Recent OSHA Activity Workplace Safety and COVID-19

Over the last 6 months federal and state OSHA have been understandingly busy responding to concerns and complaints relative to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nonetheless, during COVID-19, OSHA has still been able to visit construction projects and issue significant fines for workplace safety violations, with many of them related to fall protection and trenching/excavation issues. The following are some of the more significant citations grouped by subject.

Fall Protection Safety

An Ohio contractor received proposed fines of $138,853 from inspections where several violations of OSHA’s fall protection standards occurred. Specifically, the contractor did not protect employees from falls greater than 6 feet; did not provide a training program about recognizable hazards for employees; and did not provide where needed fall protection means such as a guardrail systems, a safety net system, a personal fall arrest system or alternative fall protection measures.

Another Ohio construction company receive proposed fines of $217,127 for 3 Serious and 4 Willful violations, with most of them related to fall protection issues. Specifically, the company did not protect employees from falls greater than 6 feet; did not have portable ladders extend a minimum 3 feet above the upper landing surface; did not ensure employees were adequately trained about stairway and ladder hazards; and did not designate a competent person on fall protection to regularly inspect the site.

Yet another Ohio contractor received proposed fines of $148,430, including 5 Willful violations, for failing to provide adequate fall protection; failing to properly train employees about fall hazards; and failing to require and enforce the use of fall protection when employees were working at heights of more than 6 feet. In addition, the contractor was cited for failing to develop and maintain a safety and health program.

On average Falls cause about 40% of Construction deaths every year, and are justifiably one of the most frequently cited subjects by OSHA.

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Construction Industry Violations

Trenching/Excavation Safety

A Colorado contractor received proposed fines of $545,674 when a worker was caught and killed in a 15-foot-trench as it collapsed. The company was cited for failure to use adequate trench protection, acting with indifference to site hazards and "promoting a work policy designed to circumvent" safety regulations. In addition, the company was cited for failing to have appropriate written safety programs.

A Minnesota contractor received proposed fines of $218,192, including 1 Serious and 2 Willful citations, for allowing employees to work in excavations where water had accumulated without adequate precautions; failing to ensure suitable means of egress from the excavation; and failing to remove workers from an excavation with hazardous conditions.

An Indiana contractor received proposed fines of $191,398, including 1 willful and 10 serious violations, for trenching/excavation issues. In one of the inspections OSHA investigators had responded to a fatality in which a worker was killed when the 24-foot-deep trench he was working in collapsed. The company was cited for failing to provide adequate cave-in protection; failing to provide adequate means of egress from the trench; failing to remove accumulated water/prevent water from accumulating in the trench; failing to ensure spoil piles were kept more than 2 feet from the edge of the trench; and failing to ensure the competent person performed their duties.

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Amerisafe Group Is YOUR Safety Solution!

Amerisafe offers a variety of services to assist companies in addressing fall protection and trenching/excavation hazards, including:

  • Training on fall protection for workers and competent persons
  • Training on trenching/excavations for workers and competent persons
  • Development of customized programs on fall protection and trenching/excavations, and focusing on elements necessary for worker and workplace safety and OSHA compliance
  • Provision of assessment and inspection services to gauge implementation of fall protection and trenching/excavation requirements and best practices
  • Provision of fall protection equipment (e.g. Personal Fall Arrest Systems) for use by workers
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