Has it become all too predictable? OSHA released its list of the 10 Most Frequently Violated Safety Standards and the results remain the same when it comes to construction. In the construction world, safety often boils down to fall protection, taking proper precautions around electrical hazards and making sure that workers are safe around machines. It sounds simple and maybe it should be. But, the same problems seem to surface every year.
Falling worker and falling objects account for almost half of the total deaths in the construction industry. Not surprisingly, fall protection is again the most frequently cited safety violation according to OSHA reports. Also in the top 10, and falling within the category of falling worker related accidents, are scaffold violations and ladder violations. Workers are laboring at elevated heights is critical that they are offered the safest methods to do their job. The risks are obvious if a scaffold is not safely assembled or lacks basis safety protections. The same thing goes for ladders. Ladders that fail to offer a worker a safe means of doing their job can resemble a death trap. It is hardly surprising that the failure to provide appropriate fall protection and safe equipment leads to a high percentage of construction fatalities. Electrical injuries are responsible for more than 8% of construction related fatalities. Workers who are impressed by equipment or machinery or who are exposed to a collapsing structure makeup nearly 5% of construction related fatalities.
You can see the recent OSHA statistics here.
The lawyers at Block O’Toole & Murphy, a law firm that has vast experience in fighting for construction workers and their families, has been following the OSHA Top 10 for a number of years. While there may be some fluctuation in certain statistics and, perhaps, a subtle shift in specific categories of violations, one thing remains clear: this list never seems to change in any material way. The same type of preventable construction accidents continue to occur on an annual basis.
Why is our country tolerating the idea that hard-working women and men in the construction industry continue to be exposed unnecessarily dangerous conditions?
- Is it a complete lack of compassion for people? I hope not but it can’t be dismissed that some of our more vulnerable workers are consistently the ones placed in harm’s way. The disproportionate number of immigrant workers involved with serious and/or fatal accidents is both disturbing and revealing.
- Is it a failure to properly train our workers and supervisors? That is certainly part of the problem and an inexcusable one at that.
- Are we neglecting to safely plan how jobs should be carried out? Absolutely – – another part of the problem that there is no justification for.
- Are developers and general contractors shirking their responsibilities to provide workers with the right equipment because it’s cheaper not to? There is no question that this happens at a great deal of work sites, often smaller jobs with non-union workers.
- Do construction supervisors push workers to perform their jobs, on occasion, with the pace of their work being prioritized over their safety? This is one of the most common problems and it leads to a great deal of severe accidents often resulting in serious injury or fatality. The maxim profits over people certainly applies.
Many of the common sense reasons for safety violations revolve around money. Shortcuts are taken because of financial incentives. Finishing a job faster makes the job cheaper. Doing it with less expensive equipment or less personnel also makes a cheaper. Being able to finish the job with inexperienced, low-wage workers reduces the cost and, hence, makes it cheaper. It is easy to see why some people may think that some of the shortcuts will help the bottom line for a construction company and that is why these shortcuts continue to occur. But, is it that simple? It says here that taking shortcuts when it comes to safety is financially shortsighted. In fact, following a sound safety program will save a company a considerable amount of money. How? First, a company can rack up a large number of fines for failing to provide a safe place to work. OSHA will be more than happy to slap an expensive violation on you if you fail to give workers safe opportunity to do their job. Those fines can cripple a company. A safe job site and track record will reduce your liability and Worker’s Compensation insurance costs, no insignificant feat. It also limits the number of days where you lose workers as a result of injury. Healthy and productive workers are far less expensive than a host of employees who are injured and unable to work. Finally, a safe company is not subjected to lawsuits for failing to honor their obligation of providing safe place to work. Lawsuits = $.
Do it safer. It is the right thing to do for the hard-working people who show up every day looking to do an honest day’s work. Each and every one of them deserves it. If that is not enough motivation, doing it safer will save you money.
For an example of how the trial lawyers at Block O’Toole & Murphy have helped construction workers and their families, you can review this.
Block O’Toole & Murphy, LLP, is a law firm committed to protecting the rights of construction workers. You may contact them at any time for a free consultation by calling 212-736-5300.