Falling into a Fine
Spray Foam Magazine – Winter 2022 – According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 351 of the 1,008 workplace fatalities among construction workers in 2020 were caused by falls from heights. Why then are some companies still willing to risk the lives of their employees, just to get the job done?
Even though federal workplace safety inspectors are accustomed to some employers' disregard for workplace safety, a site supervisor of a carpentry company in the Chicago area's response to a U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspector's notification was nothing short of disgraceful. The safety inspector highlighted that this site had workers without fall protection exposed to the construction industry's most lethal hazard - falls from elevation. The site supervisor instructed workers to continue installing joists at heights of up to 48 feet atop a multi-unit residential project in River Grove on July 18. The workmen were taken off the roof when the general contractor learned of the situation.
Following an investigation, OSHA suggested a $77,072 fine for one willful violation and four significant safety violations against the framing contractor. OSHA also cited the business for utilizing ladders improperly, failing to provide guardrails at window openings, and exposing workers to exposed rebar. These violations were in addition to the absence of fall protection.
OSHA's Chicago North Area Director Angeline Loftus in Arlington Heights stated that " It is unacceptable to permit employees to operate at risky heights without providing fall protective gear. When employers fail to provide safe working conditions, OSHA will continue to hold them responsible."
Workers can learn about hazards and appropriate safety practices by visiting OSHA's stop falls website, which provides safety information and video presentations in both English and Spanish.
After receiving the tickets and fines, the business has 15 business days to either comply, ask for a casual meeting with the OSHA area director, or appeal the decision to the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
When an inspector visits a building site where there are multiple contractors, they first focus on sectors that carry the greatest risk of injury and death. Homebuilders, remodelers, and developers therefore need to make sure that all trades are working safely on their site. The principal contractor can be held responsible for a subcontractor not following the correct safety rules with the most common violations prompting citations and fines in failure to respect ladder, scaffolding and fall protection.
Remember, following and implementing OSHA’s Fall Prevention and Protection may not only stop a tragedy, but a hefty fine too.
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