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EHS INSIDER

Archived Article
 

FURNITURE AND FIXTURES MANUFACTURING INDUSTRY

WORKER SAFETY AND HEALTH IS A PRIORITY FOR MIOSHA IN THIS INDUSTRY
WHICH REPORTS AN INJURY & ILLNESS RATE OF 16.1

The second MIOSHA strategic plan, for Fiscal Years 2003 through 2008, continues to focus program resources toward specific industries and types of injuries and illnesses. The goal is to reduce injury and illness rates in the targeted areas by 20 percent by the end of the plan.

The Furniture and Fixture industry, SIC 25/NAICS 337, is one of the industries identified in the plan. In Michigan, it is estimated that nearly 45,000 people work in the furniture and fixture industry at more than 425 establishments, which includes both wood and metal products. The work performed by this industry is labor intensive and includes cutting, assembling, sanding and finishing, painting and upholstering. The 2000 Michigan survey of occupational injuries and illnesses reports the total injury and illness case rate for the industry is 16.1, the fourth highest in the state.

Michigan's reputation as a producer of high quality furniture and fixtures goes back many decades and includes household furniture, mattresses, cabinets, and office and store furniture and fixtures. "Made in Michigan" has long meant made with excellent workmanship, pride and quality. It is also critical that it mean made with the well-being of employees as a top priority.

Furniture Industry Inspections

Looking back five years, MIOSHA has conducted more than 150 inspections in the furniture and fixtures industry, citing 1,454 violations and assessing over $316,300 in penalties. Of the violations cited, there have been two Willful, 658 Serious, 781 Other, and 10 Repeat violations and three Fail-to-Abate notices. A "repeat" means the same rule was cited within the past two years.

The MIOSHA investigations have included reviewing accidents where employees have been seriously injured, such as the following examples:

  • A general laborer, with four months experience in the woodshop, was operating a shaper to round the corner of a mouse pad when he came in contact with the shaper receiving a severe cut to his right hand little finger. The employer was cited for failing to train a new employee on the procedures, hazards, and safeguards of the job, and failing to provide a guard for the shaper.
  • A press operator, with four months of experience on the job, had the fingers of his left hand amputated while performing a bending operation using a press brake. The company was cited for inadequately checking the pull out device used as the point of operation guard on the press brake.

These accidents are examples of the hazards faced by workers in the furniture and fixture industry, and the need for diligent attention to ensure worker safety. Below are the most frequently identified MIOSHA violations during the past five years.

Machine Guarding

A variety of rules addressing machine guarding were identified during MIOSHA safety inspections, making this the most significant hazard category. Approximately 290 machine guarding violations have been cited including those contained in General Industry Safety Standards Part 1, General Provisions; Part 1A, Abrasive Wheels; Part 7, Guards for Power Transmission; Part 11, Polishing, Buffing, and Abrading; Part 26, Metalworking Machinery; Part 27, Woodworking Machinery; and Part 24, Mechanical Power Presses. Lack of adequate point of operation guarding, unguarded pinch points, saws, grinding wheels, belts and pulleys, chains and sprockets, and rotating and reciprocating parts are the most frequently identified inadequacies.

Generally, machines that run continuously and present a hazard to employees at the point of operation are required to be fully safeguarded in a manner that prevents the entry of any part of an employee's body into the hazard zone during machine cycling.

General requirements also include guarding pinch points which occur when an employee can become caught between moving parts of a machine, between moving and stationary parts, or between material and any part of the machine. Pinch points must be guarded so that employees are not exposed.

Belts and pulleys must be guarded when located within seven feet from the floor or when located over a passageway. Gears, sprockets, chain drives, revolving and reciprocating parts must be guarded when exposed to contact.

Electrical Safety

Electrical safety issues were cited more than 220 times at furniture and fixture establishments. The need to guard live parts of electrical equipment operating at 50 volts or more against accidental activation was the most commonly cited deficiency. This includes doors of electrical panels left open, and unused openings in electrical panels not covered. The second most frequently cited electrical issue was the need to assure that unused openings in cabinets, boxes and fittings are effectively closed.

Hazard Communication-Employee Right to Know

The most frequently cited provision of the Hazard Communication standard was the requirement that each container of hazardous chemical in the workplace be labeled, tagged or marked with the identity and appropriate hazards warning.

The second most frequent issue was the need for a written Right to Know program. Often a program is found to exist, but to have inadequacies such as a missing or incomplete chemical list due to a change in products. Another program inadequacy occurs when the person designated as responsible for the program changes, but the program is not updated.

Also cited frequently was the Michigan-specific requirement that pipes and piping systems that contain a hazardous chemical be identified through use of a label, sign, placard, written operating instruction, process sheet, batch ticket or other substance identification system.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Lack of proper personal protective equipment or inadequate equipment was the fourth most frequently cited standard for the industry. The hazards of each type of job in a facility must be analyzed to determine the need and type of appropriate personal protective equipment.

Some furniture and fixture workplaces have significant need for face and eye protection due to work activities such as cutting, sanding, finishing and polishing. Lack of appropriate eye protection was the number one PPE issue. Attention must also be given to ensure that new employees are trained on the hazards, duties, and safeguards of the job prior to initial assignment.

Lockout-Tagout

The number one rule violation identified has been the lack of or deficiencies in lockout-tagout procedures. Equipment and machinery must be locked out when employees are performing servicing or maintenance work in which the unexpected energization or startup of the machines or equipment, or a release of stored energy, could cause injury to employees.

The provisions of the lockout-tagout standard apply when any of the following situations exist:

  • An employee must either remove or bypass machine guards or other safety devices, resulting in exposure to hazards at the point of operation.
  • An employee is required to place any part of his or her body in contact with the point of operation of the machine or piece of equipment; or
  • An employee is required to place any part of his or her body into a danger zone associated with a machine operating cycle.

Walking and Working Surfaces

Deficiencies in General Industry Safety Standard, Part 2, Floor and Wall Openings, Stairways, and Skylights requirements were cited more than 70 times. Most frequently identified was the need to guard an open-sided floor or platform four feet or more above an adjacent level with a properly constructed standard barrier. The need to guard holes, openings and hatchways of floors and to provide an appropriate means to gain access to another elevation in excess of 16 inches were also frequently identified.

Spray Finishing

Requirements for worker safety while performing spray finishing and dip tank operations has been a frequently cited area. Most frequently identified was the need to provide an effective bond and ground when flammable or combustible liquids are transferred from one container to another. In addition, lack of training for employees assigned to perform spray finishing was also frequently identified.

Requirements for spraying areas were a concern with the need to maintain areas to avoid accumulations of deposits of combustible residues, which can create a hazard. Additionally, approved metal waste cans must be used for rags or waste impregnated with spray finishing materials and must be properly disposed of at least daily.

Powered Industrial Trucks

Operators of powered industrial trucks must be selected, trained and licensed by the employer following the requirements of the standard. Lack of a valid operator permit is the most often identified deficiency. A second frequently identified deficiency has been the lack of wheel chocks. A highway truck and trailer must have the brakes set and not less than two rear wheels blocked or be restrained by other mechanical means installed in a manner that will hold the trailer from movement when being boarded by a powered industrial truck.

Fire Exits

Lack of fire exit signs, blocked exits, and failing to prevent fire doors from being secured in an open position were the most frequently identified issues related to requirements for means of egress for employee use in the advent of hazardous conditions such as fire, explosions, and natural disasters.

Welding and Cutting

Lack of providing protective devices to protect all employees in a welding area was the most frequently identified welding and cutting safety issue. Also frequently identified was the need to post welding gas cylinder storage areas with the name of the gas and a warning against tampering by an unauthorized employee, and ensuring that welding gas cylinders are restrained to prevent them from falling.

Confined Spaces

Most frequently identified was the need to evaluate the work place to determine if any spaces are permit-required.

Ergonomic Issues

In addition to the above, ergonomics is a major concern for this industry. Employers are encouraged to conduct an assessment to identify jobs or work conditions that may cause undue strain, localized fatigue, discomfort or pain. Job tasks that involve activities such as repetitive and forceful exertions, frequent heavy or overhead lifts, awkward work positions, or use of vibrating equipment should be evaluated for possible ergonomic problems.

It is recommended that engineering controls be used when possible to reduce or eliminate hazards. Ergonomically designed hand tools, workstations, and material lifting devices can help eliminate hazards. Designing work areas that do not require employees to work in awkward positions, use repetitive movements or forceful exertions can reduce the risk of cumulative trauma and musculoskeletal disorders.

Safety and Health Management System

Employers are encouraged to analyze their workplace to develop and adopt a comprehensive safety and health management system. Several studies, including one in Michigan, have documented the critical difference these systems make between employers with high injury rates and those with low rates.

Furniture & Fixtures Equipment
(SIC 25, NAICS 337)
Top Ten Rules Cited By
MIOSHA
(October 1999 - September 2004)

  1. 408.10727(l) Provide guard for belt and pulley seven feet or less above floor or platform.
  2. 1910.147(c)(4)(i) Develop document and utilize lockout procedures.
  3. 408.10034(9) Guard pinch point or other- wise protect the employee exposed to contact.
  4. 4081.036(l) Assure that air pressure at discharge end of portable air blow gun or hose be less that 30 P.S.I.G. when dead ended.
  5. 40812154(l) Provide valid operator permit for powered industrial truck operators.
  6. 408.3312(l) Assure sue of appropriate eye protection.
  7. 1910.303(g)(2)(i) Assure that live parts of electric equipment operating at 50 volts or more are guarded against accidental contact.
  8. 1910.305(b)(l) Assure that unused openings in electrical cabinets, boxes and fittings are effectively closed.
  9. 1910.1200(f)(5) Label containers of hazardous material.
  10. 1910.305(g)(l)(iii) Prohibit use of flexible electrical cords and cables as a substitute for fixed wiring of a structure.

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