As part of OSHA’s push for higher workplace safety standards, employers must report and record all serious accidents resulting in worker injury or illness. This requirement helps companies improve their environmental health and safety training programs, protect workers, and ultimately create safer working conditions. Review the latest reporting rules (effective January 1, 2015) to keep your business OSHA compliant. Read more
Category: OSHA Regulations
Construction Confined Space Entry Training Gets Final Ruling
Confined spaces rarely make for optimal working conditions. Hazards such as collapsing structures, toxic fumes, electricity, combustion, and suffocation can endanger the lives of unprepared workers. New OSHA regulations require that employers establish a confined space entry policy and ensure that workers receive adequate training in confined space safety standards for construction sites. Read more
Fall Protection is not Optional
In November 2013, Douglas Klein, a 25 year old communications worker in Wichita, Kansas fell 50 feet to his death while descending a cell tower after performing routine maintenance. OSHA issued three serious citations and $21,000 in fines to his employer, Pinpoint Towers. This was one of 13 preventable deaths from cell tower falls in 2013. An alarming rise in falls and accidents have prompted action from OSHA to improve fall protection safety for communications tower workers.
Activity involving communication tower construction and maintenance has vastly increased over the last few decades, as have the number of employers and workers involved in building, maintaining or inspecting them. The growth of the telecommunications industry and therefore the increased activity around towers involving climbing, hoisting equipment, repairs in inclement weather and carrying out regular maintenance and inspections highlights the need for increased attention to fall prevention equipment and procedures and adequate worker fall prevention safety training.
The alarming 13 deaths in 2013 and 9 so far in 2014 prompted OSHA to send a warning letter to employers in February and to issue new directives on cell tower fall prevention safety. Along with recommendations to consistently apply and enforce safety measures, particularly in regards to fall protection, the letter said, “OSHA will consider issuing willful citations, in appropriate cases, for a failure to provide and use fall protection.” OSHA is working with the industry to identify the causes of comm tower accidents and continues to strengthen its guidance on comm tower fall safety. They have created a dedicated new OSHA web page highlighting the issues around communications towers safety.
Watch this video of Asst. Secretary Dr. David Michaels addressing the National Assoc. of Tower Erectors (NATE) Conference Feb 25 2014
OSHA’s new fall protection requirements apply to any tower inspection event using a hoist during field hazard inspections and replaces the previous guidelines issued in 2002. Employers must provide fall protection such as guardrails, safety nets or personal fall arrest systems for work on existing towers above 6 feet elevation.
Additionally, OSHA fall protection training is required under 29 CFR 1926.503 for workers who may be involved in construction, maintenance or inspection of communications tower equipment. It covers:
- understanding fall hazards related to comm towers
- appropriate use and operation of fall protection systems, such as:
- personal fall arrest systems
- safety nets
- warning lines
- safety monitoring
- controlled access zones
- learning procedures for erection, maintenance, disassembly and inspection of fall protection systems
As an employer, you want to assure you meet all OSHA fall safety standards for both proper fall prevention equipment and worker training and certification. OSHA Pros online safety courses cover requirements for OSHA fall protection training in our OSHA construction safety courses. Make sure your workers and their supervisors are up to date on important fall protection training today.
Twin Pines Construction Inc. Cited for Willful, Repeat Fall Hazards
Twin Pines Construction, Inc., an Everett, Massachusetts based wood framing contractor, has been cited by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration for alleged willful, repeat, and serious violations of workplace safety standards regarding fall hazards at its Durham, New Hampshire work site.
Workers at the site were exposed to falls risks of 9 feet up to 30 feet due to inadequate or missing fall protection safeguards. Fall hazards related to front ladder misuse and inadequate personal fall arrest systems that could allow workers to fall more than 6 feet and strike lower levels in violation of OSHA standards were also found. The standards require that employees working 6 or more feet above a lower level be protected against falls by guardrails, safety nets, or personal fall arrest systems. As a result of these violations, Twin Pines Construction Inc. was issued three willful citations with fines of $200,500. Willful violations are ones committed with intentional, knowing, or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.
Rosemarie Ohar, OSHA New Hampshire area director said, “The sizable penalties proposed here reflect the gravity and recurring nature of these hazards, plus this employer’s knowledge of and refusal to correct them. This is unacceptable. Falls remain the number one killer in construction work, having cost the lives of 264 workers in 2010. Employers who fail to supply and ensure the use of proper and effective fall protection safeguards are gambling with the lives and well-being of their employees.”
The company was also issued four repeat citations for hazards similar to ones cited in 2008 and 2011 at other worksites in Boston, Lakeville, Lexington, Newbury, and New Bedford, Massachusetts, and in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The fines for these citations total $75,900. The citations were for hazards including lack of fall protection training, missing handrails, lack of eye protection for workers using pneumatic nail guns, and ungrounded electrical cords.
Additionally, citations were issued for three serious violations for wood and metal trusses which were inadequately braced during installation, lack of protection from falling objects, and missing fire extinguishers. Proposed fines for these violations are $14,300.
Because falls are the leading cause of death in the construction industry, OSHA has created a Fall Prevention Campaign to raise awareness of fall hazards and how to prevent them. The web page for the campaign can be found at www.osha.gov/stopfalls. The page provides detailed information on fall protection standards in both English and Spanish. There are also printable fact sheets, posters, and videos which illustrate fall hazards and appropriate preventive measures.
OSHA area director Ohar said, “All employers must plan ahead to identify fall hazards and use the proper type of fall protection, provide proper and properly maintained equipment, and train workers to protect themselves against fall hazards.”
OSHA Cites Construction Firm after Massachusetts Police Officer’s Death
On July 26, 2012, Police Officer Jose Torres, 53, who had been assigned to direct traffic at a work site in Westfield, Massachusetts, was killed when a dump truck operated by a Revoli employee backed over him. At the time there were two backup alarms sounding from different vehicles. Torres apparently was unaware that the dump truck was backing toward him. Officer Torres, an Army veteran, was well-liked and had twice received citations for heroism during his career. He is survived by a wife and two sons.
Revoli had been hired by the city of West Springfield to complete a pipe project. Part of the work involved was in the neighboring city of Westfield, where the accident occurred. The company is scheduled to return in the spring to finish the job at the Westfield worksite where the fatal accident occurred. Due to the citation issued by OSHA and a history of safety violations by Revoli, Westfield Mayor Daniel M. Knapnik has made the decision that when work resumes at the site, roads where work is being done will be closed to all traffic for safety reasons. Knapnik, who has 20 years of experience in his career before becoming mayor said, “The number one killer on a job site is a dump truck that is backing up.”
The citation issued by OSHA to Revoli is for a repeat violation of standard 29 CFR 1926.21 (b)(2). The citation states that the “employer did not instruct each employee in the recognition and avoidance of unsafe conditions and the regulations applicable to his work environment to control or eliminate any hazards or other exposure to illness or injury.” The citation requires that the company must “conduct and document daily (or as necessary) briefings with all exposed employees on the job site where those employees are exposed to vehicular and other job site hazards…Specific abatement documentation that this violation has been corrected must be provided [to OSHA] within 10 days of the abatement in accordance with 29 CFR 1903.19(d)(1).”
OSHA Springfield area director Mary E. Hoye also wrote a letter addressed to Shawqi Alsarabi at Revoli with recommendations for improving conditions which, though they were not found to be violations in the OSHA inspection, would be significant to reducing or eliminating safety hazards. The letter stated, “Specifically, OSHA is concerned with your company’s apparent lack of focus on safety and accident prevention…Had a comprehensive safety program been in place and enforced, an accident of this magnitude may have been avoided.”
The OSHA investigation found that the truck involved in the accident was equipped with a backup alarm as required by federal law. However, the truck driver was unable to see what was behind him as he backed up and was relying on anyone in the way to remove themselves from the truck’s path. Hoye’s letter to the company’s representative recommended that Revoli explore the use of backup cameras and microwave-Doppler backup warning systems which would alert drivers of obstructions they are not able to see.
Revoli has a history of safety violations. The company received a citation from OSHA in 2005 for failing to provide cave-in protection for its workers at a work site in Gloucester, Massachusetts and was fined $115,900. The citation noted that in the previous twelve years, Revoli had been cited nine times for not providing cave-in protection for workers. Revoli also received citations from OSHA in 2008 and 2009.
Winter Weather Warning: Tips on How to Remove Snow Safely
This past weekend, a powerful snowstorm swept across several Northeastern states. Weather conditions have crippled operations in at least four Northeastern states. Snowy weather has halted air travel, public transportation, and caused major power outages. Snowy weather causes major inconveniences. Construction workers required to work in snowy conditions face severe hazards. Construction workers die while removing snow from rooftops or other building structures each year. In the last ten years, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has investigated 16 serious injuries or fatalities related to snow removal. OSHA has issued a hazard alert for workers involved in snow removal, http://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA-3513roof-snow-hazard.pdf.
OSHA officials maintain injuries and fatalities resulting from snow removal can be prevented. Employers should take responsibility for training and educating workers on the most effective ways to remove snow. Employee safety should always be a priority when dealing with snow conditions at construction work sites.
Construction employees working in snowy conditions deal with extreme cold, high winds, and icy surfaces. Potential injuries range from amputations, eye injuries, or frostbite. Workers are also at risk for fatal falls.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) suggests using safety precautions when removing snow and working in snowy weather.
• Use snow removal methods that do not require employees to climb onto roofs (Try using drag lines or snow rakes).
• In an effort to prevent collapse, workers should consider how much weight the roof can handle.
• Use fall protection.
• Make certain workers are familiar with how to operate aerial lifts and ladders safely.
• Ensure workers on the ground are aware of potential injuries or suffocation associated with falling snow piles.
• Be informed about conditions related to snow removal such as frostbite or hypothermia.
The Whistleblower Protection Program
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has the job of enforcing laws that protect employees from discrimination by employers for exercising their rights under the OSH Act. In 1970, the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) was passed by Congress. The OSH Act protects workers safety and health and also their rights to file an OSHA complaint, participate in an inspection or talk to an inspector, seek access to employer exposure and injury records, or bring a safety or health complaint to their employer without fear of retaliation by their employer. Since the OSH Act was passed in 1970, OSHA’s whistleblower protection enforcement has been expanded by Congress with the addition of twenty-one federal laws.
Workers in a wide variety of industries are covered by the whistleblower protection laws.
Employees are protected from any type of adverse action against workers for exercising their rights under the OSH Act including:
• Denying overtime
• Withholding promotion
• Denial of benefits
• Threats and other forms of Intimidation
• Reducing pay
A Whistleblower Protection Advisory Committee (WPAC) was established which advises and makes recommendations to the Secretary of Labor and the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health on OSHA’s administration of whistleblower protections. The WPAC helps with implementation of customer service models, enhancements of the investigative and enforcement processes, and training, and advises on cooperative activities with other federal agencies which share responsibilities in enforcing the whistleblower protection statutes enforced by OSHA.
The timeframes for complaints of discrimination under the whistleblower protection laws vary depending on which laws cover the particular situation. Environmental and nuclear safety laws, transportation industry laws and consumer and investor protection laws each vary in the amount of time allowed for filing complaints of discrimination.
Recently OSHA launched an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) pilot program to assist complainants and employers in resolving their disputes in a voluntary, cooperative manner. The program will offer two methods of ADR: early resolution and mediation. The pilot program will be available in two regions, one headquartered in Chicago and the other in San Francisco. The Chicago Regional Office is responsible for whistleblower cases in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Ohio. The San Francisco Regional Office is responsible for cases in Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, and various Pacific Islands including the commonwealth of Northern Marian Islands, Guam, and American Samoa.
For more information on the Whistleblower Protection Program visit the website at http://www.whistleblowers.gov.
How to Survive an OSHA Inspection
Established in 1971, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is dedicated to protecting workers’ safety and health. OSHA carries out its mission by providing training, outreach, education, and assistance. OSHA originated from the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. This act was passed to prevent workers from being killed or seriously harmed at work. The OSH Act of 1970 requires employers to provide safe work environments for employees.
According to statistics released the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), fatalities in the workplace have been reduced by more than 65% since OSHA’s inception. In addition, occupational related injuries and illnesses have declined by 67%. OSHA is responsible for the health and safety of 130 million workers employed at more than 8 million work sites across the country. In order to monitor employee health and safety, OSHA employs 2,200 inspectors nationwide. This means each inspector is responsible for approximately 59,000 workers. Understandably, inspectors are not able to visit every work site. They prioritize inspections based on fatalities/catastrophes, imminent danger, and work sites with employee complaints. This article will provide basic tips on how to survive an OSHA inspection.
Most times, OSHA inspections are spontaneous. A healthy and safe workplace should be a part of your daily focus. Your workplace should operate under the assumption that an inspection will occur every day. Everyone in the work environment should take responsibility for health and safety. A well-trained member of management or safety professional should always be available to handle OSHA business as well as other health/safety concerns.
Know Your Rights
You should become informed on your rights as an employer in regards to OSHA inspections. Also, you need to become familiar with your company policies and make certain you are up to date on policy changes.
Purpose of the Inspection
The overall purpose of the inspection should be clear upfront. Inspection documents presented by the OSHA official should be reviewed. You must carefully review all information regarding the purpose of the inspection so that you can make sensible decisions on how to move forward with the process.
Accompany the OSHA Representative
You would never allow a stranger to roam your property unaccompanied. You should never allow an inspector to roam through your business unaccompanied. The OSHA representative should be accompanied at ALL times.
You should take accurate notes and document the entire visit. You should also always have supplies handy. It is imperative you document the same things as the inspector. You must take the same measurements and photographs as the OSHA inspector.
Limited Information Distribution
You should only respond to questions the inspector asks. Do not provide unnecessary information. For recordkeeping purposes, you should maintain an OSHA file. Provide the inspector with only the documents he/she requests. Never distribute documents without consulting your management team.
You must always remain composed and professional. OSHA inspections are challenging and sometimes intimidating. You should remain confident and maintain control of the situation.