OSHA Launches Campaign to Curb Construction Falls

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), falls are the leading cause of construction deaths. In 2010, fatalities from falls accounted for 264 out of 774 deaths in the construction industry.

To curb such deaths and injuries, OSHA has joined forces with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA). The Construction Nationwide Safety Awareness Campaign is comprehensive and based on three key steps for employers:

OSHAPlan for Safety. To ensure safety on job sites that involve working from heights, plan how the project will be done and the tools needed. When estimating job costs, include these resources and have them available on site. For example, on a roofing job, think about such potential fall hazards – holes, sky-light, leading edges, etc. – and then select appropriate fall protection equipment, such as personal fall arrest systems (PFAS).

Provide Proper Equipment. Provide workers who are six feet or more above lower levels with fall protection and the necessary equipment including ladders, scaffolds, and safety gear. If roof work is involved, have a PFAS with a harness for each worker who needs to tie off to the anchor. Make sure the device fits and inspect all equipment regularly.

Train Workers. Finally, give workers “toolbox talk” training on potential fall hazards and the set-up and use of the safety equipment they’ll be using. The OSHA campaign has a number of training tools, job site posters, and other educational resources – (many of which target workers with limited English proficiency).

To learn more about how to keep your workers from falling down (literally) on the job, feel free to get in touch with our construction insurance specialists.

OSHA UPDATE: SPFs, Haz-Com, and Fall Protection

oshaOur friend Mark Paskell (the Contractor Coach) recently posted an OSHA update that contained information that all contractors should be aware of. We’re going to give you a brief overview of the three things he covered here, but we encourage you to visit his website and read the complete article for yourself.

New National Emphasis Program (NEP) on Isocyanates (Spray Foam Insulation)

With aggressive new energy codes and an increased focus on green building methods, the use of spray foam insulation (SPF) has increased significantly. Given the potential hazards associated with SPF application, it’s more important than ever that contractors ensure those using them are properly certified and trained to safely apply SPFs (and this must be documented).  See Mark’s article for more specifics on this NEP, issued June 25, 2013.

Global Harmonized System (Hazardous Communication)

OSHA has revised the Hazard Communication Standard so that it is now aligned with the Globally Harmonized System of Classifications and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS). There are several changes, from classifications and labeling to a new safety data sheet, but the most important change for you to be aware of is that employers are required to train workers by December 1, 2013 on the new labels elements and safety data sheets format.

Fall Protection

While ropes and harnesses are becoming more common on job sites, fall protection is still the number one cited OSHA violation. OSHA has shifted its focus from outreach and education about fall protection to enforcement of the guidelines.  Non-compliance is not only dangerous; it can be costly as well.

If you have any questions about keeping your business compliant with OSHA, don’t hesitate to contact our Construction Insurance specialist, Tom Messier. He’ll be happy to address your concerns and help you nail down the protection your business requires.

Heavy Equipment Inspection Guidelines

Many modern construction jobs could not exist without the assistance of flatbeds, pickups, off-highway dump trucks, loaders, scrapers, and bulldozers. Needless to say that work sites today are swarming with such heavy equipment. Although crucial to the work being done, this equipment can easily transition from an asset to a danger if it is not properly and regularly maintained and inspected.

Heavy Equipment & OSHA

heavy equipmentWhat Does OSHA Say? Sadly, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) rules aren’t very comprehensive and can often be vague when it comes to guidelines and checklists on inspecting heavy equipment properly. There are, however, some general guidelines that you should follow:

  • Materials and equipment should be inspected by a competent employee on a daily basis, or more frequently if needed.
  • OSHA doesn’t have any specific requirements for mechanized equipment and motor vehicles, with the exception of when they’re being transported or used near power lines. That said, OSHA does state that any equipment that will be left unattended at dark should have reflectors, lights, or barricades so that the location of the machinery can be identified easily.
  • Off-highway motor vehicles must be inspected at the start of each shift, which should include ensuring all the essential equipment and parts are free of obvious damage that could potentially cause a malfunction or failure and are otherwise in a safe operating condition. The trailer brake connections, emergency stopping system, and hand brake components of the service brakes must be checked. The tires, horn, seat belts, steering mechanism, coupling devices, operating controls, and safety devices must also be checked. Should job site conditions require the use of the defroster, windshield wipers, lights, reflectors, and/or fire extinguishers, these too must be checked. All damaged parts must be repaired properly before the vehicle can be used on the job site, even when the damage is seemingly minor.
  • OSHA doesn’t have inspection checklists for earth-moving equipment, such as loaders, scrapers, wheel tractors, crawlers, tractors, bulldozers, off-highway trucks, graders, and so forth, but does state that seat belts must be provided.
  • Employers should designate a competent person, meaning someone who has been trained properly in inspection guidelines, to inspect all heavy equipment on a frequent and regular basis. Note that the word “frequently” generally means “daily” in OSHA language.

Drafting Your Own Inspection Checklists. Since OSHA guidelines are so vague on the proper inspection of heavy equipment, safety experts commonly recommend that employers refer to the manufacturer’s manual for each individual piece of machinery being used on their job site and draw up their own inspection checklists using a combination of this information and that from OSHA.

However, heavy equipment manuals rarely include a detailed, comprehensive checklist. For equipment that doesn’t include one, and many likely won’t, you can use the machine’s maintenance procedures and operating instructions as a guide to create your own comprehensive checklist.

You might want to use the equipment’s OSHA inspection guidelines and the maintenance and operating information that you get from the equipment’s manual to develop several different checklists – one for site safety, one for systems, and one of safety equipment.

Once developed and ready for implementation, make sure that you explain thoroughly each of the checklists to your employees. Any employee that operates heavy equipment should be trained on the checklists and the importance of their completion each day before work ever begins.

It might take a little effort on your part, but having comprehensive, easily understood inspection checklists on every piece of heavy machinery on your work site is vital if you want to keep your business operations running smoothly and your workers safe. Don’t forget that having these checklists in place will essentially be pointless if your employees aren’t trained on how to use them properly.

Fall Protection – v-Tool from OSHA

Falls are among the most common causes of serious work-related injuries and deaths. It’s vital that contractors set up work places that minimize the risk of employees falling. OSHA requires that fall protection be provided at elevations of six feet in the construction industry, and also that fall protection be provided when working over dangerous equipment and machinery, regardless of the fall distance.

To aid contractors in compliance, OSHA has developed several tools. Below is a safety video they have put together, specifically geared at scaffolding hazards.

MA Contractor Fined $42,000 for Violations

In a citation issued just over a week ago, a Reading, MA contractor is facing a proposed $42,000 in fines for 10 alleged serious violations of safety standards at a Topsfield worksite for exposing workers to fall hazards. The violations include:

Failing to provide personal fall protection
Failing to train workers to recognize fall hazards
Failing to provide head and eye protection
Failing to properly set up, secure and inspect ladders for damage.

Additionally, an improperly erected scaffold had damaged components, exceeded the maximum allowable height of 20 feet and had not been inspected for defects prior to the start of work.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet with OSHA’s area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. If there was a question before about the enforcement of the Fall Protection Guidelines, there shouldn’t be now. It is vital that all contractors take the steps necessary to protect their workers and put effective fall protection measures in place.

Detailed information on scaffolding and fall hazards and safeguards is available at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/scaffolding/index.html and http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/fallprotection/construction.html, and as always, we’re here to answer your questions and provide direction. Stay safe!

Enforcement X2 – EPA & OSHA to Team Up

There has been buzz this week in the construction industry over a recent Memorandum of Understanding between OSHA and the EPA that spells out exactly how the two government agencies are planning to work together in the Northeast in regards to RRP regulations and their enforcement. Basically, the two agencies will not only communicate with each other, they also may conduct join inspections as appropriate to carry out the purposes of their respective statutory authorities.

 

Both RRP Specialist Shawn McCadden and the Contractor Coach Mark Paskell have written recent articles about this MOU and what it means for contractors. They are worth the read…

 

Double Trouble for RRP Renovators: OSHA and EPA to Work Together

Region 1 EPA and OSHA to work together on RRP/OSHA Enforcement

 

Understand that enforcement IS ramping up, and you can expect to be visited at any given time. Compliance is important, and having the proper documentation will be a tremendous aid to you when the government comes knocking. If you’re not sure how to handle them, check out our previous blog post here:

 

Have You Received a Request for RRP Information from the EPA?

 

Got questions? We’ve got answers… give us a call today.

 

 

Have You Received a Request for RRP Information from the EPA?

On April 22, 2008, the EPA issued a formal rule requiring the use of lead-safe practices and other actions aimed at preventing lead poisoning. Beginning in April of 2010, any contractor performing work that might disturb lead-based paint in buildings built before 1978 must be certified and follow specific practices to prevent lead contamination. While nearly all contractors are aware of this rule, due to the expense of compliance some may try to bide their time, waiting for the rule to be changed, or go away altogether… but enforcement is ramping up, and the only prudent course of action is to take the steps necessary to comply. It is our hope that all of our clients are already in compliance, so the next question is this: What do you do if you receive a request for RRP information from the EPA?

When faced with questions about RRP, we here at Mason & Mason turn to our good friend Shawn McCadden, the RRP Specialist. Shawn recently shared some information he had gleaned from Attorney Ann E. Viner regarding this very topic. She offers the following practical tips to keep in mind when you receive a request for info from any government agency regarding the RRP Rule:

  • Don’t respond to verbal requests: It is important to get all requests in writing, so that all parties clearly understand the scope of the information sought and the time period covered by the request. Without a written request, you risk being accused of failing to fully comply with a verbal request that you may have simply misunderstood. Asking the government to put its inquiry in writing is within your rights.
  • Determine if the government has authority to seek the information requested: Although a written request for information should specify the statutory authority for the request, don’t assume that the agency actually has the cited authority. Knowing the source of the government’s authority for the request, as well as determining the applicability of the request to your business, is imperative in both limiting the scope of your response and protecting your business interests with customers and other parties that may be affected by the request.
  • Voluntary compliance versus litigation: Your business should be aware of the pros and cons of voluntary compliance versus requiring the government to follow more formal procedures such as issuing a subpoena or filing a lawsuit. Generally, cooperation is the better course at the early stages of an investigation. On the flip side, refusing to voluntarily comply with a governmental request may subject you to higher scrutiny and or administrative penalties. Of course, cooperation is not always an option, so understanding the risks of fighting with the government is essential at the outset.
  • Assume your company is a target and involve counsel early in the process: Regardless of the apparent target of the government’s inquiry, assume that your business is, in fact, under investigation and may be subject to fines, penalties or otherwise embroiled in a civil or criminal enforcement action. An experienced environmental attorney can help advise your business concerning its rights and responsibilities.
  • Be honest: As we all learned in childhood, honesty is the best policy. Handling the request in an inappropriate manner could result in claims of obstruction of justice, interfering with investigations, or other types of administrative and civil violations.

To read the entire article by Anne, visit Much Shelist. As always, feel free to contact us with any questions you might have. We’re here for you.