Construction falls lead OSHA’s top safety violations for 2017

Kim Slowey
Sep 27, 2017

Dive Brief:

  • Fall protection in the construction industry, specifically, led the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s annual list of the most commonly cited workplace safety violations, according to a preliminary ranking reported by the National Safety Council.
  • Four violations on this year’s list are specific to OSHA’s Part 1926 – Safety and Health Regulations for Construction), including inadequate fall protection, lack of guardrails for scaffolding, improper use of ladders and lack of fall-protection training, according to Business and Legal Resources.
  • The list is preliminary and the final version is due out in December, though it is not expected to change in the meantime. The category of Fall Protection – Training Requirements is new to OSHA’s top 10 this year.

Dive Insight:

Fall protection has been of particular concern to OSHA as falls remain the leading cause of accidental death on construction sites. Of the 937 job site deaths reported in 2015, 350 were fall-related.

In an effort to increase job-site safety, OSHA has taken to levying significant fines in the case of certain violations, such as repeat offenses. In August, OSHA fined a Florida roofing contractor more than $1.5 million after repeated fall-protection violations. To reinforce the citation’s severity, the agency also added the company to its Severe Violator Enforcement Program, under which it will be subject to extra monitoring and inspections.

Trench safety is another OSHA concern. Last month, the agency fined South Dakota contractor First Dakota Enterprises $95,000 for conditions that led to a non-fatal collapse. The worker, who was covered by debris as a result of the collapse, survived, but OSHA said the company did not provide the proper protection systems and inspections that could have prevented such an incident.

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UPDATE: OSHA delays electronic recordkeeping rule deadline

Author Emily Peiffer, Hallie Busta
UPDATE: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration said Wednesday that it will suspend the electronic recordkeeping rule’s filing deadline in order to give employers more time to comply, according to The Washington Post. Although the filing date was originally scheduled for July 1, the agency has not yet opened the online portal for companies to submit their injury and illness logs. OSHA has not announced how long the extension will last.
Dive Brief:
  • The National Association of Home Builders – along with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Oklahoma State Homebuilders Association, the State Chamber of Oklahoma and three poultry associations – filed a lawsuit in January against the U.S. Department of Labor and OSHA in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma relating to OSHA’s final recordkeeping rule.
  • The lawsuit claims that the rule, “Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses,” overreaches and violates businesses’ rights under the First and Fifth amendments to the U.S. Constitution, effectively asking the court to apply strict scrutiny in determining the rule’s constitutionality.
  • OSHA’s announcement of the final rule in May 2016, which put in place new electronic recordkeeping and reporting requirements among companies with more than 20 employees, was met with pushback from construction industry trade groups concerning the exposure of private data.


Dive Insight:

The January lawsuit claimed that OSHA doesn’t have the authority to create what it says will be a public database for employers’ injury and illness records, and it argues that the information’s publication won’t impact workplace safety or health. Instead, the lawsuit calls the rule “an imposition on businesses” and says that the publication of “confidential and proprietary information” could be misused, exposing the business “to significant reputational harm.”

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The Dotted Line: How employers can protect construction workers from external threats

This feature is a part of “The Dotted Line” series, which takes an in-depth look at the complex legal landscape of the construction industry. To view the entire series, click here.


AUTHOR Kim Slowey
PUBLISHED March 14, 2017

Construction sites are inherently dangerous places. Every year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration release data on injuries and deaths of construction workers, with many attributable to falls, excavation collapses, struck-by incidents – all the things one might expect to occur on a job site.

However, there are other threats facing construction workers that have nothing to do with the industry but everything to do with where construction sites happen are located. The potential danger of third-party violence and theft, drunk drivers and even terrorism all threaten today’s trade workers, more so if they are in what becomes the wrong place at the wrong time.

Employers must know their legal responsibilities when it comes to worker safety, from situations ranging from job site robbery to terrorism risks.

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OSHA rolls out ‘Safe and Sound’ campaign to encourage employer action

March 16, 2017
Dive Brief:

  • The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has rolled out its “Safe and Sound” initiative, which asks employers to review their safety programs and identify areas for improvement, according to an agency press release.
  • OSHA said that aside from work-related injuries being detrimental to workers and their families, they also cost businesses money, which hampers company growth and job creation.
  • The agency highlighted the inspection areas of Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri – which saw a significant rise in fatalities related to trenching and excavating, confined space entry and struck-by motor vehicle incidents last year – as examples of the need for heightened attention to safety on job sites.


Dive Insight:

OSHA announced late last year that trench fatalities doubled from 2015 to 2016, confirming the agency’s position that construction excavation and trenching operations are among the most dangerous work site activities.
Last year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that fatalities in the private construction industry rose 4% between 2014 and 2015, from 899 to 927. The injury rate for construction declined 0.1% in 2015 but still far outpaced the U.S. average across industries.

Minnesota OSHA – Excavation Safety Stand-down – April 17 through 21, 2017

For the first time, Minnesota OSHA, along with other safety professionals, will promote and participate in a statewide Excavation Safety
Stand-down from April 17 through 21.

The goal of the stand-down is to raise awareness among employers and workers about preventing excavation accidents, which have resulted in three fatalities to Minnesota workers since 2015, due to trench collapses.

During the stand-down, employers and workers are asked to pause their workday to talk about excavation safety and discuss topics like how to properly slope, shore or shield workers from hazards during excavation projects. Employers are encouraged to make a plan to protect workers and prevent accidents.

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OSHA fines MA contractor $1.5M for 18 violations in fatal trench collapse

April 17, 2017
Dive Brief:
  • The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited a Massachusetts contractor with 18 safety violations and fined the company $1,475,813 in relation to a Boston trench accident that killed two workers in October 2016, according to an agency press release.
  • Employees of Atlantic Drain Service Co., Robert Higgins and Kelvin Mattocks, were killed while working in a 12-foot-deep trench that collapsed and broke a fire hydrant supply line. According to OSHA investigators, the trench filled with water within seconds.
  • OSHA said Atlantic did not provide basic trench safeguards and did not train employees to recognize hazardous conditions. The company and its owner, Kevin Otto, were charged earlier this year in a Suffolk County court with two counts of manslaughter and other charges related to the worker deaths.Dive Insight:

    OSHA has reported that two workers are killed every month in trench collapses, and last November, the agency found that 2016 trench fatalities had doubled since 2015.

    Aside from Atlantic’s almost $1.5 million fine, another notable element of this case is the fact that there is a press release at all. This marks the first public “shaming” citation and penalty announcement that OSHA has posted to its news releases page since President Donald Trump took office in January. While it once actively posted releases about enforcement action to that page, it now is largely reserved for announcements of safety initiatives and partnerships. However, the agency has included certain news of enforcement actions in its QuickTakes newsletters.

    (Read More)

OSHA finalizes beryllium exposure rule

Kim Slowey
Jan. 9, 2017


Dive Brief:

  • The Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced Friday that it has finalized its new beryllium exposure rule.
  • In this latest regulation, OSHA has further limited contact with beryllium’s cancer-causing dust from 2.0 micrograms per cubic meter of air over an eight-hour period – a standard established in 1949 – to 0.2 micrograms per cubic meter. The new rule also requires protective measures and equipment, as well as changing rooms and showers for at-risk employees.
  • OSHA included the construction and shipyard industries in its final rule after excluding them from its initial proposal in 2015, according to The Hill.


Dive Insight:

Employers have been given three years to put into operation all of the protective aspects of the regulation. They have one year to bring exposure limits within the new boundaries, two years to furnish changing rooms and showers and three years to enact engineering controls. OSHA said compliance will cost employers approximately $74 million a year but that medical and death-related expenses will drop more than $560 million a year. OSHA estimated that the new limits will protect approximately 62,000 workers, preventing 46 new cases of beryllium-related disease and 94 associated deaths each year.

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OSHA fines MA roofer $125K after company ignored fall hazard warnings

By Kim Slowey
August 12, 2016

Dive Brief:

  • The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Massachusetts roofing company Roof King for three willful, one repeat and nine serious violations related to falls and other hazards and fined the company $124,960.
  • According to an agency press release, Roof King’s onsite supervisory personnel ignored an OSHA inspector’s instructions as to how fall hazards could be remedied, and a subsequent inspection revealed that the company continued to put its employees at risk.
  • OSHA said that among other violations, its inspector observed Roof King’s employees working without fall protection at heights of more than 45 feet off the ground, on a lower, sloped roof and on ladders that did not extend at least 3 feet above landings.


Dive Insight:

“Employees should never have to risk their lives for a paycheck,” said Anthony Covello, OSHA’s area director for Essex and Middlesex counties, in a press release. He said preventable falls make up approximately 40% of all construction industry deaths and that Roof King must take action to avoid serious employee injuries or death.

OSHA targets Philadelphia with new campaign after 5 fall incidents in 1 month

By Kim Slowey | July 14, 2016

Dive Brief:

  • In the wake of five fall-related incidents in a one-month period, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has made a public plea for Philadelphia construction companies to take greater measures to prevent fall-related accidents, the agency said in a press release.
  • OSHA said the July 7 death of roofer Roy Chacon marked the fifth fall-related area accident since June 13.
  • In effort to combat these incidents, OSHA said it has joined forces with the City of Philadelphia’s Licenses and Inspections and the Philadelphia Project on Occupational Safety and Health to implement the “Grassroots Injury-Illness Prevention” campaign, which will host several forums addressing the city’s safety issues and how to tackle them.


Dive Insight:

OSHA Philadelphia Area Office Director Nicholas DeJesse said that if the dead or injured workers’ employers would have provided adequate fall protection, the accidents could have been avoided.

(Read More)

Building Trades, Community Orgs Make Final Push for a Just Sentence in 23-Year-Old’s Workplace Death

June 15, 2016
By Chaz Bolte

A coalition of community groups, labor unions, and worker centers are calling for a conviction during the final days of arguments in a case against Harco Construction, LLC. The case centers around the death of 23-year-old Carlos Moncayo, who was killed in an excavation collapse in New York City’s Meatpacking District in April of 2015.

The Ecuadorian immigrant was crushed when the walls of the site collapsed around him. Prosecutors brought charges against two construction managers – Wilmer Cueva of Sky Materials and Alfonso Prestia of Harco Construction – noting that they had ignored repeated warnings from private inspectors that treacherous conditions existed at the site.

As the duo faces the reality of doing time for their neglect, worker advocates are ramping up efforts to ensure justice is served for Moncayo while seizing an opportunity to call for stronger regulations and enforcement henceforth. More frequent jail time for hazardous behavior is one way the groups say this type of end result can be avoided.