 10 list is a helpful guide for understanding just how adept businesses are in complying with the basic rules of workplace safety. By being able to take these items and apply them to your facilities, you can move your company in the right direction towards compliance and safety.   Some starting points to consider are to take these topics and ensure that you have developed site-specific programs. You will also want to complete authorized and awareness level training, making sure to document it and begin implementing these changes on your plant floor. We also recommend reviewing your programs on a regular basis; due to the ever-changing environment of a manufacturing facility, you need to make sure our safety programs are current and accurate. If you haven’t already, make sure to check out our blog on OSHA Inspection protocols and ensure your employees know what to do when OSHA comes knocking!

Hazardous Material Storage Reports with Non-Federal Thresholds


Hazardous materials storage reporting, or more commonly referred to as Tier II, is an annual report that was instated by the EPA through the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) under the Superfund Amendments Reauthorization Act (SARA) Title III in 1986. SARA Title III is a statute designed to improve community access to hazardous chemical information and facilitate the development of emergency response plans. Section 312 of the EPCRA requires the EPA to collect annual data from facilities that have hazardous chemicals on-site above certain threshold amounts at any one time. The report is submitted to the facility’s Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC), State Emergency Response Commission/Tribal Emergency Response Commission (SERC/TERC), and the nearest fire department on or before March 1.

Most states follow the federal reporting thresholds of ≥10,000 lbs for any “hazardous chemical” as defined in 29 CFR 1910.1200; or ≥500 lbs or the threshold planning quantity, whichever is lower, for extremely hazardous substances (EHSs) as listed in 40 CFR 355. However, the EPA authorizes state agencies to adjust or add to the federal chemical regulations as long as they still meet federal requirements. The following states and cities have adopted lower reporting thresholds which vary from state to state.

State Specific Reporting

Alaska – In Alaska, the lower thresholds apply to any quantity of a hazardous material identified in federal placarding regulations: Poison Gas Hazard Division 2.3 and Poisons 6.1, Explosives 1.1, 1.2 and 1.3 (excluding smokeless gunpowder, black powder, and ammunition), Flammable Solid Divisions 4.1, 4.2 and 4.3, and Radioactive Hazard Class 7. Additionally, any compressed gas must be reported at ≥1,000 cubic feet.

California – In California, the hazardous materials report is called a Hazardous Materials Business Plan and is significantly more in-depth than a standard Tier II report. The reporting thresholds for California are:

  • 55 gallons (liquids)
  • 500 pounds (solids)
  • 200 cubic feet (compressed gasses)
  • Any quantity of hazardous waste

Delaware – In Delaware, the reporting threshold is 55 gallons or 500 pounds for hazardous materials, whichever is lower, unless the Threshold Planning Quantity (TPQ) is lowest, in which case it must be used. The only chemicals with a 10,000-pound threshold are those which are used exclusively for heating the facility.

Louisiana – In Louisiana, the reporting threshold is 500 pounds for any hazardous materials unless the Threshold Planning Quantity (TPQ) is lower, in which case it must be used. In addition to the lower threshold, used oil must also be reported.

New Jersey – The hazardous material storage report for New Jersey is referred to as the Community Right to Know Program. New Jersey has instated its own EHS list to determine the chemical-specific reporting threshold. The list is also substantially larger than the federal list and includes a number of solids it has deemed “unusually hazardous substances.” Additionally, the state has a NAICS Code assessment and any facility that does not have a covered NAICS Code is exempt from reporting.

New York City (NYC) – The hazardous material storage report for New York City is also referred to as the Community Right-to-Know Program and must be completed in addition to the New York state report. New York City has its own EHS list with very low reporting thresholds. For any pure substance, if the CAS number is on the NYC EHS list and is stored over the threshold, it must be reported. However, if not on the list, federal thresholds apply.

Nevada – In Nevada, the hazardous material storage report is called the Community Right-to-Know Act. The reporting thresholds in Nevada are determined using the International Fire Code List (IFC). The different material types range from flammable materials to water-reactive materials and have thresholds ranging from 0 to 500 lbs. Also, no exemptions can be applied to a material that falls into one of the IFC categories. However, if a chemical does not apply to one of the IFC categories, then it follows Federal Tier II thresholds and federal exemptions apply.

Oregon – The reporting thresholds in Oregon are determined using a dual-level reporting system. Substances that are highly toxic or explosive apply to the Lower Reporting Levels (LRL).

  • 5 gallons (liquids)
  • 10 pounds (solids)
  • 20 cubic feet (compressed gasses)
  • Non-sealed radioactive: reportable at any amount

All other substances must adhere to the Upper Reporting Levels (URL):

  • 500 gallons (liquids)
  • 500 pounds (solids)
  • 500 cubic feet (non-liquefied gases)
  • 500 gallons (liquefied gases)

Vermont – In Vermont, the state-specific reporting thresholds are as follows:

  • For all EHSs, as well as all other hazardous chemicals or substances and pesticides for which an SDS is required, the threshold is 100 pounds or the TPQ, whichever is lower.
  • For all petroleum products and fuels, the threshold is ≥10,000 lbs
  • Carcinogens must be reported at any amount
  • Explosives must be reported at any amount


As this article illustrates, Tier II has a wide range of reporting thresholds around the nation with varying complexities. In addition to lower reporting thresholds, many states have specific requirements, such as providing a facility site map, a Facility Emergency Contingency Plan or an SDS for each product reported. Therefore, it is important that if your company has facilities in more than one state, you must check the reporting requirements for each facility and ensure that all state-specific items are being addressed.

Preparing Your OSHA Logs – An Overview

Employers with 10 or more employees are required to prepare and maintain regular records of serious occupational injuries and illnesses using the OSHA 300 Logs unless they are deemed a low-risk exemption by OSHA.

This information helps employers, workers, and OSHA in evaluating the safety of a workplace, understanding its possible hazards, and implementing worker protections to reduce and eliminate hazards. It is important to always maintain accurate injury logs as the requirements are enforceable under OSHA Recordkeeping regulation 29 CFR 1904. This article will help detail the information required on each log and give tips on how to ensure timely and accurate reporting.

Recordkeeping Requirements

All work-related injuries that result in death, loss of consciousness, restricted activity, lost days from work, or any other treatment beyond first aid must be logged and accounted for on a variety of logs. These are called Recordable Injuries. The forms used to complete this documentation are the 300A, 300, and 301 Logs. All of the logs can be found on OSHA’s website.

OSHA Recordkeeping: First Steps

If a workplace injury was to occur, it is necessary to classify the case correctly and determine if the incident needs to be documented on the appropriate logs. Within seven days of the first report of a workplace injury, the following steps must be taken:

  1. Determine if the incident meets the criteria to be an OSHA Recordable Injury, as described above.
  2. Determine whether this is a new case or the recurrence of an existing injury from a prior incident. Only new cases should be recorded.
  3. Establish and ensure the case was work-related.
  4. Select and complete an Injury and Illness Report Form. This must be the OSHA 301 Form or an equivalent that includes, at a minimum, all the information found on the OSHA 301.

OSHA Forms and Logs

Form 301

The OSHA 301 Form should be the first piece of documentation completed following a recordable workplace injury. This form is used to investigate the incident and document the events that lead to the injury occurring. The 301 Form contains 18 questions that assist with determining what lead to the injury. Employers are required to complete and retain a 301 Form for each recordable workplace injury. An employer may use their own incident investigation paperwork, but it must include all of the information on OSHA’s 301 Form.

While it is not required to submit these forms to OSHA, it is required per OSHA recordkeeping regulations that one is completed and retained for five years following all recordable injuries.

300 Log

The OSHA 300 Log is a summary log of each workplace injury that meets the OSHA recordkeeping criteria. It includes information from the 301 Form and condenses it into a line item in a list format. When completed, it allows for easy comparison of all the recordable injuries that occurred during the calendar year. An entry on the 300 Log should be completed within seven days of an OSHA recordable injury. When working with the log, the following steps should be taken:

  1. Identify the employee involved unless employee privacy is a concern.
  2. Describe when and where the incident occurred.
  3. Describe the case with as much detail as possible using available information.
  4. Classify the case based on the seriousness of the outcome by selecting one of the following:
          • Death (column G)
          • Days Away (column H)
          • Job Transfer/Restriction (column I)
          • Other recordable cases (column J)
  1. Track the number of days an employee is either:
    1. Away from work (Days Away)
    2. Working under restriction or job transfer (Restriction/Transfer)
  2. Record whether the incident is an injury or an illness. If the case is an illness, select the appropriate illness on the form.

Tracking days on the 300 Log:

Determining exactly how many days to track on a 300 Log entry may seem confusing; the below points will help you successfully count Days Away or Restricted/Transfer time:

  1. Count the number of calendar days starting the day AFTER the incident. In other words, do not count the day of the injury/illness.
  2. If the incident results in both Days Away and Restricted/Transfer, both will need to be tracked.
  3. The maximum days counted is 180. This includes the combination of both Days Away and Restricted/Transfer or either independently.
  4. Only track the incident on the calendar year form in which it occurred. For example, if an incident occurs in 2019 and the days tracked continues into 2020, do not create a new item on the 2020 Log. Instead, include an estimate on the initial year’s 300 Log and then update it once the employee returns to full duty or the 180-day limit is reached, depending on which occurs first.

300A Log

The 300A Log is a summary of the information found on the 300 Log. To complete the 300A Log, you must use the information provided directly from your 300 Log.

The final piece of information needed to complete this form is the total number of hours worked at the facility and the average number of total employees. This information is used in conjunction with incident data to determine a worksite’s incident rate. You can obtain this information from payroll.

Note: Even if no recordable incidents occur during a calendar year, you will still be required to complete a 300A Log. Enter a “0” in all of the categories and input the Hours Worked information. The highest-ranking employee at the facility or another company executive must sign the 300A Log to complete.

Submission, Retention and Posting Logs

All OSHA Logs must be maintained for a minimum of five years. The 300A Form is the only log with a specific posting or submission requirement. Once completed, the 300A Form must be posted in a conspicuous location of the facility for employee review from February 1 to April 30 of each year. This could include a bulletin board, communication board, TV, or another highly visible area. Employers may be required to submit their 300A Log online annually based on their number of employees and industry. The criteria for this requirement can be found on OSHA’s Injury Tracking Application found here.

Additional Resources

Forklifts in the Workplace – Protecting the Pedestrian

Forklifts and other powered industrial trucks frequently operate in the same areas as pedestrians and workers. Far too often, close calls or near misses occur when both forklift operators and pedestrians become complacent in their surroundings. This contributes to over 100 fatalities and 90,000 injuries annually in the workplace. Over 20 percent of forklift accidents involve employees or pedestrians being hit by forklifts, making it the number two cause of forklift-related accidents and injuries (just behind forklifts tipping or rolling over after becoming unstable from exceeding the load capacity of the truck).

Remember, when a forklift and pedestrian collide, the forklift will always win. Consider the following options to minimize the risk of a serious or fatal injury when a pedestrian and forklift collide.

Engineering and Physical Facility Controls

  • Designated Walkways and Floor Markings: Outside of work cells, pedestrian aisles should be clearly marked to designate where foot traffic is permitted and where powered trucks travel. While painting yellow floor lines is most common and sometimes adequate, segregating the walkway with barricades, stanchions, or similar physical barriers is a best practice, especially in congested or busy areas. Additional markings or stop signs can be placed at intersections and blind areas to visually remind people to slow down, stop, and look before proceeding. Strictly enforce walkways once they are established.
  • No Forklift and/or No Pedestrian Zones: Do pedestrians really need to walk through that area? Many facilities restrict pedestrian access in loading docks and warehouse racking areas or conversely in work cells for powered trucks. Designate and enforce a separated pedestrian walkway or forklift travel-way around these areas if possible. Require a second “spotter” if powered trucks need to operate in pedestrian-only zones (think of the employees with flags guiding trucks around Home Depot).
  • Blue Lights: It may seem simple, but installing blue spotlights on forklifts that shine a bright blue spot onto the floor 15 feet in front of a forklift’s direction of travel can effectively alert others that a forklift is approaching, even if they cannot physically see the forklift yet. This is especially effective at intersections, corners, and blind spots. Lights are relatively inexpensive and additional options are available that shine red light on the floor to the sides of forklifts serving as additional visual reminders to stay away from the sides (and wheels) of trucks.
  • Sentry Systems: Install Collision Sentry warning systems where forklift traffic and pedestrians intersect. These systems monitor movement in multiple directions and flash a visual warning (strobe or similar) and/or emit an audible sound to warn pedestrians and forklift operators of approaching traffic. A variety of models are available and are relatively inexpensive. Using them in combination with convex mirrors is particularly effective.

Administrative Controls

  • Forklift Pedestrian Safety Awareness Training: Train all of your employees on the dangers of forklift collisions, how to avoid them (see Rules below), the facility control measures in place, and expectations of the use of designated walkways or other control measures. Enforce adherence to the established control measures.
  • Operator Training Inclusive of Facility-Specific Hazards: All forklift and powered industrial truck operators are required to have classroom training, initial hands-on training, and a performance evaluation (certification with recertification every three years) for each type of equipment they are certified to operate. This training should include information on hazards that are specific to the facility, such as hazardous environments (i.e. presence of flammable vapors and restricted areas) and hazardous activities (i.e. operation in highly congested areas, blind spots, use of truck docks and pallet racking, traveling outside, etc.) and how to properly operate in the identified conditions. Discussion on pedestrian safety should be included in this training (see Rules below).

General Forklift and Pedestrian Rules

  • Pedestrians technically have the right-of-way but remember it is a two-way street. Both the pedestrian and the operator need to be aware of their surroundings.
  • Intentionally slow down and physically stop at intersections and blind spots. Look in all directions before proceeding.
  • Never step out in front of equipment.
  • Never walk over or under forks.
  • Stay an arm’s distance away when approaching equipment.
  • Make eye contact (between the pedestrian and forklift operator), communicate and understand each other’s intentions (where each other is going), pause and wait for the other person to clear the area before proceeding.

Forklift Operator Rules

  • Use your horn and slow down when entering doorways, passageways, approaching blind spots or intersections, or traveling near pedestrian congregation areas.
  • Never leave equipment powered on and unattended (lower forks to the ground, neutralize controls, apply the parking brake, and turn off the equipment if you are out of sight or more than 25 feet away).
  • Always look in the direction of travel. If a load is blocking your view forward, drive in reverse.
  • Never exceed the rated capacity of the truck you are operating.
  • Never allow pedestrians to position themselves between a forklift and a permanent object.
  • Never lift people with equipment, unless using an approved and secured lifting cage.
  • Never carry passengers.

EPA Finalizes RMP Reconsideration Rule

On November 20, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) signed the Risk Management Program (RMP) Reconsideration Rule as a result of three petitions submitted to reconsider the RMP regulations mandated in 2017. According to the EPA, this new rule rescinds and modifies certain revisions in order to “better address potential security risks, reduce unnecessary and ineffective regulatory burdens on facilities and emergency responders, harmonize rather than conflict with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Process Safety Management standard, address the concerns of stakeholders,” and save unnecessary costs for facilities and regulatory departments.

The following provisions have been modified under the EPA’s RMP Reconsideration Rule and may impact regulated facilities:

  • Retains the requirement that facilities must annually coordinate with local response organizations in order to reduce the impacts of a potential incident.

Compliance Date: March 14, 2018

  • Modifies emergency coordination provisions to address security concerns with the 2017 amendment. Emergency response planners may now only obtain information that is necessary to complete and implement local emergency response plans.

Compliance Date: N/A

  • Retains annual emergency notification drill provisions.

Compliance Date: First notification must be performed five years after date of publication

  • Retains the requirement to perform tabletop exercises with facility personnel and local responding agencies to discuss emergency response practices in the event of an incident.

Compliance Date: First tabletop exercise is due seven years after date of publication

  • Modifies the frequency of field exercises as well as the scope of the documentation required for the field exercise and evaluation report to provide more flexibility to local emergency responders.

Compliance Date: Date is determined by owner/operator of facility and local emergency response agencies

  • Retains the requirement to hold a public meeting within 90 days after an accident, but only applies the requirement to accidents with offsite impacts.

Compliance Date: Following any RMP reportable accident with offsite impacts that occurs after March 15, 2021

The following provisions have been rescinded under the EPA’s RMP Reconsideration Rule unless specifically required by the EPA:

  • Third party audits are no longer required
  • The need to conduct a Safer Technologies and Alternatives Analysis (STAA) has been rescinded to avoid unnecessary costs and potential overlap of the safer technologies implemented within the Process Hazard Analysis (PHA)
  • Conducting an Incident Investigation Root Cause Analysis after a reportable incident or near miss is no longer required in order to maintain consistency with OSHA PSM standards
  • The availability of facility RMP information will no longer be made available to the public due to security/terrorism threats. However, State and Federal regulators and first responders will have no information restrictions under this new rule. The public can access RMP information through read-only access at Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPCs), Federal Reading Rooms or through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the EPA.

Ultimately, this new rule reduces regulatory requirements and security risks for facilities applicable to RMP Regulations

EPA’s Biennial Report – What You Need to Know

The EPA’s March 1 Biennial Reporting deadline is coming up faster than one might realize, which means Large Quantity Generators (LQGs) of hazardous waste should start preparing for what they will need to complete the report. The Biennial Report, more formally known as the National Biennial RCRA Hazardous Waste Report, is a requirement under Section 3002(a)(6) of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and must be submitted by March 1 of every even-numbered year.

Who must report?

Reporting is required for hazardous waste generators that are registered under the LQG generator status – meaning they are allowed to generate greater than 2,200 lbs (1,000 kg) of general hazardous waste, or 2.2 lbs (1 kg) of acutely hazardous waste per month. One caveat to this rule targets Small Quantity Generators (SQGs) and Very Small Quantity Generators (VSQGs) that generated hazardous waste at LQG levels during at least one month throughout the reporting period. If facility personnel are unsure of the generator status of the facility in which they operate, the EPA’s Enforcement and Compliance History Online (ECHO) service is helpful in determining such information.

What information is reported?

There are four primary pieces of information that the EPA obtains from the Biennial Report, which seeks information for the calendar year before the year in which the report is due (i.e. the report that is due March 1, 2020, will include information from 2019). The first of these being the type of hazardous waste that was generated; these are reported using Waste Codes. Each hazardous waste stream has a code or series of codes that define exactly the type of waste it is. Hazardous waste streams include those that fall into one of the four characteristic hazardous waste categories (“D” Waste Codes): ignitable, corrosive, reactive, and toxic.  Additionally, any F, K, P, or U listed waste stream is considered hazardous and must be included in the Biennial Report. If you are unsure about a specific waste stream and whether or not it is considered hazardous, the EPA’s Hazardous Waste Characterization web page may be helpful.

Secondly, the EPA wants to know the amount of waste generated at each site. The EPA publishes generation totals by weight for many different criteria, including the type of wastes and their amounts generated nationally and at each individual facility. It is imperative that the generation amounts reported on the individual site level are accurate and reported in pounds. Often, shipping totals from waste manifests are noted in units other than pounds, therefore, conversions must be used when completing the Biennial Report in these cases.

The EPA uses a set of four-digit “form codes” used to identify the physical form of the waste media. There are 49 form codes, covering the majority of hazardous waste generated in the United States. Popular form codes for general industrial hazardous wastes are:

  • W103, Inorganic Liquids – Spent concentrated acids
  • W203, Organic Liquids – Concentrated non-halogenated solvent
  • W206, Organic Liquids – Waste oil
  • W209, Organic Liquids – Paint, ink, lacquer, or varnish
  • W211, Organic Liquids – Paint thinner or petroleum distillates
  • W406, Organic Solids – Dried paint (paint chips, filters, air filters, other)
  • W505, Inorganic Sludges – Metal bearing sludges not containing cyanides

The full list of form codes may be found on the EPA’s list of Nationally Defined Values for Waste Form Code.

Lastly, the Biennial Report provides the source of the wastes generated.  “Source codes” are used to determine the process or origin of the waste streams. Source codes contain three digits and follow the form “G” followed by a two-digit number. Similar to the form codes, there are 49 source codes that pertain to the major potential origins of hazardous wastes generated. A few common examples include:

  • G01, Wastes from Ongoing Production and Service Processes – Dip, flush or spray rinsing
  • G03, Wastes from Ongoing Production and Service Processes – Plating and phosphating
  • G06, Wastes from Ongoing Production and Service Processes – Painting and coating
  • G11, Wastes from Other Intermittent Events or Processes – Discarding off-specification or out-of-date chemicals or products
  • G14, Wastes from Other Intermittent Events or Processes – Removal of tank sludge, sediments or slag
  • G32, Wastes from Spills and Accidental Releases – Cleanup of spill residues

The full list of source codes is located on the EPA’s list of Nationally Defined Values for Waste Description Source Code.

The information contained in these four sections of the report is essential in ensuring that the national waste data is published correctly. Therefore, it is important to ensure each facility’s report is accurate and compliant with the requirements outlined in the regulation.

How does a facility report?

All states are not created equal – at least not when it comes to how they accept the Biennial Report submittals. For the vast majority of states, the Biennial Report is submitted via the EPA’s RCRAInfo reporting website. To complete the report using RCRAInfo, one must create an account and register with certifying authority for their specific site. Once registered, RCRAInfo allows for the completion of the report, as well as some other helpful features like e-manifesting. It is essential to not wait until the last minute to sign up for RCRAInfo to avoid potential issues with the system which could lead to a late report submittal.

Unfortunately, several states do not accept Biennial Report Submittals through the RCRAInfo system. A few notable states that do not use RCRAInfo include but are not limited to Illinois, Texas, and Wisconsin, which all use their own state-specific reporting software, and North Dakota, which requires paper copy submittals of the Federal 8700-12, 8700-13 A/B form. More and more states tend to be moving toward allowing RCRAInfo submittals so it is important to check with your state requirements before the March 1 deadline.

Remember, if a facility generates hazardous waste at Large Quantity Generator (LQG) levels, it is a Federal requirement to submit a Biennial Report by March 1 of 2020. Make sure that you have all that you need to get it completed accurately and on time to ensure maximum compliance.

Assessing Wastewaters from Metal Finishing Operations for EPA Categorical Standards

Under the Clean Water Act, the EPA put the Metal Finishing Categorical Pretreatment Standards into effect on July 15, 1983, as 40 CFR Part 433. The regulations cover wastewater discharges from a wide variety of industries performing various metal finishing operations. More specifically, the metal finishing operations applicable to the standard mostly involve the process of changing the surface of a metal object to improve its appearance and/or durability. Applicability of the Metal Finishing Category is defined by the type of process operation versus the industry sector.

The primary goal of the standard is to prevent the uncontrolled discharges of wastewater pollutants from industrial facilities with metal finishing operations. To accomplish this, limitations on the pollutants are implemented within the standards. These limits also prevent the discharge of pollutants that could pass through, interfere with, or otherwise be incompatible with the local wastewater treatment plant that receives the wastewaters.


The Metal Finishing Standard regulates wastewaters generated from six primary metal finishing operations. The primary six operations are outlined below.

If a facility conducts any one of the six operations listed above, a Categorical Wastewater Permit is required. This applies even if the wastewaters generated from the process are sent out for disposal as a hazardous or non-hazardous waste (versus discharging to the sanitary sewer). Often termed zero discharge, a facility with no discharge to wastewater can still need a permit if they meet the categorical requirement.


If a facility conducts one of the primary metal finishing operations and is applicable for permitting, then the standard also covers additional wastewaters resulting from an additional 40 metal finishing operations (that may or may not be present at the site). To comply with the metal finishing standard, it is the facility’s responsibility to identify the additional metal finishing wastewaters during the permitting process. The additional 40 operations are outlined below.



Once a facility has determined that a permit is required, the following actions need to be completed to achieve compliance with the EPA standard:

  • Initial sampling and testing
  • Baseline Monitoring Report (BMR)
  • Permit application
  • Developing and certifying a TOMP plan
  • Routine monitoring and reporting
  • Permit renewals

PITFALL – Applicability of EPA Categorical Standard Not Assessed

From my experience, many manufacturing facilities have not fully disclosed with the local permitting authorities whether a discharge permit is required for the discharge of their wastewaters. Equally, local wastewater authorities are not always reviewing categorical requirements. As a result, the applicability of the metal finishing standard has also never been assessed. Issues tend to arise when a new inspector or other permitting agencies (i.e. State or EPA) get involved.


If you find that your facility does conduct one of the primary six metal finishing operations, work with your local permitting authority to obtain the required discharge permit. This will ensure compliance with the Metal Finishing Standard while also eliminating the possibility of EPA enforcement.



Lockout/Tagout – Effective Implementation

How do I start a Lockout/Tagout Program?

Lockout/tagout programs prevent injuries and ultimately, save lives. Lockout/tagout is an energy control procedure that requires an employee to isolate energy before doing any cleaning, adjusting, or repairing of a piece of equipment. In layman’s terms, it means that if an employee is going to access a piece of equipment by removing a guard or sticking a body part into a point of operation to clean, adjust, or repair it, then the power to that machine needs to be turned off and locked in the off position. Although it sounds easy, there are approximately 120 deaths and 60,000 injuries that are energy control-related every year. Lockout/tagout citations are routinely in the top five of the most cited standards annually. This article will guide you toward an effective lockout/tagout implementation.

Where to start

It is required that each piece of equipment has a machine-specific lockout/tagout procedure. There are two exceptions to this rule: if a machine is only powered with a plug and you have control of that plug, then a procedure does not need to be developed. Further, if you have multiple machines that have similar energy control methods, then they can share a procedure. Otherwise, all energized equipment will need a procedure on how to properly isolate the energy. Here is the information that is required on a lockout/tagout procedure:

  • Name of the procedure
  • Energy sources
  • Energy magnitude
  • How to turn the machine off
  • Where to isolate energy
  • Number of locks and tags needed
  • How to release stored energy
  • How to verify that the machine is de-energized

Procedures need to be accessible to all authorized employees. A good practice is to post the procedure on the equipment or have the procedures stored in a central location like a lockout/tagout station.

Identifying energy sources

When identifying energy sources, don’t make the mistake of only looking for electric energy. Pneumatic, hydraulic, mechanical, thermal and other potential energy can all cause equipment to cycle. Identifying stored energy and dissipating it properly is very important. Releasing stored energy can prevent electrical shocks, punctures, pinches, nips, amputations, explosions, pressure releases, gravitational force and burns from occurring.

Periodic Inspections

To assure that the machine-specific procedures created are accurate and updated, a periodic inspection must be completed on each procedure once per year. This is a commonly missed step in implementing and maintaining a lockout/tagout program. The steps to complete a periodic inspection are as follows:

  1. An authorized employee is brought to the work station to perform a physical lockout
  2. The observer takes the existing procedure to the work area
  3. The authorized employee performs the lockout procedure
  4. The observer compares the actions to the procedure to ensure they are the same
  5. A periodic inspection form is filled out which includes the name of the equipment inspected, the date, the name of the authorized employee, if the employee has access to lockout/tagout equipment, if the employee has been trained, notes of any deficiencies in the procedure and if the employee performed the lockout according to the procedure

One of the most important parts of completing the periodic inspections is to update the lockout/tagout procedures and make all authorized employees aware of the updates. Remember, procedures need to be accessible to all authorized employees. This is an important part of your lockout training.

Locks, tags, and devices

Locks need to be specific to lockout operations, meaning they need to look different from other locks that may be used around the building. These locks also need to only have one key and not be keyed alike. This is so the user keeps the key and is the only person that can remove the lock. Never lockout for someone else!

Tags are required to identify who placed the lock and why they placed it. In the case of an employee forgetting to remove a lock, you need to know who it belonged to so you can contact them. NEVER remove a lock for an employee without contacting them first. You must speak to them or the lock cannot be removed. If someone gets hurt because you removed a lockout device, you can be held criminally liable.

A device can be likened to an accessory that helps isolate energy. Imagine a ball valve or a fuse in a breaker box; locks cannot be directly attached to lock them in the off position. A device serves as an implement that can be attached to a valve, fuse or other energized point to hold it in the off position, used alongside a lock to secure the device in place.


There are two groups of employees that require training. Authorized employee training is required for personnel that will be placing locks and tags for their protection. This training includes going over the seven steps to a proper lockout, lockout/tagout procedures and where to locate them, periodic inspections, energy sources, isolation points, group lockouts, shift change procedures, maintenance and exceptional situations (such as the procedure to remove a lock for an absent authorized employee like a set-up, maintenance or sanitation employee).

All other employees are required to receive Awareness (or Affected) level training. Everyone in the workplace needs to know what lockout is, how energy control is practiced and how it keeps authorized employees safe from injury and death.

U.S. Compliance provides safety, health and environmental services to hundreds of facilities in the manufacturing and general industry sector across the country and can help you develop an effective Lockout/Tagout Program.

OSHA Inspections – Keys to Success

According to the latest statistics provided by OSHA, there were approximately 73,000 federal and state plan inspections that occurred throughout the 2018 fiscal year. Were you one of those companies? If so, how did your company fare during the inspection? Was your company prepared? OSHA inspections, like any regulatory inspection, can be positive experiences or they can go poorly. The state of your current safety program obviously plays a significant role in how successful you are at getting through an OSHA inspection without citations or penalties, but there are other points of consideration as well that can contribute to the outcome of the inspection. This article will focus on these elements.

The very first thing to be aware of is how – how does OSHA typically end up at a company’s front door?


OSHA focuses its inspection resources on the most hazardous workplaces in the following order of priority:

1stImminent Danger – Any condition where there is reasonable certainty that a danger exists that can be expected to cause death or immediate serious physical harm.


2ndCatastrophes and Fatal Accidents – Catastrophes – major incidents such as the hospitalization of three or more employees from a single event. Fatalities, amputations and a loss of an eye could also result in an inspection. Since 2015, OSHA has had incident reporting criteria that could lead to an inspection.


3rdComplaints/Referrals Investigations – Employee complaints of unsafe and unhealthful working conditions. It can be either a Formal Complaint or a Non-Formal Compliant.


4thProgram Inspections/National Emphasis Programs – Aimed at specific high-hazard industries, workplaces, occupations, or health substances. OSHA selects industries for inspections based on factors such as injury rates, previous citation history, employee exposure to toxic substances, or random selection.


5thFollow-Up Inspections – Determines whether previously cited violations have been corrected. If an employer has failed to abate a violation, the compliance officer informs the employer that he/she is subject to “Notification of Failure to Abate” alleged violations and may face additional proposed daily penalties while such failure or violations continue.


OSHA’s updated recordkeeping rule expands the list of severe injuries that employers must report to OSHA. As of January 1, 2015, all employers must report the following:

  1. All work-related fatalities within 8 hours.
  2. All work-related inpatient hospitalizations, all amputations and all losses of an eye within 24 hours.

Note: Some state plans are different, see the state-specific guidelines.

The second thing to know and understand is what to expect during an OSHA inspection. The inspection process typically includes an opening conference, a program and training records review as they relate to the inspection, a walkthrough, employee interviews, and a closing conference. OSHA does not have to give advanced warning of an inspection. There are some rare circumstances, however, where they could. For example, it is possible they could provide advance notice to provide an employer with the opportunity to correct imminent danger hazards quickly.


You should always check an OSHA inspector’s credentials, which typically are presented upon arrival of the compliance officer. If unsure, get the inspector’s information (their business card is usually provided) and call the local OSHA office or the Department of Labor Office to confirm. There have been reported cases of scammers posing as OSHA inspectors, going to worksites and requesting payment of a fine. Understand that OSHA would never request immediate payment of a fine during an initial inspection.

During the opening conference, OSHA typically reviews the following with the employer:

  • Purpose and scope of the inspection
  • A copy of the complaint (if applicable)
  • Process of the inspection (interviews, records, walk-through inspection, possible referrals and closing conference)
  • Handouts – familiarity with OSHA
  • Trade secrets guidelines
  • Awareness of:
    • Recent inspections
    • Multi-employer worksites


OSHA 300 logs tend to be the first thing reviewed by OSHA (and often go back five years) so be sure they are accessible and accurate. OSHA may choose to focus on a specific topic based on something observed on the log.

OSHA will likely request a review of certain required policies and training records. Be prepared in advance and have them organized in a known location. Do NOT give the inspector your entire safety policy and program records because they are likely only interested in the policies/programs that are related to the reason for their visit. Only show the programs and training records specifically requested by OSHA. Remember, this is not the time to ask all the questions about OSHA-related programs you have accumulated over the years.


During the walkthrough inspection portion of the OSHA visit, ensure that all members of the inspection party have appropriate personal protective equipment and that the inspector is always accompanied by a facility representative. The facility representative should be the same person throughout the inspection (two or more representatives could provide conflicting information). If at any time the facility representative has difficulty responding to a question, he/she should simply reply, “Let me get back to you on that. I don’t have all of the pertinent information at this time. I need to check with…” It is okay not to have all the answers or to politely and tactfully disagree. If you feel the inspector does not have an accurate perception or all of the facts, you can provide that information if you feel it works in your favor.

When walking through your plant, take them directly to the areas of interest rather than walking throughout the plant. Remember that anything you show them or anything they see during the walkthrough can be investigated further for potential violations. That is also a reason why you never want to leave the inspector alone. If OSHA takes notes, you should take notes. If OSHA takes a photo, you should take the same photo. And last but certainly not least, do not volunteer information during the walkthrough. Uncomfortable silences are better than talking too much (providing information that wasn’t asked for opens you up to further scrutiny).


The inspector should describe the apparent violations that they will be recommending to their local office Area Director. They may set appropriate abatement periods (cannot extend past 30 days) and will typically advise you and the employee representative (if applicable) of their right to participate in any subsequent conference. If any alleged violations were corrected on the spot, the inspector must state that they were abated. The inspector should explain the penalty procedure, citation package and posting requirements, along with explaining the right to an informal conference and/or to contest any violations.


There are several additional points to consider before and during an OSHA inspection that can be contributing factors to your overall success in completing the process with zero or minimal citations. First, and well before OSHA arrives at your door, your company must make a few important decisions. Determine ahead of time who will be contacted when OSHA shows up at your door, who’s in charge of gathering documents, who will accompany the compliance officer(s) during the walkthrough, etc. Your preparation should also include determining a union representative if the facility has union workers – especially if it’s part of a contract. Be sure to designate alternates for employees assigned to accompany an inspector.

Most safety professionals agree that employer attitude, organization, and good housekeeping all can make a positive impression during an OSHA inspection. If you are disagreeable, that can pass on to the compliance officer – your mood will affect their mood. An inspector can note an employer’s lack of cooperativeness on their report. Having easily located written safety records is imperative. If it takes you a half-hour to locate your lockout/tagout policy or an SDS, you are going to look disorganized and that could give the compliance officer the impression that your safety program is lacking or that you don’t have the required documentation.  Housekeeping is also very important. A dirty or cluttered workplace can immediately set the compliance officer off on the wrong foot. They may think to themselves, “If they can’t keep the floor and aisles clean, I wonder what else they haven’t been doing.”

The long unwritten rule with OSHA is: if it’s not in writing, it never happened. Besides standard safety training, document when your company does fire drills, safety committee meetings, brief toolbox talks, detailed incident investigations, safety improvements, etc. All of those things are just as important as safety training and you should get credit for them. They speak to your overall good faith, which is very important to convey during an OSHA inspection.

OSHA will typically wait a reasonable amount of time – up to an hour – before making note of any delays on the inspection report. This is the perfect time for employers to correct small hazards, such as making sure employees are wearing their applicable PPE, clearing areas in front of walkways, exit doors and fire extinguishers and assuring that forklift operators are wearing their seatbelts.

As a general rule, we don’t recommend refusing entry to OSHA. We have seen companies over the years with corporate policies that request a warrant for any government inspection. Quite frankly, that is a bad policy. Requesting to see a warrant before allowing an OSHA inspector to enter the workplace is likely to bring added scrutiny and suspicion. In most cases, they will get a warrant and will likely bring their most seasoned compliance officers who are very good at looking for possible OSHA violations.

Over the years, we have been through a lot of different OSHA inspections. We have seen common violations throughout these inspections, like safety records that are often overlooked by companies or those that they simply don’t have.  Here are a few of them:

  • OSHA 300 Recordkeeping (properly filled out and current)
  • Including temp workers on OSHA 300 logs
  • Lockout procedure periodic inspections
  • Forklift reevaluations
  • Written PPE hazard assessments with certification
  • Bloodborne pathogens training
  • Hazardous chemical inventory list
  • Hazard communication training for all employees
  • Medical evaluations for all respirator users
  • Annual respirator training and fit-testing

Finally, be proactive and honest. Developing an ongoing safety program with all of the required components is the best preparation. It eliminates anxiety over the unknown and allows you to feel comfortable about your employees and the company. You know that if you receive an OSHA inspection, you’ll be able to put your best foot forward. If you haven’t been keeping your safety program up to date, it will be too late by the time OSHA shows up. Be honest in your answers because OSHA will know if you’re faking it. They will be happy to work with you if they feel you are genuine, doing your best and have the best interest of your employees in mind.

Defining “Oil” Under the SPCC Rule

As a refresher, a Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasures (SPCC) plan is required for facilities storing oil with an aggregate storage capacity greater than 1,320 gallons in containers greater than 55 gallons. The plan is a requirement under the Oil Pollution Act (OPA), an amendment made to the Clean Water Act (CWA) in 1990.

Under the SPCC rule (40 CFR 112.2), “Oil means oil of any kind or in any form, including, but not limited to: fats, oils, or greases of animal, fish, or marine mammal origin; vegetable oils, including oils from seeds, nuts, fruits, or kernels; and, other oils and greases, including petroleum, fuel oil, sludge, synthetic oils, mineral oils, oil refuse, or oil mixed with wastes other than dredged spoil.”

The definition can be difficult to navigate and can create confusion within manufacturing. Unfortunately, a comprehensive chemical list does not exist. With responsibility for the navigable waters of the United States, the U.S. Coast Guard publishes an extensive list of “oils,” but the list is not exhaustive nor exclusive of oils. The USCG list can be found at:

The primary oils leading to the development of SPCC plans include the following:

Petroleum Oils

Oils including crude and refined petroleum products, asphalt, gasoline, fuel oils, mineral oils, naphtha, sludge, oil refuse and oil mixed with wastes other than dredged spoil.

Non-Petroleum or Synthetic Oils

Non-petroleum oils including coal tar, creosote, silicon fluids, pine oil, turpentine and tall oils are examples of non-petroleum oils that are specifically addressed by SPCC requirements.

Synthetic oils are considered to share common physical properties with petroleum oils and therefore, will produce similar environmental effects.

Animal Fats and Vegetable Oils

Animal fats include fats, oils and grease of animal, fish or marine mammal origin, like lard and tallow. Vegetable oils include oils from seeds, nuts, fruits and kernels. Corn, rapeseed, coconut, palm, soybean, sunflower seed, cottonseed and peanut oil are also included.


Since asphalt exhibits liquid-like behavior at certain temperature ranges, it is regulated under SPCC. This includes cutbacks and emulsions while hot asphalt mix (HMA) and HMA containers are exempt from regulation since they are unlikely to flow based on the aggregate mixture.

Natural Gas and Condensate

Natural gas, which volatilizes on contact with water or air, is not regulated in the SPCC rule. However, natural gas liquid condensate is regulated if stored in containers greater than 55 gallons.

Milk and Milk Products (Exempted)

In 2011 the EPA amended the SPCC rule to exempt milk and milk products, determining that spill prevention was adequately addressed under existing standards. This includes butter, cheese and dry milk, among others. Other oils present at the facility are still applicable to the standard.

Additional considerations for materials that may not fit the above list include the use of the “Sheen Rule” and the special considerations required for mixtures to determine whether or not a material is an oil.

The “Sheen Rule”

When defining substances as an oil – especially mixtures – it is important to consider the EPA’s “sheen rule.” Although the specific rule “requires reporting discharges which cause a sheen or discoloration on the surface of a body of water” (under 40 CFR 110.3), it can be inferred from this requirement that all products which can cause a “sheen” on water should be considered oil. Although a test is not practical in most cases, giving consideration may assist in deciding (e.g. consider the impact of soy-based inks).

Oily Mixtures

Mixtures should be evaluated by individual ingredients; if a mixture contains an oil then the entire product should be considered oil. As a general guideline, strong consideration should be given to those substances that are at least 1% oil within the mixture.


Oils can be difficult to classify. When completing an SPCC threshold determination, start with a chemical inventory list and complete the evaluations for each material. In most cases, it will be necessary to review the SDS. Use the guidance above, consider the “sheen rule” and carefully evaluate mixtures. Remember, only substances kept in containers 55 gallons or greater need to be evaluated.