California construction firms should be prepared for Cal/OSHA inspections after the agency announced that it has been deploying its investigators to worksites throughout the state.
The goal, according to Cal/OSHA, is to “determine whether adequate measures have been taken to identify safety hazards and prevent injury.” The inspection drive came after four consecutive construction workplace deaths in as many days in May.
The recent incidents in California illustrate the danger of falls in the construction industry:
- On May 18, a construction worker was killed when a railroad bridge he was dismantling in downtown Riverside collapsed, crushing him.
- On May 20 in San Diego, a worker near the top of a 22-foot rebar column was killed when the column fell on him.
- On May 20, a worker on a San Mateo project tumbled 9 feet from a wall, sustaining fatal head injuries.
- On May 21, a worker at a residential project in San Jose fell to his death from a three-story building.
Investigators will be specifically checking safety railings, personal fall protection devices and equipment, and tie-offs. They will also be looking for trench hazards, equipment safety and proximity to power lines.
In announcing the inspections, Cal/OSHA reminded employers that if its investigators find a lack of fall protection or serious hazards, they can issue stop-work orders at the site, which will be in force until the hazard is abated. Additionally, employers deemed to be in violation of safety standards will likely be cited and ordered to correct the violations.
OSHA recommends a three-step strategy for preventing construction workplace falls. It includes the following:
Planning ahead – When working from heights, such as ladders, scaffolds and roofs, you must plan projects to ensure that the job is done safely. Begin by deciding how the job will be done, what tasks will be involved, and what safety equipment may be needed to complete each task.
When estimating the cost of a job, employers should include safety equipment, and plan to have all the necessary equipment and tools available at the construction site. For example, in a roofing job, think about all of the different fall hazards, such as holes or skylights and leading edges, then plan and select fall protection suitable to that work, such as personal fall arrest systems.
Providing proper equipment – If your employees are working at elevations that are 6 feet or higher, they are at risk of serious injury or death if they take a tumble. Under OSHA regulations you are required to provide fall protection and the right equipment for the job, including the right kinds of ladders, scaffolds and safety gear.
Different ladders and scaffolds are appropriate for different jobs. Always provide workers with the kind they need to get the job done safely.
For roof work, there are many ways to prevent falls. If workers use personal fall arrest systems, for example, provide a harness for each worker who needs to tie off to the anchor. Make sure the system fits. Prior to a shift, inspect your fall protection equipment to ensure it’s in good condition and safe to use.
Training in how to use equipment safely – While equipment can save lives, your employees still need to know how to use it properly. Train your workers in proper set-up and safe use of the specific equipment they will use to complete the job. Train them in recognizing hazards and in the care and safe use of ladders, scaffolds, fall protection systems and other equipment they’ll be using on the job.
If you want more information, federal OSHA has put together a fall-prevention web page with training materials, educational materials and resources, as well as video presentations focusing on fall prevention in various construction environments. You can find more information here: www.osha.gov/stopfalls/index.html