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The National Safety Council conducted an employee perception survey that found 58% of Americans working in construction (the industry that sees the most workplace fatalities each year) feel that safety takes a backseat to productivity and completing job tasks. Further, 51% say management does only the minimum required by law to keep employees safe, and 47% say employees are afraid to report safety issues.

By contrast, 36% of the 2,000 full-time and part-time employees in the 14 industries surveyed by NSC feel their employers prioritize productivity over safety.

“Sadly the results of our survey indicate that many workers still worry about whether they will make it home safely tonight,” said Deborah A.P. Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council. “We call on all employers to renew their commitment to keep everyone safe, on every job, each and every day.”

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On April 30, OSHA issued two new citations against Hultgren Construction. The company was renovating the former Copper Lounge building in Sioux Falls, SD when it collapsed on December 2.  The collapse of the historic building killed a construction worker and trapped an apartment resident under the wreckage for hours.

According to the OSHA citation, employees were tasked with removing two load-bearing walls but were not instructed how to install a temporary shoring system to transfer building loads. When the final segment of a load-bearing wall was removed, the building collapsed.  “The employer had employees and temporary employees engaged in the removal of a load bearing wall and piled the brick and debris in different areas of the floor without ensuring the safe carrying capacities of the floor were not exceeded,” one citation said.  The company was also cited for exposing employees to struck-by and crushing hazards and not performing an engineering survey prior to beginning demolition.

OSHA is proposing penalties of $101,400 for the new citations. That follows more than two dozen other citations and a $100,000 penalty issued against Hultgren Construction last week related to the construction site.  Command Center, a temporary labor agency that provided workers for the project, was also fined over $114,000 for more than a dozen citations, including failing to initiate and maintain a safety program.  The fines are among the largest ever levied in South Dakota by OSHA, according to the agency.

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The fines stem from a trench accident that killed two workers on October 21, 2016 in Boston, MA.

Atlantic Drain Service Co. employees Robert Higgins and Kelvin Mattocks were killed while working in a 12-foot-deep trench that collapsed and broke a fire hydrant supply line. The trench then filled with water within seconds.

OSHA investigation concluded that Atlantic Drain Service Co. did not provide basic trench safeguards against collapse and did not train the employees to recognize hazardous conditions.osha citations

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Falls at construction sites continue to be the leading cause of death for construction workers.  Around 37% of all construction worker deaths are from falls.  OSHA’s campaign is striving to raise awareness among workers and employers nationwide about the dangers of falls from heights on ladders, scaffolds and roofs.

On May 8-12, OSHA will hold its fourth annual National Fall Prevention Stand-Down. OSHA describes the event as “an opportunity for employers to have a conversation with employees about hazards, protective methods, and the company’s safety policies and goals.  It can also be an opportunity for employees to talk to management about fall hazards they see.”  Employers are encouraged to halt work and hold a “toolbox-talk” with employees about hazards and fall prevention.https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e1/Flickr_-_Official_U.S._Navy_Imagery_-_Construction_workers_assemble_bleachers_aboard_USS_Bataan..jpg

OSHA promotes a three step approach to prevent falls and save lives.  Those three steps are Plan, Provide, and Train. Employers should plan ahead to create a safe work environment.  They can do this by deciding how the job will be done, what tasks will be involved, and what safety equipment will be required to complete each task safely.  When determining what is needed to complete a job, employers should look not only at the materials needed but also the safety equipment needed to perform the task as safely as possible.  This is where the second step comes in which is to provide the right equipment.  Employers must provide fall protection and the right equipment for the job.  That includes proper ladders, scaffolds, and safety gear to protect their workers.  And the final step is to train.  It is not enough to have the proper safety equipment if it is not properly used by the worker.  Training in hazard recognition and proper use of safety equipment is essential to a safe construction site.

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The Wolf Administration, PennDOT, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission and the Association of Pennsylvania Constructors gathered this week in Harrisburg to kick off Work Zone Safety Awareness Week.

PennDOT data shows that 16 people were killed in work-zone crashes in 2016 which is down from 23 in 2015. However, there was an increase in work zone crashes this past year (2,075 in 2016 up from 1,935 in 2015). Over the last five years, work zone crashes have been occurring at an average of 1,872 a year. Those work zone crashes have also been responsible for around 20 fatalities a year.  This data includes both PennDot workers and non-workers.   When looking at just PennDot worker deaths alone, 87 PennDOT employees have died in the line of duty since 1970.

“Work zone safety continues to be a top priority of the department,” PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards said. “We all hope to help change driver behavior and raise awareness so all of us, highway workers and motorists alike, get home safely every day.”

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On March 23, the United States Senate by a vote of 50-48 adopted H.J. Res 83.  This vote overturns OSHA’s rule “Clarification of Employer’s Continuing Obligation to Make and Maintain Accurate Records of Each Recordable Injury and Illness,” informally known as the “Volks” rule (named for a case involving Volks Constructors). The U.S. House of Representatives approved the resolution by a 231-191 at the beginning of this month. Congress was given the power to adopt these resolutions under the Congressional Review Act.  Under this Act, Congress may pass a resolution to prevent a federal agency (in this case OSHA) from implementing a rule.

Employers have long been required to maintain records of work-related injuries and illnesses for a 5 year period.  Under the original rule, OSHA was allowed to issue citations to employers for failing to adhere to these recordkeeping requirements if the violation(s) occurred within a 6 month period.  The recently overturned “Volks” rule (put in place by OSHA in January 2017) extended that time period to allow citations to be issued up to five and a half years after violations allegedly occurred.

Advocates of the “Volks” rule believe that ongoing recordkeeping is an essential part of implementing safe workplace standards and strategies by referring to the records of illnesses and injuries and taking steps to correct there causes.  The critics of the rule believe it was unnecessarily burdensome on employers and is a rule that only appears to be pro-safety on its face because it merely exposes information about injuries and illnesses and does nothing for improving safety within workplaces.

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The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited a Plymouth Meeting contractor for failure to provide workers with safe scaffolding access and protection while working onsite in Philadelphia.

Real Contractors LLC received four repeat and two serious violations for this dangerous oversight. Workers potentially could have fallen unprotected from as high as 13 feet.

“By not complying with OSHA safety standards, Real Contractors continues to put its workers at serious risk of being injured or killed on the job. The hazards found in our inspection are all completely preventable, and must be immediately corrected by the company,” said Theresa Downs, director of OSHA’s Philadelphia Area Office, in a press release.

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The Children’s Home of Reading, a facility for children and youth in crisis, faced citations a few months ago from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Employees have faced a minimum of 10 cases of workplace violence, including kicks in the face, head and neck by residents. Employees were not provided the proper protective equipment for situations like these, and others.

“Employees have the right to a safe and healthful workplace, however, there are many documented reports in the past several years of employees being exposed to workplace violence at The Children’s Home of Reading,” said acting director of OSHA’s Harrisburg Area Office, Timothy Braun, in a press release. “This facility must take immediate action and institute effective protective measures to ensure that no more workers get hurt.”

The proposed fine for the findings total $23,160.

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Universal Health Services of Doylestown has been cited for four serious violations in relation to workplace violence. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspected the facility and found them guilty of failing to protect workers from patient attacks, conduct an annual review of the bloodborne pathogen program, and offer bloodborne pathogen training to registered nurses and mental health technicians.

 

Jean Kulp, the director of OSHA’s Allentown Area Office, said in a press release, “Hospitals and other healthcare settings pose significant safety and health risks to workers. OSHA standards prevent these employees from exposure to bloodborne pathogens and other common dangers. Foundations Behavioral Health failed to provide a safe and healthful workplace, which is unacceptable.”

 

The proposed fine for the company is $36,701.

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Birdsboro Kosher Farms Corp., a chicken processing company in Birdsboro, Pennsylvania, has been fined by OSHA for endangering workers after an employee suffered an amputation. The employee had lost a thumb while working a mixing machine at the farm. OSHA has previously inspected Birdsboro Kosher in 2013, 2014 and 2015, where they found the worker protection system to be lacking.

“Birdsboro Kosher Farms is leaving its employees vulnerable to a variety of safety and health hazards that can cause serious injuries,” said acting OSHA area director in Harrisburg, Timothy Braun, in a press release. “It is critical that the company take appropriate steps to ensure worker protection at its facility. Anything less is unacceptable.”

The proposed fines are $317,477.