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OSHA Eyeing Contractor Fall Practices

Friday, August 17, 2012

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Here’s a heads-up to contractors in Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi: Uncle Sam is watching you.

Mid-Atlantic contractors: You, too. And you in other regions? He may be on the way.

Effective Aug. 20, the Southeast regional offices of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration will step up enforcement at all construction-related work sites, in response to a recent increase in fatal falls in the region.

 Painting work has begun on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, exposing painters to extreme heights.

 mtc.ca

Painting work has begun on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, exposing painters to work at extreme heights.

Falls are one of the four leading causes of employee fatalities in the Southeast and the leading cause of death in construction-related industries.

Surprise Inspections

The new program means that OSHA will be identifying sites throughout Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi that may be exposing workers to fall hazards. The initiative will include unannounced inspections at those sites.

In addition, all other hazards in plain sight will be addressed during the inspections.

“OSHA’s goal is to raise awareness about fall hazards and eliminate those conditions that lead to employee deaths,” said Cindy Coe, the agency’s regional administrator in Atlanta. “Our compliance officers will conduct immediate inspections when they observe employees working from elevation without fall protection.”

The regional program is being launched as an OSHA special emphasis program. Such programs allow OSHA to open an inspection immediately when safety and health hazards are observed at a work site. The programs also include separate outreach, education and training components for employers and employees.

‘No Notice’ Initiative

The Southeast regional program is similar to a broader, summer-long “no-notice” Construction Incident Prevention Initiative by OSHA’s Region III Office, based in Philadelphia.

That program, announced in the spring, takes aim at four leading causes of deaths and serious injuries at construction-related work sites: falls, struck-by/crushing events, electrocutions and caught-in-between events.

Region III consists of Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, the District of Columbia, Virginia and West Virginia. The region saw 43 workplace deaths in fiscal years 2011 and 2012, with 18 attributed to falls.

The Region III program is also targeting health hazards involving silica, lead, hexavalent chromium, and excessive heat.

Like the Southeast program, the Region III program dispatches all available compliance officers into the field to conduct immediate inspections when any of the targeted hazards are observed. The inspectors also provide on-site outreach to support safe work practices.

Focus on Falls

The Southeast regional enforcement efforts are part of a national campaign announced in April to address deadly falls in the construction industry.

OSHA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) are working with trade associations, labor unions, employers, universities, community and faith-based organizations, and consulates to provide employers and workers—especially vulnerable, low-literacy workers—with education and training on fall prevention equipment and strategies.

OSHA also has created a new Web page with detailed fall-protection information in English and Spanish.

In addition, CPWR – The Center for Construction Research and Training maintains an interactive map of fatal falls at http://stopconstructionfalls.com.

   

Tagged categories: Accidents; Bridges; Contractors; Fall protection; Health and safety; OSHA

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