No one wants to make that phone call - the one informing family and friends that someone they love has been killed in a workplace accident. Such calls are made too often in the construction industry. And to make matters worse, in many cases, they could have been avoided if proper safety procedures had been followed.
OSHA recently released its list of the Top 10 most commonly cited violations. Despite falls ranking as the leading cause of fatalities in the construction industry, fall protection continues to sit atop the list of violations, followed by scaffolding violations - another leading cause of deaths on construction sites. Such a correlation between violations and fatalities is clearly no coincidence.
Perhaps it's the "it can't happen to me" syndrome, or the need to complete projects on very tight timelines. It could also be sheer ignorance of the proper safety procedures. Regardless, it is an employer's obligation to provide workers with both the knowledge and tools they need to ensure they safely return home to their families every night. This includes providing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and training on its use, as well as instruction on proper application of scaffolding, trenching shoring/shielding equipment and other safety-related devices.
It's also up to the employer to enforce the use of safety equipment and procedures where required. In some cases, employees will be tempted to take shortcuts to keep a project on schedule, or may neglect use of PPE because they find it cumbersome or uncomfortable to wear. This can have fatal consequences if left unchecked, and it is the company and its managers who will be held responsible. As such, company policy should be very clear about the consequences should proper safety protocols fail to be followed.
To avoid liability - and some very unpleasant phone calls - it is essential that you make sure all of your employees understand that safety is not an option on the jobsite. Then ensure they have the proper knowledge and tools to make it happen.
OSHA recently published new and revised information explaining workers' and employers' rights, as well as how to protect workers from hazards in the construction, general and maritime industries. Click here for more information.