How do the worst safety infractions in the construction industry affect precasters?
By Evan Gurley
For more than 40 years, safety in the workplace has been under the watchful eye of OSHA, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration. And while OSHA has not always been popular among manufacturers, Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of Labor OSHA, notes that since 1970 workplace fatalities have been reduced by more than 65%, and reported occupational injury and illness rates have decreased by more than 67%. Despite those reductions, the workplace still poses significant injury and illness challenges:
• Every day, nearly 13 workers die on the job (4,609 killed in 2011, an improvement from nearly 38 worker deaths a day in 1970).
• Every year, more than 4.1 million workers suffer a serious job-related injury or illness.
• Total costs paid for workers’ compensation reached $74 billion in 2009 (according to the National Academy of Social Insurance report):
Of the 4,114 worker fatalities in private industry during 2011, the latest year for which full statistics are available, 721 or 17.5% were in construction. The leading causes of worker deaths on construction sites were falls, followed by electrocution, struck by object, and caught-in/between situations. These “fatal four” were responsible for nearly three out of every five construction worker deaths in 2011. Eliminating the “fatal four” would save roughly 410 lives in America every year.
• Falls – 251 in 2011 (35%)
• Struck by Object – 73 in 2011 (10%)
• Electrocutions – 67 in 2011 (9%)
• Caught-in/between – 19 in 2011 (3%)
As you can see, even with the significant worker safety improvements from OSHA’s inauguration in 1971, there is still room for great improvement, especially when considering that 13 workers who go to work every day will not return home to their friends and familes.
While Canadian safety statistics are compiled on a province-by-province basis, the incidence rates of injuries in Canada would align fairly closely with these OSHA Top 10 violations.
OSHA Top 10 for 2012
Every year, OSHA releases its top 10 most frequently cited violations from the previous fiscal year as compiled by OSHA inspections. OSHA publishes this list to alert employers and employees about commonly cited standards so that they can use this information to take preventive measures. Many if not all of these frequently cited standards are preventable injuries or illnesses that occur in the workplace.
Year after year, this top 10 list of frequently cited OSHA violations remains basically the same. There may be a reshuffling of violations from year to year, but essentially the layout remains unchanged.
Patrick Kapust, OSHA’s deputy director of the Directorate of Enforcement Programs, best described the reason for creating a top 10 list in a recent interview with the Safety and Health Council: “The data found in the top 10 list is not meant to gauge how well OSHA is performing or how safe businesses in the country are. The list is at its best when used by employers as a tool to improve safety at their work sites. Employers who may be interested in what are the possible hazards in their workplaces could look at the top 10 list and see if they’re covering all hazards and assessing the kinds of changes they may have to make to their safety and health programs.”
The top 10 most frequently cited standards (Construction and General Industry) for fiscal 2012 (Oct. 1, 2011 to Sept. 30, 2012) are:
1. Fall Protection
(29 CFR 1926.501 –
cited 7,250 times)
The use of 100% fall protection at the point of work, as well as going to and from the work area, is mandatory for all employees and all contractor personnel on projects when employees are at risk of falling or working a minimum of
6 ft or more off the floor or ground. The exception is the plant area covered by 29 CFR 1910.23, where the minimum distance off the floor or ground is 4 ft. Falls continue to be the leading cause of fatalities in the construction industry. Violations occur when these minimum requirements are not met.
2. Hazard Communication Standard
(29 CFR 1910.1200 –
cited 4,696 times)
It is important to establish requirements and procedures necessary to evaluate chemicals used at each respective site. Employers must provide information concerning physical and health hazards associated with these chemicals to employees who may come in contact with one or more of the chemicals on the job, and they must protect employees against uncontrolled exposure to these chemicals.
Employers share information through comprehensive hazard communication programs, which include container labeling and other forms of warning, safety data sheets and employee training. The requirements of this section are intended to be consistent with the United Nations Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals, Revision 3.
With the implementation of OSHA’s new Globally Harmonized System (GHS) into its Hazard Communication Standard (HCS), which will require full compliance by June 1, 2015, precasters will need to start transitioning their HazCom training, information and labeling to GHS in order to fully comply with OSHA regulations. Read more on GHS and the phase-in dates in the January-February 2013 issue of Precast Inc. magazine.
Mislabeling and the absence of training and safety data sheets continue to be among the top violations in the construction industry.
(29 CFR 1926.451 –
cited 3,814 times)
Scaffolding violations may not be as prevalent in the precast industry, but for precasters who use scaffolding in their day-to-day operations, violations often occur when walking surfaces fail to resist the load that it is handling; workers fail to provide fall protection for heights above 10 ft; or they incorrectly set up the scaffolding platform, access points, base/foundation or guardrail provisions.
4. Respiratory Protection
(29 CFR 1910.134 –
cited 2,371 times)
Toxic fumes, gases, vapors and dust containing silica can be an issue in any precast plant if not addressed properly. Establishing and maintaining a respiratory protection program that meets OSHA standards is an important tool for a plant worker’s safety and health. A respiratory protection plan establishes requirements and procedures to protect employees against overexposure to airborne contaminants. Violations occur when plants fail to establish and maintain a written respiratory protection program, fail to provide a medical evaluation to determine an employee’s ability to use a respirator, fail to establish requirements for voluntary use of respirators, fail to provide annual fit-testing, and fail to establish general requirements for respirator selection.
5. Control of
Hazardous Energy (Lockout/Tagout)
(29 CFR 1910.147 – cited 1,572 times)
Lockout-Tagout is a specific practice for establishing requirements and procedures to prevent the unintended release of energy – whether electrical, potential, gravity, hydraulic or pneumatic – that may energize an electrical circuit or a machine, or cause a machine part to unexpectedly move or fall, causing injury to any employee. Violations occur when plants fail to establish requirements in energy control procedures, fail to inspect the procedure established, fail to properly train employees on the procedures, and fail to establish energy control program requirements.
(29 CFR 1910.178 –
cited 1,993 times)
An in-house safety document specifically for powered industrial trucks, including forklifts and motorized hand trucks, will establish requirements for their design, maintenance and operation. Employees should be trained on the equipment’s load, what to do when the truck could potentially tip over, speed limitations and seat belt requirements.
Violations occur during unsafe operations, or when operators are not properly trained and evaluated, trucks are still in operation although they require service, and trucks are not inspected before being placed into service.
(29 CFR 1926.1053 –
cited 2,310 times)
Ladder accidents are accountable for roughly 8% of all labor-associated deaths each year. Ladders and their requirements have become an increasing concern in the United States due to mishandling and failure to achieve safety. The mishandling and misuse of ladders continues to draw frequent violations. Violations occur when the minimum requirements are not met.
8. Electrical, Wiring Methods, Components and Equipment
(29 CFR 1910.305 – cited 1,744 times)
An in-house safety document specifically for electrical wiring methods will establish requirements and procedures for the examination, installation, use and testing of continuity and resistance of electrical power tools, equipment, power cords and receptacles to eliminate employee exposure to hazards. Electrical hazards include insulation, incomplete circuit devices, mislabeled circuit components, current conductivity, overhead lines, proper grounding, accidental start-ups and personal protection.
9. Machines, General Requirements
(29 CFR 1910.212 –
cited 2,097 times)
One or more methods of machine guarding must be provided to protect the operator and other employees in the machine area from hazards such as those created by point of operation, ignoring nip points, rotating parts, flying chips and sparks. Examples of guarding methods are barrier guards, two-hand tripping devices and electronic safety devices. Guards must be affixed to the machine where possible or secured elsewhere if attachment to the machine is not possible, although the guard itself cannot pose a hazard.
Any machinery that can cause harm to your employees during operation must be protected under this standard. Common violations are seen when plants fail to apply a guard system, point of operation when guarding, secure anchoring of the machinery at a fixed location, specifications for guarding blades, and general requirements for the location of a machine guard.
10. Electrical Systems Design, General Requirements
(29 CFR 1910.303 – cited 1,332 times)
General violations not covered in 29 CFR 1910.305 are found here. Special attention to circuit breakers, connection equipment, power cords, circuit identification, inspection of electrical equipment and guarding of live parts are frequent violations under this section.
*To get a more accurate breakdown of the most frequently cited OSHA standards in relation to your company size, input your plant-specific information at the referenced website.
Employers and employees have an important role in addressing and tackling safety-related concerns on a day-to-day basis. OSHA and NPCA have numerous resources to help educate and promote in-house plant safety procedures. Safety affects everyone, therefore safety procedures and processes should not be ignored or taken lightly even if the task seems to be tedious or routine.
Penalties and Violations
To get a better idea of OSHA’s penalties for violations, let’s take a closer look at the breakdown.
• Other Than Serious Violation – A violation that has a direct relationship to job safety and health, but probably would not cause death or serious physical harm. A proposed penalty of up to $7,000 for each violation is discretionary. A penalty for an other-than-serious violation may be adjusted downward by as much as 95%, depending on the employer’s good faith (demonstrated efforts to comply with the standard), history of previous violations and size of business. When the adjusted penalty amounts to less than $100, no penalty is proposed.
• Serious Violation – A violation where there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result and that the employer knew, or should have known, of the hazard. A mandatory penalty of up to $7,000 for each violation is proposed. A penalty for a serious violation may be adjusted downward, based on the employer’s good faith, history of previous violations, the gravity of the alleged violation and size of business.
• Willful Violation – A violation that the employer knowingly commits or commits with plain indifference to the law. The employer either knows that the act constitutes a violation, or is aware that a hazardous condition existed and made no reasonable effort to eliminate it.
Penalties of up to $70,000 may be proposed for each willful violation, with a minimum penalty of $5,000 for each violation. A proposed penalty for a willful violation may be adjusted downward, depending on the size of the business and its history of previous violations. Usually, no credit is given for good faith.
If an employer is convicted of a willful violation of a standard that has resulted in the death of an employee, the offense is punishable by a court-imposed fine or by imprisonment for up to six months, or both. A fine of up to $250,000 for an individual, or $500,000 for a corporation, may be imposed for a criminal conviction.
• Repeated Violation – A violation of any standard, regulation, rule or order where, upon reinspection, a substantially similar violation can bring a fine of up to $70,000 for each such violation. To be the basis of a repeated citation, the original citation must be final; a citation under contest may not serve as the basis for a subsequent repeated citation.
• Failure to Abate Prior Violation – Failure to abate a prior violation may bring a civil penalty of up to $7,000 for each day the violation continues beyond the prescribed abatement date.
• De Minimis Violation – De minimis violations are those that have no direct or immediate relationship to safety or health. Whenever de minimis conditions are found during an inspection, they are documented in the same way as any other violation, but are not included on the citation.
Additional violations for which citations and proposed penalties may be issued upon conviction include:
• Falsifying records, reports or applications can bring a fine of $10,000 or up to six months in jail, or both.
• Violations of posting requirements can bring a civil penalty of up to $7,000.
• Assaulting a compliance officer or otherwise resisting, opposing, intimidating or interfering with a compliance officer while he is engaged in the performance of his duties is a criminal offense, subject to a fine of not more than $5,000 and imprisonment for not more than three years.
Citation and penalty procedures may differ somewhat in states with their own occupational safety and health programs.
Evan Gurley is a technical services engineer with NPCA.
Bureau of Labor Statistics
Canadian Centre for Occupational Health
Occupational Safety and Health Administration
NPCA Safety Resources
• Watch the Back to Basics Safety Video
• Find Safety Toolbox Programs for Employees
• Sign up for the NPCA Safety Express Email