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

Hazard Assessment – Ways to Complete and Benefits of the Process

Do you know what hazards are present in your facility? More importantly, do you know what controls are in place to mitigate those hazards? Identifying workplace hazards is a critical step in developing a comprehensive safety and health program. A hazard assessment is a simple document that lists the potential hazards of a specific task. The hazard assessment may also identify any established controls pertaining to the specific hazards. Listing the controls may assist in monitoring the effectiveness of reducing the potential risk to an acceptable level. The hazard assessment form may be simple, but identifying all of the hazards and controls can be challenging.

How to Complete a Hazard Assessment

There are many different titles for hazard assessment, such as Job Hazard Assessment, Safety Hazard Analysis, Risk Assessment, What-If Analysis, and many more. When determining what hazard assessment form to utilize, it is important to know that there is no universal or standardized form. There are multiple styles of assessments available, and the best one is up to the user.

Completing the assessments will consist of collecting, interpreting, and reviewing information from various resources. Those resources include safety data sheets, employee interviews, observations, incident investigations, incident trends, operating manuals, safety programs, and safety site inspections.

The first step in completing a hazard assessment is to develop a list of jobs in the workplace. These typically will include production-related jobs but may also include machine-specific and non-routine tasks. When considering what tasks to complete first, it may help to look at incident records to identify trends or high-risk areas. Once the jobs are listed, they can be broken down into specific tasks. Depending on the complexity, the assessment may consist of an entire job or a specific task.

The next step is to identify the already known information of the task. This may include reviewing any chemical Safety Data Sheets, existing work instructions, incident investigations, equipment user manuals, training materials, or applicable regulatory information from organizations such as Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

Once known hazards have been identified, it is time to dig a bit deeper into the process. This would be the time to observe the process, interview employees or subject matter experts. Observing the process and conducting interviews will not only confirm the already known hazards, but might also identify additional hazards for the specific task. Be sure to note any potential emergency or non-routine situations that may create hazards such as chemical spills, power outages, fires, and medical response.

The last step is to assess and understand the potential types of incidents for each identified hazard. Understanding the potential incidents will assist in establishing effective mitigation controls. The hierarchy control of hazards can be utilized when determining what type of control(s) to implement. Once controls are established, it is important to reassess the task to identify any residual risk. Additional controls may be required if the residual risk is too great.

When To Complete Hazard Assessments

Hazard Assessments should be completed when there is a new job, task, or process. The assessments should be reviewed and possibly updated whenever there are changes to the process, incidents, identification of ineffective controls, or new hazards.


There are many benefits to completing a comprehensive hazard assessment. Those benefits may include establishing or sustaining compliance, reduction of incidents, and hazard abatement. While completing hazard assessments, the participants may also identify other production-related issues such as quality, environmental, and even efficiency.

Under the OSHA Act of 1970’s General Duty Clause Section 5, each employer must provide employees a place of employment, which is free of any recognized hazards that are likely to cause severe injury or a fatality. The hazard assessment may also assist in developing specific programs, safety rules, and training materials for various topics such as personal protective equipment, hazard communication, and lockout/tagout. Additionally, the hazard assessment may illuminate the need for employee exposure monitoring in areas such as noise and hazardous chemicals.


Recognizing the need to complete or review your hazard assessments is an important step to prevent injuries in the workplace. Completing a hazard assessment may seem complex, but establishing a system to effectively communicate potential hazards and controls will not only increase your site’s compliance but may also reduce injuries.

Contact U.S. Compliance for assistance or if you are interested in completing, refreshing, or auditing your hazard assessments.

Key Methods to Prevent Loss by Preparing for Fire-Related Emergencies

Receiving a call in the middle of the night about an emergency at your facility is unnerving. Thoughts race through your head as to what the emergency could be. The most detailed written plans, employee training, fire protection systems, and fire prevention methods cannot eliminate the risk of industrial fires. However, they can significantly reduce your risk of monumental losses if a fire breaks out in your workplace. This is why preparing your business to respond to a fire and implementing fire prevention methods in day-to-day practices is prudent, responsible, and essential.

The Importance of an Emergency Response Plan

An Emergency Response Plan that details how to respond to emergencies, like fires, means that leaders can respond effectively to their departments. Swift responses to fires can minimize the amount of damage and losses to the building, and ultimately, the business. Be sure to include the different fire extinguishing systems installed in the Emergency Response Plan and familiarize the local fire department with all flammable and combustible materials present at the facility.

Further, assuring that employees are properly trained on evacuation protocol and knowing what to do when they first encounter a fire will pay off. Training employees to recognize alarm systems and to evacuate efficiently is not only required by OSHA’s 29 CFR 1910.38, but is a crucial part of a business’s continuity plan. A proper response that accounts for all individuals at a designated meet-up point allows the fire department to use all its resources to contain the blaze.

Take the time to coordinate with a select group of management personnel and establish an Emergency Response Team to lead different departments in an evacuation. Practice the response within the team—the more the team practices the response, the more ready the team will be once faced with the unexpected.

Fire Prevention

Still, the best step to take to prevent widespread fire from impacting a business is implementing preventative measures. Assess the facility to confirm fire extinguishers are properly spaced and readily accessible. Typically, an accessible fire extinguisher must be within 75 feet of where flammable liquids are used, processed, or stored in a facility. Work with a reputable fire extinguisher company to assess the combustible and flammable hazards that may be present.

Proper Housekeeping

Many fires in the workplace are due in part to poor housekeeping. While OSHA requires monthly inspections of fire extinguishers, frequent housekeeping inspections act as a preventative to spot risks before they pose a greater hazard. Frequently inspect electrical panels, electrical disconnects, and appliances to ensure that they are in good condition. Electrical fires can spread quickly. Electrical arcs, or discharges across a gap of air, can result in temperatures of several thousand degrees. Facilities where wood dust, fine plastic dust, or aluminum dust can accumulate are strongly recommended to establish a housekeeping program. Wiping down overhead surfaces, electrical panels, and transformers can prevent the accumulation of combustible dust from igniting.

Hot Work Procedures

Hot Work, which includes welding, torch cutting, brazing, soldering, and grinding, is one of the leading causes of industrial fires. Training your Maintenance Department on proper hot work procedures and permitting will empower them to take precautionary measures prior to undertaking one of these tasks. If hot work occurs frequently, designate an area for the work to occur that is free of combustible floors, walls, and materials. Make sure that contractors also follow hot work procedures, as the risk of fire can increase by 100% if contractors are not supervised.

Flammable/Combustible Liquid Storage

Improper storage of flammable liquids can also pose a significant risk to your business. OSHA’s flammable liquid standard 29 CFR 1910.106 limits the amount of flammable liquids that can be stored outside a flammable storage room or cabinet. OSHA divides flammable liquids into four categories: Categories 1, 2, 3, and 4. See the table below for more information.

Using the information in the table above, create an inventory of flammable liquids stored in general production areas of the facility. Only 25 gallons of Category 1 liquids may be stored outside of flammable storage cabinets and only 120 gallons of category 2, 3, 4 in containers such as drums. One exception to flammable storage is that 660 gallons of category 2, 3, or 4 is permitted in a single portable tank. A flammable storage room that meets the requirements in 29 CFR 1910.106(d)(4) may be needed to store all flammable materials safely and in a compliant fashion. For flammable liquids stored in a warehouse setting, be sure to refer to NFPA 30.

Spontaneous Ignition

What is frequently the culprit of “spontaneous ignition” is improper safeguards when it comes to dispensing flammable liquids and disposing of oily rags. Static discharge can naturally occur while pouring or pumping flammable liquids. If the container is effectively connected to the ground via a copper wire and a grounding rod, the static discharge is more likely to travel away from the flammable vapors while the flammable liquid is being poured. In addition to grounding the larger container, the smaller container being filled should also be “bonded” to the larger container via a conductive wire connection.

The other common way that spontaneous ignition occurs is by heat accumulating underneath oily rags. Oils and coolants often have flashpoints between 140° F and 199.4° F. Temperatures in this range can often be exceeded beneath 20 rags blanketed on top of one another. Procure FM-rated disposal cans to be emptied daily. Be sure to dispose of the rags in an environmentally responsible manner after collecting the rags from all areas.


Proper housekeeping implements safeguards that can reduce the risk of fire hazards to your business. Implementing these safeguards while developing and training upon a site-specific Emergency Response Plan keeps your facility prepared in case of fire and explosions. U.S. Compliance specializes in implementing comprehensive Emergency Response Plans and Hot Work Programs in a variety of industries. Contact U.S. Compliance today and see how we can best support your business to protect its assets.

OSHA’s Fatal Four– A Step Towards the Prevention of Serious Injuries and Fatalities

The need to focus on the prevention of the most tragic of injuries, life-changing injuries and fatalities, has become clear. Although non-fatal injury rates continue to decrease, the rate of occupational fatalities has flat-lined over the past 10 years and the actual number of fatalities has increased over the past five years. Current fatality rates cite at 3.5 fatalities per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers. This equates to approximately 12-14 fatal occupational injuries every day on the job.

Over the past several years, OSHA has run a campaign-type initiative intended to raise awareness regarding the four leading hazards in the construction industry that can lead to serious injury or death. This initiative is commonly recognized as the “Fatal 4” or the “Focus 4.”

The hazards are Falls, Struck-By, Electrocution, and Caught In-Between. The idea is to bring attention to these four common serious hazards seen regularly on construction sites, find methods of recognition, and work toward the prevention of related serious injuries.

It’s important to note that these hazards do not only exist in the construction industry as they can also be found in general industry and manufacturing. The most recently published fatality data is from 2019, where there were a total of 5,333 on-the-job fatalities. The Fatal 4 account for a whopping 31.5% of all workplace fatalities. Focusing on the Fatal 4 will help you and your organization prevent the worst possible outcome at your job sites or within your facilities.

Let’s take a closer look at the Fatal 4.


Falls continue to be the leading cause of fatality within the Fatal 4. Falls have led to as many as 36% of all workplace injuries in certain years. In the construction industry, OSHA requires employees to be protected from falls starting at 6 feet. Meanwhile, in General Industry, OSHA requires that employees be protected from falls starting at 4 feet. Even with these requirements, there were 880 fall-related deaths in 2019 (Bureau of Labor Statistics). Employers are required to prevent employees from falling off overhead platforms, elevated workstations, or into holes. This can be done by providing training along with installing guard rails, stair railings, handrails, safety nets, or using a harness and lifeline.


Struck-by incidents are when a person comes in contact with an object that is moving or falling. An estimated 10% of workplace fatalities are due to swinging, falling, or misplaced objects. In 2019, there were 518 struck-by fatalities in all industry (Bureau of Labor Statistics). Struck-by injuries can be prevented by tethering small tools to work belts, wearing PPE (hard hats, gloves, etc.), inspecting all tools prior to use, using pedestrian walkways, and never working under a raised load.


Electrocution is one of several electrical hazards (burns, electric shock, arc flash, fire, explosions) that can lead to serious injury or fatality. Electrocutions are often fatal to workers and typically account for 9% of all workplace-related fatalities. In 2019, electrocutions accounted for 166 deaths across all industry (Bureau of Labor Statistics). Avoid electrocutions by knowing the location of overhead and underground power lines, wearing the proper PPE, training in NFPA 70e, utilizing lockout tagout, inspecting tools prior to use, disconnecting plugs on any power tools or machinery before inspecting or repairing, and keeping metal objects away from live electrical components.

Caught In-Between

Caught in-between hazards occur when an employee is squeezed, caught, crushed, pinched, or compressed between two or more objects or between parts of an object. An estimated 2% of workplace fatalities are due to employees caught in machinery, tools, or devices. There were 120 caught in-between deaths in 2019 (Bureau of Labor Statistics). Avoid caught in-between injuries by recognizing hazards, wearing appropriate PPE, utilizing lockout tagout, guarding any moving or rotating parts, respecting barricades, and working at a safe distance from equipment.


Recognizing the significance of OSHA’s Fatal 4 is an important step to prevent these types of injuries in the workplace. To make a significant impact requires a strategic approach. Consider your overall organization risk for serious injuries and fatalities, evaluate your resources, develop a strategy to take action, conduct a serious injury risk assessment, and build processes into your overall Health & Safety Management System to evaluate and respond to risk indicators that could lead to these most significant of outcomes.

Contact U.S. Compliance for assistance or if you are interested in a Serious Injury and Fatality Risk Assessment at your facility.

What You Need to Know About the Texas Stormwater Permit Renewal

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) has issued the new Multi-Sector General Permit (MSGP) TXR050000 for industrial facilities, effective August 14, 2021. This permit applies to a broad range of industrial sectors and includes most manufacturing facilities. Facilities with an existing permit must apply to renew their coverage within 90 days of the new permit’s effective date (November 12, 2021). The renewal process also requires facilities to update their Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) to the new requirements of the permit. To meet this deadline for the renewed coverage of your permit, U.S. Compliance can assist your facility with the online application process and the development of an updated SWPPP.

The new permit is similar to the previous permit, with some important changes that will apply to any facility continuing coverage. This article will describe the basics of stormwater permitting, the TCEQ’s online e-permitting system (STEERS), changes that will apply to the facilities covered under the new permit, and how to stay in compliance with the new permit rules.

Industrial Stormwater Permitting Review

When an industrial facility conducts certain operations on-site and discharges stormwater, the TCEQ regulates those discharges for potential pollutants to surface waters that may occur during stormwater events. The goal of stormwater permitting is to eliminate pollutants from entering surface waters by preventing them from entering stormwater runoff. This is managed primarily through a program known as the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES), which was introduced by the Clean Water Act. In 1998, Texas assumed the authority to administer these rules under the Texas Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (TPDES).

Every five years, the TCEQ releases an updated permit that requires facilities to submit an application to continue coverage under the updated permit. This application, also known as a Notice of Intent (NOI), will now be submitted using an online reporting system created by the TCEQ. Before entering into the process of applying for the MSGP coverage, it is important to determine if your facility is applicable to this updated permit.

Determining if Your Facility is Applicable

Below are two scenarios a facility may find itself in:

The facility was covered under the old permit

If a facility was previously covered under the MSGP, the facility is likely applicable to the updated permit as long as the facility operations and significant materials have not changed. Facilities previously covered by the old permit MUST reapply by November 12, 2021.

The facility was not covered under the old permit but is wondering if they apply to the new permit

There are two factors to consider when determining applicability of the new permit.

  1. Does your facility discharge stormwater associated with an industrial activity to gutters, streets, channels, ditches, or other stormwater conveyance systems?
  2. Does your facility have a business activity that fits into the regulated industrial sectors?

If a facility answers “yes” to both questions above, you are required to be covered by the MSGP.

First, you must determine which Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) code your facility falls under. Then, you can refer to the MSGP to determine if you need to apply for coverage under the permit and which set of rules you must follow to remain in compliance with the permit. This set of rules is managed by utilizing an SWPPP, which is a requirement of the MSGP. These plans allow facilities to track a multitude of stormwater-related activities, significant materials on-site, and best management practices (BMPs) that will help to eliminate pollutants from entering stormwater. While this article will not be delving into the specific details of SWPPPs, you can find all of the information you need about keeping your plans compliant here.

Once you have determined that your facility must have coverage under the MSGP, it is important to determine what you might have to do differently under the updated permit.

The Switch to Online Permitting

It is now required to create an account through the TCEQ online reporting system. Traditionally, the TCEQ required all stormwater permit applications and reporting to be completed via paper and mail. Now, with the creation of the online reporting system called the State of Texas Environmental Electronic Reporting System (STEERS), things have been made a little easier. However, there is still a little bit of work involved to set up your account through STEERS.

The TCEQ has provided a comprehensive guide on their website, which can be found here.

The basic steps include:

  1. Filling out an application of basic data, including your information and your facility’s information.
  2. Adding applicable environmental programs to your STEERS account (i.e. Stormwater General Permits).
  3. Setting the permissions on your account to be either preparer or certifier of reports and applications.
  4. Completing a STEERS Participation Agreement form (web-based using a valid Texas Driver’s license or paper and mail).

Once your STEERS account is established, completing your application (NOI) is the next step to ensure you have continued coverage under the new MSGP. This will include answering questions about your facility, like outfall locations, and confirming a few items concerning stormwater runoff.

Sections That Have Changed

The requirements in the permit have been revised, so all existing facilities must ensure that their application is submitted and that their SWPPP meets all permit requirements.  Outlined below are a few of the significant changes to the permit and the application process.

  1. Monitoring and Sampling – Sections of the permit that address these requirements have been modified to clarify exactly where facilities are required to sample.
  2. Renewal Application Details – The application form now requires details on every outfall at your facility. This includes the exact location of each outfall (with coordinates) and what body of water is receiving runoff from each outfall. Also, it is required to include the industrial activities that are subject to federal effluent limitation guidelines, pollutants of concern, and waiver criteria from monitoring hazardous metals.
  3. Benchmark Values and Sampling – Sector-specific benchmark limits have changed in the new permit.  When sampling is required of a facility, these new values must be known to determine permit compliance. It has also been added that monitoring is not required in year five of the permit since it does not have two full six-month monitoring periods.
  4. Permit Language and Clarifications – Since many facilities were incorrectly interpreting the previous permit requirements, the TCEQ has updated the new permit with new permit language and clarifications to ensure all permit requirements are being communicated.
  5. SWPPP Requirements – All existing permittees are required to have a plan on-site that meets the new permit requirements by November 12, 2021. This means that the SWPPP is required to be updated before submittal of the NOI.

A full guide to the changes from the old MSGP to the new MSGP can be found on the fact sheet released by TCEQ.

Staying in Compliance

The goal for a facility is to conduct all industrial operations while maintaining compliance under the MSGP. If these next few items are followed in conjunction with the facility’s SWPPP, it will help maintain compliance under the MSGP.

If there are any major changes on-site, like construction or changes to manufacturing processes, it could mean that updates to the facility’s SWPPP are required. If any major changes occur, the best option is to contact U.S. Compliance to determine the necessary actions.

Next, it is important to conduct all inspections and sampling on a regular schedule to ensure no items are missed. This will create good habits that often lead to healthy on-site compliance.

Leading the following tip, it is important to ensure that every employee involved in stormwater management roles is familiar with the facility’s SWPPP. This is not only required but will make inspections of BMPs much more effective. Further, it will help the employees determine if BMPs must be adjusted to meet the criteria of the significant material or operations being managed.

The final compliance tip is a simple but often overlooked item, organized recordkeeping. Once a solid and organized recordkeeping habit is established, it will be much easier to keep everything in check. Plus, organized recordkeeping can often determine a regulator’s first impression when arriving on-site. Ensure that all inspections forms, sampling results, and training logs are maintained on-site within the facility’s SWPPP to stay on top of compliance.


This article discussed a lot of topics to help ensure you are covered under the new MSGP. Here is a quick review of the key takeaways.

The new stormwater permit has been released and requires any facilities previously covered to:

  1. Set up an online account through the TCEQ’s new e-permitting system known as STEERS.
  2. Update the facility’s SWPPP to the new permit requirements (prior to submitting a renewal application).
  3. Submit an online renewal application (NOI) through STEERS by November 12, 2021.

In order to do any of this, it is important to set up an account through STEERS. Once a facility is covered under the new permit, the hard work is done, and maintaining compliance is all that’s left to do. Compliance can be maintained by following the facility’s SWPPP closely along with the tips given above. As always, U.S. Compliance is here to help with any questions or concerns. Please be sure to contact us with any questions that you have concerning the new MSGP and beyond.

Active Shooter in the Workplace

It may be an uncomfortable topic to address, but the reality is that severe workplace violence incidents can happen at any time, in any facility. Having a plan and preparing employees for this real-life nightmare could quite literally be the difference between life and death.

While somewhat rare in a broader sense, workplace shootings have been seemingly on the rise in 2021. This type of event occurs when an employee enters his or her workplace with the sole intent of doing harm to fellow employees. Between 2006-2020, there were 13 occurrences, which works out to about once per year. However, instances have already occurred three times in the USA throughout 2021, with incidents in Texas, California, and Wisconsin.

It is also important to examine the risk someone from the public may play in an active shooter situation at your worksite. In fact, FBI data between 2000-2018 shows that 43% of all active shooter scenarios occur in places of business or commerce. That number grows to 80% if healthcare and education are included. This means that in 80% of all active shooter scenarios, an employee at work is likely at risk.

Advice for Clients

Preparation and Prevention

Preparation is the key to both prevention and a good response to a scenario involving a violent intruder in the worksite. The following basic proactive measures are recommended to all employers:

  • Monitoring and restricting site access of employees, visitors, contractors, and the general public.
  • Conduct employee screening and background checks.
  • Create a system for signs of violent behavior and make counseling available to employees.
  • Ensure the facility has appropriate egress routes and physical security systems.
  • Train all employees on how to respond during a violent intruder scenario (see below).
  • Train supervisors and managers on predictive signs of violent behavior including
    • Increased use of alcohol and/or illegal drugs
    • Unexplained increase in absenteeism; vague physical complaints
    • Noticeable decrease in attention to appearance and hygiene
    • Depression/withdrawal
    • Resistance and overreaction to changes in policy and procedures
    • Repeated violations of company policies
    • Increased severe mood swings
    • Explosive outbursts of anger or rage without provocation
    • Behavior, which is suspect of paranoia (“everybody is against me”)
    • Increasingly talks of problems at home
    • Escalation of domestic problems into the workplace; talk of severe financial problems
    • Talk of previous incidents of violence
    • Empathy with individuals committing violence
    • Increase in unsolicited comments about firearms, other dangerous weapons, and violent crimes

Crisis Response

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation both recommend that employers train employees on the appropriate responses to an active shooter. The Run, Hide, Fight response is a common strategy deployed in active shooter situations in the workplace or elsewhere.

Police should be called as quickly as possible. The individual calling the police should try to note the following information:

  • Description and last known location of the shooter
  • Number of perpetrators if more than one
  • Information about any known victims or injuries


During a violent intruder crisis, individuals should try their best to remain calm and make smart, calculated decisions. As soon as it is safe to do so, employees should evacuate through their nearest exit and put as much distance as possible between themselves and the intruder. If possible, alert and assist other employees while exiting. It is important to commit to your actions, not hesitate, and trust your instincts. Evacuating to a safe location and alerting law enforcement by calling 911 is the best-case scenario in any active shooter event.


If it is not safe to evacuate, employees should try to hide or barricade themselves in a secure location away from the perpetrator. Active lockdown measures include:

  • Lock doors and windows and close the blinds.
  • Push heavy furniture in front of the door.
  • Stand behind large objects if available and stay low to the ground away from any windows.
  • Turn off lights and equipment and make as little noise as possible once in a secure location.
  • Do NOT answer the door or leave the lockdown until an all-clear has been issued by police or a safe evacuation opportunity exists.


As a last resort, confrontation with the shooter may be necessary if employees find themselves trapped in an area with the threatening individual. Actions should be taken to disrupt or incapacitate the intruder to allow a safe escape. Remember that the primary goal should always be to run from the encounter as soon as it is safe to do so. Aggressive confrontation of the intruder should only occur if your life is in imminent danger. DHS recommendations for the confrontation of an active shooter include:

  • Throw objects with intent to disrupt and allow for escape from the scene.
  • Improvising weapons with objects available in the room.
  • Using teamwork to overwhelm and incapacitate the intruder until police arrive.

*Note that this is an absolute LAST RESORT

  • Act with conviction and do not hesitate. Be decisive in your actions.

For more information on the FBI’s Run, Hide, Fight response, watch the video here.


OSHA Inspections – The General Duty Clause

While you may be familiar with OSHA inspections that result in violations of 29 CFR 1910, 1926, 1904, etc., have you experienced a citation that references the General Duty Clause? Section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act of 1970 is commonly known as the General Duty Clause. It states, in part: “(a) Each employer — (1) shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.”

The General Duty Clause has an important role despite being infrequently cited in laws governing the occupational health and safety of workers in the United States. Estimates run that less than 2% of citations issued by OSHA each year are General Duty Clause related. One review found that the highest number of General Duty citations occurred in 1979 and comprised 2.7% of total citations for that year.

It is not difficult to understand why General Duty Clause violations make up a relatively small percentage of citations. Essentially, it comes down to four criteria points that OSHA must be able to demonstrate and prove for a General Duty Clause citation to be issued:

  1. The employer failed to keep the workplace free of a hazard to which employees of that employer were exposed;
  2. The hazard was recognized;
  3. The hazard was causing or was likely to cause death or serious physical harm; and
  4. There was a feasible and useful method to correct the hazard.

However, the importance and usefulness of the General Duty Clause can be seen from the types of violations it is used to enforce by OSHA. General Duty Clause violations are typically found when an incident occurs where employees are injured or likely would be injured from workplace conditions not covered by an already-established OSHA standard, but where guidance can be found from various other sources: consensus standards, industry-specific recognized practices, manufacturer’s recommendations of safe use of their products, or other state, local, and federal laws, etc. The more commonly found conditions that fall under possible General Duty Clause violations are:

  • Ergonomics and musculoskeletal disorders
  • Exposure to respiratory hazards not covered by a federal OSHA permissible exposure limit (but recognized through NIOSH, ACGIH, state OSHA, etc.)
  • Failing to anchor or secure industrial racking
  • Heat/cold-related injuries (heat stress, frostbite, etc.)
  • Equipment inspection and user trainings not conducted
  • Workplace violence
  • Pandemic and other infectious disease-related exposures (COVID-19)

While not every injury or unsafe condition is applicable to a General Duty Clause violation, OSHA inspectors can use them to correct conditions at a worksite that otherwise would not be enforceable through a direct standard. Knowing that these means are available to OSHA should incentivize employers to understand their obligation to provide a safe workplace for all employees.

DOT HazMat – Understanding Training Needs in Manufacturing

Transporting hazardous materials requires care, attention, and specific training certified by the Department of Transportation (DOT). It’s essential that employers understand what qualifies as a hazardous material and what this means for their employee training requirements.

Am I a Department of Transportation Hazardous Materials Employer?

If you are unsure whether your business is classified as such, you may be putting the public and environment at risk. What’s more, you could be exposing your business to significant fines. Hazardous materials employers are required to ensure that all employees performing DOT hazmat functions complete DOT hazmat training at least on a triennial basis as required by 49 CFR 172.704. Failure to provide DOT hazmat training is the only DOT hazmat regulation that carries a mandatory minimum penalty, which as of May 3, 2021, is $508 per employee per day. That may not seem like a significant amount at first glance but let’s take a look at how easily that penalty can add up.

Our hypothetical scenario is a painting business that creates small amounts of hazardous waste. There are four painters in total that add a flammable hazardous waste to a drum that is picked up for disposal by a third-party hazardous waste hauler every few months. All hazardous raw materials are received in limited quantities that do not trigger hazmat employer applicability. And so, there has been an incorrect assumption that these regulatory requirements do not apply since the waste is being picked up by a reputable company that has never mentioned anything about training requirements.

The truck carrying the waste is subjected to a DOT inspection while your load is on the truck. Due to some minor paperwork inconsistencies, this leads the DOT compliance officer to visit your plant. The compliance officer requests copies of your hazardous waste manifests, which are required to be maintained for at least three years, as well as the training records for the four painters that add hazardous waste to the waste drum. The manifests are provided as requested, but training for the painters has not been completed.

We now have a documented record of a business shipping hazardous waste for three years with four untrained painters adding hazardous waste into the drum. The penalty of $508 per employee per day times 1,095 days with 4 employees could be up to $2,225,040. Now that you have a better idea of how easily the fines can increase, let’s discuss what the DOT considers to be a hazardous material and which activities performed by your employees will classify your business as a DOT hazmat employer.

What is a Department of Transportation Hazardous Material?

The Department of Transportation defines a hazardous material as a substance or material that the Secretary of Transportation has determined is capable of posing an unreasonable risk to health, safety, and property when transported in commerce and has been so designated. This includes materials designated as hazardous in the Hazardous Materials Table (49 CFR 172.101), as well as hazardous substances, hazardous wastes, marine pollutants, and elevated temperature materials.

A hazardous substance is a material, including its mixtures or solutions, that is listed in Appendix A to 49 CFR 172.101, and is in a quantity, in one package, that equals or exceeds the reportable quantity listed in Appendix A. These are extremely hazardous substances that will require a report to be filed with the Environmental Protection Agency if the release of just one container were to occur.

A hazardous waste is any material that is subject to the Hazardous Waste Manifest Requirements of the Environmental Protection Agency specified in 40 CFR part 262. This includes flammable or ignitable wastes, corrosive wastes, reactive wastes, and toxic wastes.

A marine pollutant is a material that is listed in Appendix B to §172.101 of this subchapter (also see §171.4) and, when in a solution or mixture of one or more marine pollutants, is packaged in a concentration that equals or exceeds:

  1. Ten percent by weight of the solution or mixture for materials listed in the appendix; or
  2. One percent by weight of the solution or mixture for materials that are identified as severe marine pollutants in the appendix.

Marine pollutants transported by water, in any size packaging, are subject to all the applicable requirements. Whereas marine pollutants transported by highway, rail, or air are subject to the requirements only when transported in BULK packaging.

An elevated temperature material indicates a material that, when offered for transportation or transported in a bulk packaging:

  1. Is in a liquid phase and at a temperature at or above 100°C (212°F);
  2. Is in a liquid phase with a flashpoint at or above 38°C (100°F) that is intentionally heated and offered for transportation or transported at or above its flash point; or
  3. Is in a solid phase and at a temperature at or above 240°C (464°F).


What Operational Activities Will Classify My Business as a HazMat Employer?

A DOT hazmat employer is a business whose employees directly affect the safety of hazardous materials transportation. DOT hazmat training is required for all employees who perform any of the following DOT hazmat tasks:

  • Loads, unloads, or handles hazardous materials.
  • Designs, manufactures, fabricates, inspects, marks, maintains, reconditions, repairs, or tests a package, container, or packaging component that is represented, marked, certified, or sold as qualified for use in transporting hazardous material in commerce.
  • Prepares hazardous materials for transportation:
    • Determining the hazard class of a hazardous material.
    • Selecting a hazardous materials packaging.
    • Filling a hazardous materials packaging, including a bulk packaging.
    • Securing a closure on a filled or partially filled hazardous materials package or container or on a package or container containing a residue of a hazardous material.
    • Marking or labeling a package to indicate that it contains a hazardous material.
    • Preparing a shipping paper.
    • Providing and maintaining emergency response information.
    • Reviewing a shipping paper to verify compliance with the HMR (Hazardous Material Regulations) or international equivalents.
    • For each person importing a hazardous material into the United States, providing the shipper with timely and complete information as to the hazardous materials regulation requirements that will apply to the transportation of the material within the United States.
    • Certifying that a hazardous material is in proper condition for transportation in conformance with the requirements of the HMR.
    • Loading, blocking, and bracing a hazmat package in a freight container or transport vehicle.
    • Segregating a hazmat package in a freight container or transport vehicle from incompatible cargo.
    • Selecting, providing, or affixing placards for a freight container or transport vehicle to indicate that it contains a hazardous material.
  • Is responsible for the safety of transporting hazardous materials.
  • Operates a vehicle used to transport hazardous materials.


What to Do if You Discover Opportunity Areas

U.S. Compliance can help to reduce your risk if you identify gaps when it comes to your DOT hazmat training obligations. Whether it be through on-site training, or our bi-monthly webinar training, we offer a variety of solutions to train your staff on DOT hazmat regulations. This training will help keep you up to date and in compliance. Contact U.S. Compliance today to discover how we can help!


Temporary Workers – Preparing Your Company When Bringing in Additional Help

Hiring temporary workers has increased more than ever in today’s work environment. This can create many opportunities for staffing agencies and host employers looking to hire workers in the future. Is your company prepared to work with staffing agencies? Do you have the correct information in place when hiring a temporary employee? When a temporary employee gets hired at your company, do you know what you need to provide and what the staffing agency provides? These are just a few of the questions you need to ask yourself before hiring temporary workers.

Having good communication is key in many different aspects of business. When working with a staffing agency, this can sometimes be overlooked and forgotten until an accident happens and it’s too late.

Utilizing temporary workers, training records, emergency action planning, and personal protective equipment are things that host employers and staffing agencies need to communicate. When working with a staffing agency and a host employer, having effective communication with clear direction is very important. Creating a contractual agreement with specific safety requirements and conditions between the staffing agency and host employer is sometimes overlooked, leading to host employers not knowing what they are supposed to have when the temporary worker shows up at their facility.

Contract Agreements

When working with a staffing agency, many things need to be communicated before bringing in temporary workers. Some of the most important things to map out in the contract are employee training and emergency action planning.


Temporary agencies typically provide some awareness training to their employees before sending them to a host employer. They are usually trained with a high-level overview of the type of work they will be performing or sometimes, just the job description is reviewed with them. Is that training accurate to the line of work your company does? Are there other key aspects like hazard communication or personal protective equipment that need to be covered with them before hiring? It is crucial that the host employer provides the staffing agency with an updated job description or job hazard assessment for the type of work that the temporary worker will perform.

Another area that needs to be reviewed is temporary worker training. This is something that often gets overlooked in the contract, and sometimes records are never provided. As a host employer, these records need to be available. If OSHA were to show up and request records for all employee training, not having training completed for temporary workers can lead to citations for the host employer and potentially the staffing agency if proof of training is not available.

When bringing on additional help from staffing agencies, be sure to have job hazard assessments (JHA) available to train the employees coming in for that job. These can also be shared with the staffing agency to help them recruit and train potential employees. The more training and overview that the employees have before arriving at a host employer, the better, as this can help prepare them for what type of work they will be completing. This can also help reduce employee turnover, recruiting, and time spent training employees when they show up for work. This will allow for more of an impactful hands-on training experience.

Emergency Action Plan

When it comes to worker safety, planning for an emergency is always at the top of the list, so this shouldn’t be any different for a temporary worker. The directions for dealing with a full-time employee and a temporary employee injury are very different, however. There needs to be clear directions for who the host employer is to contact at the staffing agency if the temporary worker is hurt, what clinic or care provider they are to seek, and that the temporary employee has as a 24-hour contact person. Facilities that hire temporary workers sometimes skip past a few of these important items and can find themselves in a predicament when dealing with workers’ compensation claims and contract issues.

Another key area when dealing with staffing agencies is determining whose OSHA 300 log a recordable injury at a host employer’s facility will go on. This can be determined by who is directing the means and manner of work.

If a host employer hires a supervisor from the staffing agency to direct other temporary workers of a certain process/area, the injury will fall on the staffing agency’s OSHA log. The staffing agency supervisor is directing the means of work in that area and this would be considered the staffing agency’s work even though it is performed at the host employer’s facility. If a temporary worker gets hurt on the job and the host employer is directing the work, the injury will fall on the host employer’s OSHA log. Even though the injuries can fall on either the staffing agency or the host employer, workers’ compensation will be covered for the temporary worker by the staffing agency in both instances.

In closing, when working with a staffing agency, it is very important to have clear communication and a solid understanding of who is responsible for what. When employees start work with a host employer, be sure that they have the right tools to come to work prepared. Having effective communication and correspondence with the staffing agency will ensure that all employees remain safe while on the job.

Injury Management 101

Injury management is an important part of any facility’s safety management program. Facilities should have a plan to prevent injuries from happening, as well as a plan to handle the effects of an injury on the facility and employee. Injury Management can be broken down into three portions: (1) Ways to prevent injuries from occurring, (2) mitigating the effects of an injury on the business, and (3) returning the employee to work as soon as possible. When a facility implements programs and takes the steps to minimize the effects of an injury, it can reduce the total cost and impact of the injury.

Costs of injuries can be broken down into two categories, direct and indirect costs. Direct costs of an injury are the costs that are directly associated with the injury, such as medical treatment, medicine, or physical therapy. Meanwhile, indirect costs are costs that are sometimes forgotten, such as a loss of productivity, equipment damage, retraining employees, or overtime. Indirect costs can often be more expensive than the direct costs of an injury—sometimes up to 10 times that of the direct costs. Implementing injury prevention and return to work programs can help a facility reduce the overall costs associated with workplace injuries.

Ways to Prevent Workplace Injuries From Occurring

Injury and Illness Prevention Programs

Injury and Illness Prevention (I2P2) Programs are a preventative approach to reducing workplace injuries by identifying and controlling hazards prior to injuries occurring. I2P2 programs incorporate effective injury prevention methods such as employee-run safety committees, employee safety observation/reporting opportunities, and near miss reporting. Implementation of these programs engages employees in the safety program and gives them the opportunity to participate in identifying and correcting potential safety issues. This allows for the facility to apply the necessary controls to the hazards identified prior to any injury occurring. Not only can the implementation of an I2P2 program help to reduce injuries, but it can also help to develop or improve the overall safety culture of the facility.

Job Hazard Assessments

Job Hazard Assessments (JHAs) are a method to identify and control hazards before injuries occur. JHAs are a required part of a facility’s injury prevention program. A JHA takes a detailed look at the steps required for completing an employee task while assessing it for hazards (i.e., mechanical hazards, struck-by hazards, chemical hazards, etc.). Once the hazards associated with the task are identified, then controls for each task must be implemented. This process can help to identify and control hazards associated with employee tasks to prevent injuries from occurring.

Mitigating the Effects of Workplace Injuries on the Facility

Injury Investigation

Once a workplace injury occurs, we must be prepared and know what to do next. The first step should always involve getting the injured employee the assistance they need while ensuring other employees’ safety. The next step is to complete a thorough injury investigation. Generally, the supervisor of the area where the incident occurred will lead the investigation with assistance from witnesses, the injured employee, or the safety manager. The employees involved in the incident investigation may differ depending on the severity or complexity of the incident. More complicated incidents may require collaboration from multiple departments to determine the cause. When conducting an injury investigation, it is important to identify the true root cause of the injury. Once the root cause of the injury is identified, then corrective actions must be implemented. The goal of the corrective actions should be to ensure that the same type of injury will not happen again.

Return to Work Program

Implementation of a return to work program can help to manage an employee injury and reduce the impact of the indirect costs associated with the injury. After an injury occurs, the goal should be to get the injured employee back to work as soon as possible, even if they must participate in light-duty work. Participating in light-duty work can reduce some of the indirect costs incurred by the facility and keep the employee at work on active duty rather than at home.

Steps to developing a return to work program:

  1. Analyze historical loss data:
    Review of OSHA 300 logs or injury reports to help identify injury trends or patterns in areas that may need additional controls.
  2. Develop written job descriptions:
    Simply written statements that describe the work to be performed and the essential requirements of the job. Job descriptions should include information such as tasks of the job, physical demands, environmental demands, training/educational requirements. Written job descriptions can help with planning production processes.
  3. Develop transitional jobs:
    Review tasks within the facility that could be considered as transitional duty options: data entry, cleaning, inventory controls, etc. Once the transitional duties are selected, job descriptions must be written for these tasks as well. The written transitional job descriptions can be compared to employees’ restrictions to determine if transitional work is a viable option.
  4. Select a “preferred provider” for medical treatment:
    Facilities should identify and establish relationships with medical providers that employees would visit for work-related injuries. The “preferred provider” chosen should specialize in industrial injuries and understand the type of work completed. The facility should work with the preferred provider to ensure that they understand the basic requirements of the jobs at the facility and the transitional jobs available. The preferred provider can also be invited to tour the facility to better understand the job descriptions.
  5. Ensure effective communication with the physician:
    Clear and effective communication with the providing physician after a work-related injury is imperative. The facility will need to ensure that the physician has provided a diagnosis of the injury and a detailed description of the limitations of the injured employee. Communication is also important after all follow-up visits to determine any possible changes to employees’ restrictions.

Injury management is an essential process in reducing the effect of workplace injuries on a business. Implementing I2P2 programs and return to work programs can greatly reduce the cost and impact of work-related injuries.

Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plans (SWPPPs): Keeping Your Plan Compliant

If your facility performs industrial activities outside or has outdoor storage, there is a good possibility that you are applicable to general industrial stormwater permitting. Whether you are familiar with the requirements of your industrial stormwater permit or are looking to apply for permit coverage for the first time, all general industrial stormwater permittees are required to develop a stormwater pollution prevention plan, or SWPPP as it is commonly known. This plan outlines important details about your facility and how your facility intends to comply with your stormwater permitting requirements.

Your SWPPP and its supporting documents are some of the first things that inspectors will look at when assessing your facility for compliance. It is crucial to make sure that your SWPPP meets all regulatory requirements and stays up to date. Whether you are developing your first SWPPP or reviewing your current one, below are some items you don’t want to miss including.

Common SWPPP Requirements

Pollution Prevention Team

First and foremost, your SWPPP needs to identify who at your facility will be responsible for both developing the SWPPP and carrying out the requirements of your stormwater permit. Their responsibilities include, but are not limited to, completing inspections and sampling, conducting corrective actions when permit non-compliance occurs and updating the SWPPP when changes occur onsite.

Assessment of Onsite Storage and Activities

All SWPPPs need to identify what industrial activities at your facility have the potential to impact stormwater. The EPA defines industrial materials or activities that need to be considered under 40 CFR 122.26(g). These include activities such as:

  • Material handling equipment or activities (including the storage, loading and unloading, transportation, disposal, or conveyance of any raw material, intermediate product, final product, or waste product);
  • Industrial machinery;
  • Storage and handling of raw materials;
  • Industrial production and processes; and
  • Intermediate products, by-products, final products, and waste products.

Make sure that you are considering all of your outdoor activities and storage when making this list. Everything from occasional equipment maintenance to exhaust stacks from processing areas, and something as simple as uncovered dumpsters to loading and unloading practices should be listed in your SWPPP.

Once you have identified your industrial activities and materials that take place in outdoor areas exposed to stormwater runoff, you will also need to identify what potential pollutants are associated with each. For example, a fueling station onsite would have the potential to pollute stormwater with oil and grease. Similarly, a scrap metal dumpster has the potential to pollute stormwater with various metals. Even mostly finished goods could have residual oils and chemicals on them, which have the potential to pollute stormwater.

Control Measures for Potential Pollutants

Once your industrial activities and their potential to pollute are identified, you will need to identify control measures, or best management practices (BMPs), to prevent or reduce the discharge of pollutants in stormwater. The SWPPP provides a place to outline what site-specific control measures are implemented at your facility. Below are some examples of control measures that should be addressed in your SWPPP.

  • Minimize Exposure – Anything done onsite that helps minimize the exposure of your materials to stormwater should be documented in your SWPPP. This could be finding space indoors or offsite for material previously stored outside, or covering materials with awnings or tarps to minimize exposure to runoff.
  • Good Housekeeping – The frequency and description of good housekeeping practices implemented at your facility should be covered in your SWPPP. This can be as simple as noting the frequency of trash pickups to prevent overflow or committing to keeping outdoor storage areas debris-free. Finally, include employee training on the importance of cleaning up any mishandled materials immediately to prevent them from being washed offsite during the next rain event.
  • Maintenance – Make sure maintenance programs for any outdoor industrial equipment and/or systems are referenced or outlined in your SWPPP. Most permits also require a preventative maintenance log to note when this maintenance takes place.
  • Spill Prevention and Response Procedures – Identify measures implemented onsite to minimize the potential for spills, leaks, and any other releases from material stored outdoors, or even near doorways in your building. If you have other spill plans at your facility, be sure to reference them in your SWPPP.

Consult your permit for all mandatory control measures that should be addressed in your SWPPP.

Site Maps

As you’re identifying your materials and activities stored outside, you will want to note their location for your site map. All SWPPPs include a site map that outlines where industrial materials and activities are located throughout the property. It identifies stormwater runoff features, such as the direction of flow, storm drains, and final outfalls where stormwater leaves your property. The map should be used as your road map during facility inspections. Your permit will typically list in detail what items are required for your site map. Be sure to check that list thoroughly to make sure an inspector doesn’t catch something you missed.

Sector Requirements

Not all industries will have the same industrial activities and potential pollutants onsite. The federal general stormwater permit and many state permits list additional permit requirements for different sectors of industry listed in the permit. These sectors will outline stormwater sampling specific to your industry, additional common industrial materials or activities that need to be added to your SWPPP and site map, and even additional inspection or reporting requirements. Do not forget to add these requirements to your SWPPP and follow them throughout the term of your permit.

Permit Requirements

One of the most important parts of your SWPPP is outlining the procedures you have in place to comply with your permit requirements. This typically includes, but is not limited to:

  • routine facility inspections,
  • quarterly visual assessments,
  • reporting,
  • analytical sampling, and
  • corrective action reports.

These tools help you determine if your control measures are working to minimize pollutants, give you an opportunity to review your SWPPP, and make sure that all other areas are in compliance with your permit. Most permits require at least three years of these records to be kept onsite and will definitely be reviewed should your facility be inspected.

Updating Your SWPPP

It is important to remember that your SWPPP is a living document. It should reflect any changes in personnel, outdoor storage, best management practices, and stormwater discharge from your facility throughout the term of your permit. If your SWPPP is not up to date, it could result in corrective actions or even a violation. Below are common triggers for updating your SWPPP.

Changes to Storage

If there are any major changes to outdoor storage or the industrial activities taking place at your facility, these need to be added to your SWPPP. The addition of new material needs to not only include a description of the material, but also a consideration of how that material or activity could potentially pollute stormwater and what BMPs should be implemented to minimize those pollutants.

Corrective Actions

Certain problems discovered during visual or routine site inspections, or the exceedance of your benchmark limits after an analytical sample, can trigger corrective actions. Sometimes this includes extra inspections that must be conducted and filed in your SWPPP, or even submitted to your permitting authority. If, as a result of corrective actions, you make updates to your best management practices or onsite storage, you will want to be sure to update your SWPPP with those changes.

Changes to personnel

It is important that your pollution prevention team and spill emergency contacts are up to date. If your main SWPPP contact changes, there is also a good possibility that an official change form will need to be submitted to your permitting authority. You don’t want to miss reporting reminders, inspection requests, or any other items sent by the permitting authority to an out-of-date site contact. This can lead to surprise inspections or missed violations if communications from your permitting authority are not reaching your pollution prevention team members.

Permit Renewal

And finally, while most permit renewals do not require a complete rewrite of your facility’s SWPPP, you will certainly be responsible for reviewing the new permit and updating your SWPPP with any new requirements. Below are general permits expiring in 2021 alone:

  • Michigan
  • Wisconsin
  • North Carolina
  • Louisiana
  • Nebraska
  • Texas
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina
  • Connecticut
  • Kansas
  • Main
  • Utah (Group 4)

If you need help putting together your SWPPP or any of its components, contact U.S. Compliance. Our team assists hundreds of facilities with health, safety, and environmental compliance and can help you put together an effective plan.