OSHA: High DART Rates Warrant Inspections

Precast among 25 other sectors eyed by federal safety group

U.S. precast concrete manufacturers are the target of a ramped-up inspection program by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) called Site Specific Targeting (SST). Although the safety-centric initiative began in 2003 in conjunction with OSHA’s Five-year Strategic Management Plan, SST has just gained momentum as OSHA continues to beef up the program’s policing arms in recent years to better inspect the country’s heavy industrial work sites. In April, approximately 130 precasters received a letter from OSHA saying that their Days Away from work, Restricted or Transferred (DART) rates were higher than most other businesses in the country, warranting possible inspection by the federal safety group.

The majority of inspections conducted this year, between June 1, 2006, and June 1, 2007, are being carried out in response to DART rates. The DART rate includes company-reported injuries that result in days away from work, restrictions from normal job duties, or both. While the national DART rate average is 2.5 per 100 employees, this year’s targeted group of companies scored 6.0 or higher when OSHA surveyed the companies’ injury reports last year.

Overall, 14,000 general industry and construction companies were notified, and OSHA is currently looking at 4,250 work sites as primary inspection targets based on DART rates. Joan Shirikian-Hesselton, northeast regional safety manager with Oldcastle Precast Inc., says the key to keeping employees safe and lowering DART rates starts with a well-maintained safety culture. She says companies must enforce safety programs to avoid future injuries, consequently keeping them farther away from OSHA target lists in the future.

“Precasters without a strong safety culture will want to step it up, especially this year, if they’re on that targeted list of precasters,” says Shirikian-Hesselton, who also chairs NPCA’s Safety, Health & Environmental committee. “As for the Site Specific Targeting, that’s been a long time coming.”

Since 2003, OSHA has kept an eye on precasters’ DART rates, and inspections come as no surprise to many companies with high numbers. More recently, however, the safety group has labeled these manufacturers as a special interest group. With OSHA’s increased attention to silica exposure, precasters are prime inspection targets, essentially doubling their chances as candidates for Site Specific Targeting.

Inadvertently, some precasters become inspection targets from their own lack of reporting experience. Over-reporting injury rates to OSHA has brought more random inspections to companies that don’t understand the necessary criteria when logging DART information. Scott Hayward, president of Colorado Precast Concrete Inc. in Loveland, Colo., says his company over-reported approximately 12 weeks of restricted duty for one injured laborer that should never have been logged. Over-reporting that specific case may have helped contribute to the company’s elevated DART rate, which in turn could have been a reason for OSHA’s increased attention to the facility. DART rates the number of cases and not days.

“Paperwork is a critical starting point,” Hayward said. “If you have that in line when inspectors first come in, it sets the tone for the rest of the inspection.”

Precasters can take advantage of training courses at NPCA’s 41st Annual Convention Nov. 3-5, and MCPX Orlando Feb. 22-24. Education varies from OSHA 10-hour coursework for supervisors to tool box talks as well as plant safety guide offerings for local plants to develop their own customized safety programs. Visit NPCA’s Web site or call (800) 366-7731 for more on Convention and MCPX educational courses as well as a variety of resources, including the NPCA Guide to Plant Safety.

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