The Occupational Safety and Health Administration intends to up its efforts to ensure compliance among residential contractors, The Contractor Coaching Partnership reported. The agency renewed its Local Emphasis Programs in response to a wave of worksite accidents last year. Many believe OSHA will introduce similar measures this year to make job sites safer and ultimately reduce injuries and fatalities in the residential construction industry.
Fighting against the Fall
Fall safety is a particularly important concern within the sector, yet many contractors still struggle to provide adequate protection and training in this area. While the total number of fall safety-related violations decreased in 2016, the residential construction industry received the most by far, with companies in the arena incurring almost 4,000, according to Safety Health Magazine. Some of these came as a result of jobsite deaths.
In December, OSHA logged its final fall-related violation for the year. The agency cited two Homestead, Florida-based builders the Capri Construction Corporation and Southern Chills Inc. after worker Leonardo Javier Lopez-Montelo, plummeted 11 feet to his death on a job site in Miami. OSHA also penalized two other on-site contractors for failing to ensure proper fall protection. In all, the companies must pay more than $91,000 in fines.
“This was a preventable incident. Capri and Southern Chills failed in their responsibility to protect their employees and chose to ignore the need to install the necessary fall protection system which would have saved Leonardo,” Condell Eastmond, an area director for OSHA based in Fort Lauderdale, explained in a news release.
Eastmond oversaw a similar situation earlier in the year when a carpenter at a Bay Harbor Island job site suffered a fatal fall during his first day of work. OSHA issued his employer, Fast Carpentry, a willful violation and assessed a monetary penalty of more than $152,000.
With these and other incidents in mind, OSHA administrators in the fall restarted Local Emphasis Programs across the country and distributed supplemental safety training materials, including a 40-page worker health guide for small- and medium-sized contractors, according to Construction Junkie.
New Year, New Safety Expectations
Residential contractors will endure increased scrutiny in 2017, as OSHA has instructed local offices to maintain detailed lists of nearby job sites and make surprise inspections to test for compliance. Contractors are expected to adhere to established safety codes and should offer training to on-site staff, especially foremen, lead carpenters and project managers. The agency is also in the process of introducing additional state regulations pertaining to worker fall protections. Earlier this month, OSHA announced new rules that require contractors in Oregon to provide fall protection, including temporary slide guards and handrail-equipped walkways, for workers operating at heights of six feet or more, The Register-Guard reported.
Previously, such fixtures were only required for construction personnel working 10 feet or more off the ground. The new regulations went into effect Jan. 1.