Depending on what kind of workplace you work in, the chances are there is at least one safety sign placed somewhere on the premises. Because there are tons of things that can go wrong at work. And although a steelworker and an office clerk face different potential dangers at work, both employers have to ensure they’re safe and secure in that environment.
This is where OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration) and safety inspectors enter the game. And as we’ve seen in Bored Panda’s previous features about OSHA that you can check out here, here and here, their game is on the next level.
As you can suspect, not everything the safety instructors see while on duty puts a smile on their faces. Often, it’s on the contrary. So in order to find out what craziness they have to deal with at workplaces that put safety at the bottom of their priorities, we looked at these two viral threads (this and this) where inspectors and OSHA employees share the worst things they have seen.
Below, we wrapped up the most eyebrow-raising stories, so pull your seat closer.
I worked in a lab doing cytomegalovirus research. One day we had workers in replacing the lights and one said ‘wow- I always thought those shower things were real!’ Pointing at one of the emergency showers in the lab. These are for heavy duty chemical spills where you run under the shower and pull a handle to decontaminate. Turns out ours were just the shower heads in the ceiling not connected to any water. We used extremely dangerous chemicals every day. We got the showers hooked up pretty quickly after that.
Bored Panda reached out to Dr. Audrey Tang, a chartered psychologist, media spokesperson and author of multiple books, including “Be A Great Manager Now”, “The Leader’s Guide to Mindfulness,” and “The Leader’s Guide to Resilience,” who happily shared some insights into health and safety at work with our readers.
Dr. Tang argues that “we need to be clear that we are not talking about breaches that are completely illegal, as the laws of the country will deal with that (although in my experience delivering Fire Safety Training, there are still things such as smoke alarms being covered, missing fire extinguishers, and fire doors being propped open, which do occur).”
I’m not a safety inspector but this came to mind…. I am an electrician in Las Vegas. One jobsite I was on was the remodel of the hotel tower at Caesars Palace. We started at the bottom floor and worked our way up the tower one floor a week for a year. It was horrible air conditions, major demolition, massive dust(because the hotel windows in Vegas don’t open in order to keep people from jumping out), they rely on exhaust fans to circulate air but don’t run the fans for the subhuman construction workers like myself.
Then after almost a year, coughing and gagging when we were on the VERY LAST FLOOR(level 44) a team of men showed up in hazmat suits and shut the job down. Appearently all of the sparkly dust we were breathing everyday was almost entirely asbestos. FML
I taught skydivers to be tandem instructors. One dropzone bought a new type of tandem rig and faked their training… management had them lie about it to me and another examiner. Chief instructor’s excuse: “They’re all the same anyway.” He had a malfunction caused by his not knowing how the rig worked, and his poor paying first-time passenger had no idea the danger this arrogant prick put him through. The worst thing was the training was free! Seriously, WTF…
Not the OSHA guy, but it happened in the plant I was working in. Idiot is told by junior manager to clean the floor after a chemical spill (I don’t recall what it was for certain, but we used a LOT of industrial adhesives, so maybe that). Idiot ignores all his safety training, and the entire closet full of cleaning gear, and decides to clean the spill with acetone. And a steel wire brush.
It wasn’t so much of an explosion as a deep “whumph” sound that sucked most of the air out of the room. He was horribly burned. His clothes melted into his skin. 3rd degree burns covered his body. Incredibly, he was still alive when the Fire and Paramedics got there. He opened his eyes, asked for a cigarette, and died right there on the floor. What did we do? Hosed down the floor, and the line was back up by that afternoon. Quit that job as soon as I was able.
She explained that the reason she mentioned those is that “while perhaps one can say they are ‘lucky’ nothing has happened, that sort of behavior – the minor breaches – can lead to much bigger ones, or be indicative of general malaise or slipshod behavior, which can mount up and eventually cause huge problems,” Dr. Tang said and added that “when you let one thing slide, what else might you turn a blind eye to?”
“However, with regards to the impact on employees – we only have a finite amount of energy we can devote to productive work within a day,” Dr. Tang explained. “We know when we are ill, for example, that ability to focus diminishes and performance suffers – if a workplace is making someone sick, you have already reduced productivity (not to mention breached the trust of the employee), but also, even if an employee is worried about something they have noticed that is awry, their own mind will be distracted and in turn affect performance.”
I used to work as a safety consultant for an insurance broker. One of our insureds had an employee who was tasked to apply a “Do not enter, compactor starts automatically” sign on a cardboard box compactor. The idiot set the can of spray adhesive on the lip of the compactor, knocked it in, and then jumped in the compactor to get it. Of course it started automatically because it’s a machine that can’t tell idiot from box. He’s lucky some else was walking by and saved his life.
Edit: he went into the compactor AFTER sticking the sign to the front of it.
Watch 8 tonnes of pipe fall from about 20m because someone was in a rush and used the incorrect rigging.
The kicker is everyone there (20-30 people) were totally willing to let it go unreported, except me. I never really did make too many friends after that. Oh well.
I was on the Workplace Health and Safety committee. The committee head at the time decided to change a lightbulb. Do you think that she used a step ladder on the sloped surface? Nope, office chair with wheels and nobody to hold it still. So many stupid decisions in that last sentence. Of course she fell, broke her arm, and received work place compensation.
The kicker? The light bulb wasn’t blown, she was just using the wrong light switch.
Dr. Tang argues that research into wellbeing at work looked at “hygiene factors,” “so called because they affected the satisfaction of employees if they weren’t present (a bit like if one didn’t wash their hands, they could become ill).” These include things like working conditions, behavior of immediate management, and the physical workspace.
Moreover, “more recently, research into organizational health speaks of ‘psychological safety’ as another element of health – at least emotional and mental health(!) – in the workplace,” she said.
According to Dr. Tang, “if a worker doesn’t feel psychologically safe, i.e. they don’t feel heard, or perhaps they are criticized all the time, perhaps they don’t feel they can ask if they need support – this can be hugely detrimental to motivation, retention and performance, not to mention the employee’s mental and emotional wellbeing.”
When i used to work at Walmart they use to block FIRE EXITS.
they probably still do it yet i dont think OSHA does anything about that.
I didn’t see it personally, but someone smoking & another person eating lunch inside of what was a “high risk” containment during an asbestos abatement.
In a high risk you have to be naked under your body suits, shower when you leave, cannot bring anything in or out that hasn’t been washed & you have to wear a full face mask. It’s supposed to be very sterile. These guys had their face masks off inside the containment eating & smoking.
Equipment operator used brake cleaner to remove grease from his hands and arms, then proceeded to light up a cigarette on his way out of the work area… Fairly significant second degree burns on both hands and forearms.
The concept of “health and safety” also extends beyond the 1974 Act poster which is always displayed, Dr. Tang argues, with places like Singapore introducing the “Green Mark for Healthier Workplaces” in 2018.
Dr. Tang said that the five features they outlined for a sustainable workplace benefitting both people and planet were: “1. Sustainable design and management (of the basic building design); 2. Energy and response management (e.g. Water, electricity, heating, air conditioning); 3. Office environment (e.g. Lighting, glare control, overall comfort); 4. Workplace health and wellbeing (e.g. Food options, fitness programs, smoking cessation programs, biophilic properties); 5. Advanced features (e.g. Energy monitoring, energy disclosure, workplace health promotion),” (BCA Greemark, 2018).
Wasn’t our plant but another plant for our company. We have these huge steel drums that we fill with 100s of pounds of ingredients that go onto an hydraulic lift that lifts and tilts the drum and pours the contents into a kettle.
The drum shifts forward a little bit on the lift while all the way up and falls back into place on its way down. The operator was resting his hand on the bottom of the lift while lowering it back down and the drum fell back down on his finger and pretty much turned it into mush.
That’s not the worst part. Afterwards the safety lead was doing a review of the incident and another operator showed the safety lead EXACTLY what happened and smashed his finger in the same manner.
Not directly relevant, but I worked for a company where the Risk Management Executive accidentally shot himself in the leg checking to see if the safety was on on a pistol.
Got called to a factory where the workers had to cut metal on large conveyor belts.
There were large boxes with built in gloves that you stuck your hands in to operate the press.
So, for safety, workers had on one set of gloves ( that everyone wore on the factory floor because sharp hot metal ) and then stuck their hands in a second pair attached to the belts to reach the materials.
One of the workers felt like this slowed him down so he cut a hole in the safety box to be able to just reach in and adjust the metal to the press… Except, the press came down ON his hand, leaving 4 of his fingers perfectly preserved inside the glove.
They recovered his wedding ring, neatly dangling right above the cut off finger bone.
Dr. Tang also wrote an excellent book titled “The Leader’s Guide to Resilience” where she also discussed this topic.
In a book, she wrote that environmental psychologists will agree that behavior can be shaped by the setting. “Having areas that generate a sense of wellbeing such as designs capturing our biophilic preference for curves, or buildings constructed from natural materials such as wood, the smell of pine or evergreens or the sound of running water can all contribute to energizing your human resource.”
I’ve worked for a couple of engineering contractors in the past, my first firm was by far the worst for lack of work ethic and sheer incompetence. OSHA would have a field day with them.
One time, our reciprocating saw broke; the foot that held the blade in place was busted, so rather than follow protocol and get another saw, my coworker fastened the blade in place with a plastic wire tie and proceeded to use it.
The same firm worked as contractors for the company my Dad worked for, so he has the best/worst stories about them. On one site, they’d found that sections of a pipeline had been sealed with asbestos gaskets. The boss of my firm (I’ll call him Jim) was present on this site, and had to call in a specialist to remove the asbestos.
Jim would never wear safety gear like the other guys, claiming to be “exempt”, and so when the specialist turned up in full breathing gear and overalls and tried to do his job, Jim just stood leaning on the pipe in his normal clothes talking to him. My Dad and the others are stood well away from the asbestos at this point, and he shouts out:
“Are you immune?!”
“Immune to what?”
“Ah, I’ve breathed loads of it in in the power stations, it’s all political.”
My Dad says that Jim has defied all facets of medical science by staying alive this long.
I actually am and OSHA Inspector but I work for a state that has their own state OSHA Plan (same as Federal OSHA but a little more strict). I can almost guarantee you that if you work construction in my state you have seen us or we have seen you. My office alone which is just one county has over 40 Compliance Officers. Yes, a lot of people hate us and yes their are some bad Compliance Officers, just like their are some bad Police Officers. When we come on site we would love nothing more than to find zero violations. The amount of paper work we have to do is astronomical. We have to treat every case as if it is going to court even though maybe only 2% do.
People die at work every day from very preventable reasons. Yes, sometimes injuries and deaths are caused by employees not following company rules or taking shortcuts, but statistics also show that the companies with very good safety programs have lower accident rates and are typically very profitable.
As for worst violation that I have seen. I investigated a multiple death incident at a company. An employee entered a permit required confined space without utilizing the proper precautions. The employee became unconscious due to the inert gases that were not properly purged from the space. Another employee walks by sees the unconscious employee, tries to rescue him, that employee then became unconscious. Then again with another employee. Now they have 3 unconscious employees who eventually died from lack of oxygen.
After the investigation the company had no written confined space policy or rescue procedures. We found out after performing employee interviews that they were told to hold their breath while they performed work in the space because they were only checking a gauge and it would only take like 30 seconds.
After about $500,000 in fines and the owner actually going to jail for 5 months the company went out of business.
And the worst part is a fire department was located across the street and they were trained in confined space rescue.
The safety committee at the state psych hospital I worked at was going building to building, making a surprise inspection. They walked into the Hospital Chapel and found the Chaplain sitting at his desk – getting a blow job by one of the patients who was under his desk.
That old f****r should have gone to prison but they let him take early retirement.
On the other hand, “certain certain contexts are conducive to crime, e.g. the ‘Broken Windows’ theory (Wilson & Kelling, 1982) or that population density leads to aggression, as dramatized in Ballard’s 2012 “high rise” based on Calhoun’s 1960s ‘Rat utopia’ – so over-crowded work spaces, no opportunity for privacy, a lack of consistent personal territory can be as problematic for your teams as constant demands or uncontained client stress.”
In “The Leader’s Guide to Resilience,” Dr. Tang stated that “creating a positive environment through sustainable practices is an easy win, and will help the planet, your people, and in turn, most likely, your profits.”
My uncle is a safety inspector and is always going off about dumbasses in the workplace. Same uncle broke his arm in four places trying to clean the gutters of his workplace with a too short ladder on top of an oversized toolbox in wet weather.
My dad went to his work OHS committee to ask them to mow the patch between the parking lot and the building because the grass had gotten so long that snakes were living in it. The committee decided it was too risky to have someone mow it because there were snakes in the grass and the person mowing might get injured.
I’m a HSR at my workplace.
I recently had management trying to pin a couple of guys on my shift for putting a pallet of product to close to a fire hose.
Ok fair, yeah it’s a safety issue.
Only problem was more than half of the fire hoses on site are blocked or inaccessible due to rows of product blocking them.
Poor storage planning on managements behalf, yet 1 pallet near a fire hose is enough cause for a written warning and talks of terminating said employees.
Safe to say when I politely pointed out how many safety hazards and violations that were the fault of the management. They quickly dropped their talks of terminating employees.
Still working on getting those other fire hoses unblocked though.
Like banging your head on a brick wall sometimes I swear.
According to the HSE’s Labour Force Survey, around 1.7 million workers are suffering from work-related ill health (new or long-standing), and this addresses physical health in 2020/21, and this is followed up with a statistic of 822,000 workers suffering from work-related stress, depression or anxiety (new or long-standing) also in 2020/21.
Dr. Tang argues that it is unclear if there is a crossover between the statistics as it would stand to reason if you have ill physical health this can affect your mental health.
Fire Inspector here, finding a guy using a propane grill inside a building. He was initially pissed off when I told him he couldn’t do that, until I showed him the stratified smoke that was about a foot off the ceiling.
I interned at OSHA. I got to ride around with a former electrical union superintendent and I’m still telling stories. As an intern they honestly let me ask anything. The inspectors were so glad that someone actually respected them and wanted to learn so they just spilled.
Personally the worst was a couple dozen guys hung their coats up to cover the hot commercial electrical box they had pig tailed their broken radio directly to. The OSHA inspector saw it and just turned to them and said “do you have a family? Do you ever want to see them again?” Turned out the crew chief had a brand new baby girl at home. He basically cried his face off about how stupid they were and shut it down until they could make it safer. No fines were issued. Even though it could’ve bankrupted all 3 companies on site. Just real talk.
In case you didn’t know that amount of electricity would kill you in the worst way (unable to let go and feeling every single shock) and leave you a pile of dust.
Port state Inspector, For me and most of my colleagues its things relating to fire safety, particularly fire doors. The amount of time I’ve found auto closing doors tied, wedged, weighted or just fixed in the open position is maddening. Fire is the worst thing that can happen on a ship, and these doors have to be able to be closed at any time but people are too f*****g lazy to open a god damn door so they tie them open, and then guess what, time and time again there is a fire and when we do the investigation (assuming there is anything left to investigate) we find a fire door fixed open that’s allowed to fire to spreed. People in my industry literally die every year because some f*****g AB or assistant engineer to too f*****g lazy to open a door.
Edit: So that’s the most maddening, the dumbest would be when a captain tries to stop us from coming on board in the first place. FYI if you are working in the marine industry, never try this, it will end badly for you. One of two things will happen, We will just refuse your ship access and black list you, or we will allow you in and then immediately detain the ship. I remember one captain stood on the gangway and tried to block me and my boss from boarding, he said “this is unreasonable!, we have had no time to clean up or anything and demanding we come back after he had finished cargo operations” Hearty laughs were had and we told him he had however long it was going to take us to walk back up to the harbor master station and walk back down with Royal Police escort and that in the meantime the ship was detained.
“As always there is a power balance with regards to whether someone actively and knowingly chooses an unhealthy environment to work in if they are in need of a job and have little choice, it is possible people may be willing to put up with more, but unfortunately we often do not know until there is a problem how much that particular individual can withstand mentally or physically,” the psychologist and book author explained.
Guy at my work was collecting a soil sample amd tested it. Right after he finishes the boss says now can you test it all for asbestos when hes been exposed to what he thought was just plain soil for the past few hours.
Not an inspector but did work comp insurance for a bit.
I saw this on cctv for evidence
Factory that made foam for mattresses had a machine that would cut up medium sized chunks of foam into smaller ones to put into mattresses. Sort of like a wood chipper.
One guy got tired of putting handfuls at a time (the recommended way) and decided to get a bucket and starts shoveling into the cutter.
When it got stuck from too much foam he used the stick part of a broom to push it thru. This got the broom stuck. He then decides to put both hands in to dislodge the stick and stuck foam.
The machine was still on this whole time.
He somehow manages to get the stick out and the blades start going again.
He amazingly only lost two fingertips and tried to sue his boss.
We settled for 30k…
I inspect fire sprinklers and I saw someone had a chain going through one to hang a light.
Dr. Tang also said that the pandemic has caused people to reassess their values and the “great resignation” was an opportunity for a “great reshuffle” or a “great reformation” where organizations too could focus on their values. “And LIVING them not just listing them,” she said. It proved to be an opportunity to “develop their purpose and direction, which in turn might make them more appealing to a workforce whose values align,” Dr. Tang concluded.
Fire alarm/sprinkler leaking onto steel racking for so long it’s rusted. Racking was 6 tier high…
Management refused to treat it a hazard.
Not an OSHA employee, but these guys I worked with were undermining a road. Cars were still passing over the dug area. No efforts were made to secure the trench (trench boxes or such), no ladders, a 6′ pile of the trench spoils were right on the edge, phone, gas, and power ran nearby but locates weren’t done…
I’m honestly surprised it didn’t collapse, the cars driving overhead shook loose plenty of gravel from the sides of the hole.
Former safety rep who specialized in industrial food manufacturing working for the largest food companies. I am now in school for psychology so am interning at a clinic. In my interview I said that was my previous career so they asked me to do their EAP and exit maps. Yet they wont buy the fire extinguisher signs. The thing I repeatedly tell them to do is unlock one of the doors leading to a exit door. They have a storage/file room with one of the emergency exits and you cant walk in the room even if the door is unlocked.
Worked as a Storeman at a retail store. We were having renovations done to the building at the time so there were a lot of construction workers around. One day I walked in on a bunch of Eastern European workers holding a ladder on top of a trolley while one of them climbed it to reach something on the wall (high af ceiling). I flipped my s**t at them and had a go at their foreman as well.
Guy was a warehouse worker. Qualified to use the forklifts, but this was a special one where the entire cabin lifts up so the forklift worker has better vision. What does the guy do?
He gets out 3.5 meters in the air and steps on the pallet to adjust some of the products. The guy faced 0 repercussions. He was a nice guy, but crazy.
Note: this post originally had 55 images. It’s been shortened to the top 30 images based on user votes.