COVID-19 and the Construction Industry

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Monthly Archives: September, 2019

  1. Lightning Safety in Florida

    A recent tragedy in Florida has led to a renewed emphasis on roofing safety in the Sunshine State. Romelia Ramirez, a 20-year-old woman from Palm Beach County, was struck by lightning while working on a roof in Wellington. The injuries she sustained resulted in her death. Tragic events like these serve to underscore the importance of preparation. Storms are common during the summer months in Florida, and lightning presents an additional hazard to go along with torrential rainfall and powerful winds. This means maintaining compliance with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards is essential for contractors that want to keep workers safe and avoid potential citations.

    In this article, a Florida OSHA lawyer will discuss lightning safety in Florida. Remember, lightning can occur independent of a storm. It’s called “dry lightning” and the National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL) considers it a notable threat. The same is true for a “bolt from the blue.” This type of lightning occurs when a “cloud-to-ground flash…travels a relatively large distance in clear air away from the storm cloud, and then angles down and strikes the ground.” These lightning bolts have been observed striking more than 25 miles from the thunderstorm cloud it originated from. For industry-leading OSHA defense, consult a Florida OSHA defense lawyer with years of experience fighting on behalf of the construction industry. 

    How Common Are Lightning Strikes?

    According to OSHA’s “Fact Sheet” on lightning safety, “cloud-to-ground lightning occurs 20 to 25 million times and over 300 people are struck by lightning” every year. Lightning strikes can injure, maim, or kill a worker, and although it’s an often overlooked occupational hazard, employers must be cautious of the danger it presents. Over the last 30 years, approximately 50 people were killed by lightning strikes per year. Many of those that survived were left permanently disabled. Some of the occupations that are at the highest risk of lightning strikes include roofing, construction, building maintenance, power utility field repair, steel erection/telecommunications, plumbing and pipe fitting, and more.

    Tips for Staying Safe

    The majority of lightning strikes occur when workers are caught outside during a storm. Typically, this happens because workers were racing to “beat the storm,” or finish their work before the storm arrived to avoid delays. This is simply not a risk worth taking. As soon as a storm is identified as a potential threat, it’s time to bring your workers to shelter. Some injuries occur because workers return to work before it is safe to do so. As a rule of thumb, keep your workers in an enclosed shelter until 30 minutes after the last sound of thunder. 

    If you want to eliminate any chance of a lightning-related injury taking place on your project site, follow the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) guidelines. They recommend bringing your team inside as soon as you hear thunder. They also advise that contractors that can’t relocate their team in a safe building use hard-topped metal vehicles with the windows rolled up. If you’d like to learn more about what you can do to maintain a safe and compliant project site, consult a Florida OSHA lawyer.

    If you would like to speak with a Florida OSHA defense lawyer, please contact us today.

    Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.

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  2. How Remote Inspection Robots Aim to Improve Roofing Safety

    The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) keeps a close eye on roofing contractors and their workers. They recognize the dangers of the roofing profession and see the vast potential for improved employee safety. As we’ve discussed previously, falls are the number one cause of deaths in the construction industry and have been designated as one of OSHA’s “Fatal Four.” For this reason alone, it’s not difficult to discern why so much pressure has been lumped on the roofing industry.

    Fortunately, the roofing industry is an innovative space filled with brilliant minds and problem solvers. This point is illustrated by the actions of Mike Slawinksi of Atlanta. Slawinski designed a remote inspection robot for surveying steep roofs. In this article, our Tennessee OSHA defense attorneys will discuss Slawinski’s story and explain how remote inspection robots can improve safety in the roofing industry.

    A Fearful Favor, a First-Rate Fix

    One day, Slawinksi’s friend asked him for help performing roof inspections in a subdivision brimming with multimillion-dollar homes. The large homes had steep roofs, making them perilous for the inexperienced roofer. Here’s how Slawinski describes his experience:

    I got up on the front of the house and went over to the back side, which was four stories because it was a drop-off lot, and I started sliding down the roof. In my mind I got to two feet from the edge and there was a concrete patio down below. In reality, I was probably more like 20 feet from the edge. I scrambled over to a valley and got off that roof, swearing I’d never get on another roof again.

    As a rational human being and an innovative inventor, Slawinski realized that their had to be a safer (and easier) way to perform this task. He experimented with various tools and technologies to make roof inspections from the ground possible, but he had little luck finding a solution. Clearly, something needed to be invented to turn his idea into a reality. And like that, the Roof Rover was born.

    The Roof Rover

    The Roof Rover is a robotic inspection device that weighs just six pounds. It is equipped with sensors and two cameras that are used for inspecting and driving. The lasers in the robot’s sensors can measure within one millimeter or less of the thickness of a penny, no small feat, and it can perform a variety of functions, including:

    • Measure the thickness of shingles
    • Discern the difference between a blister and hail dent
    • Measure pitch and roll with an accelerometer
    • Collect additional measurements with an optical encoder
    • Detecting roof edges to keep the device on the roof
    • Measure temperatures using a surface temperature gauge

    Best of all, the robot requires very little maintenance to remain in working order. Of course, the tread should be replaced every few months since roofs can be extremely hot. Finally, Slawinski recommends keeping an additional rechargeable battery on hand. It even comes with a 15-minute instructional video. Could the Roof Rover help improve roofer safety? Results from testing have been a resounding success, so you can expect to see more technology like this popping up in the future.

    If you would like to speak with a Tennessee OSHA defense lawyer, please contact us today.

    Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.

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  3. Flood Preparedness and Response Part 2

    The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is responsible for ensuring that employers across the country provide employees with a safe workplace that doesn’t negatively affect their health. Many of these risks are man-made, but what about the fury of Mother Nature? 

    In part one of this two-part series covering flood preparedness and response, an OSHA lawyer discussed how floods form and the employer’s responsibilities and legal obligations to their employees. Now, we will summarize the two main facets of OSHA’s flood guidelines: preparedness and response/recovery.


    OSHA views preparedness as a three-pronged strategy. Planning comes first, and requires employers to have an evacuation plan in place prior to the arrival of a flood. This is one of the most effective strategies for mitigating confusion, avoiding injuries, and streamlining project site egress. Your evacuation plan should take into account many factors, including:

    • Trigger conditions that activate the plan
    • Chain of command
    • Which employees will perform emergency functions
    • Clear evacuation procedures
    • Identification of routes and exits
    • Head counting procedures
    • Employee equipment

    You should also contact your county planning department to see if your project site is in a flood zone. Monitoring the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio can help you get up-to-date information on flash flooding in your area, too. If a flash flood warning is issued, you must reach higher ground immediately.

    Equipping, training, and exercises round out the rest of OSHA’s preparedness guidelines. They note that all employers should have emergency supply kits safely stowed at every project site. You should also familiarize yourself with this information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Training must capably prepare workers for a flood-related emergency. In addition, you should practice executing your evacuation plan regularly to expose weaknesses and update your plan accordingly.


    Post-flood, it’s important that you have a plan in place to help your workers safely return to the project site. First and foremost, make sure you workers are careful when driving to and from work in the aftermath of a flood. According to OSHA, “Nearly half of flood fatalities are vehicle-related.” A car can stall in as little as six inches of standing water and be swept away by two feet of moving water. Upon arrival at the project site, some of the most common hazards include electrical hazards, tree and debris removal, carbon monoxide, lifting injuries, mold, animals, chemical and biological hazards, fire, drowning, hypothermia, exhaustion, and heat.

    If you would like to speak with one of our OSHA lawyers, please contact us today.

    Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.

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  4. Flood Preparedness and Response Part 1

    Floods are relatively common in the United States, and their destructive power is well-documented throughout history. Hurricane Harvey, the Los Angeles Flood, and the Pacific Tsunami of 1946 resulted in severe floods and hundreds of fatalities. Shockingly, despite the death toll and widespread displacement caused by these floods, they were relatively tame compared to some of the most iconic United States floods, including those produced by Hurricane Katrina (1,833 fatalities) and the Galveston Hurricane of 1900 (approximately 8,000 fatalities).  

    This destruction can be even more pervasive without proper preparedness and response protocols in place to mitigate damage. This is especially true on project sites, which are extremely vulnerable to flooding. This is why the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has instituted a flood preparedness and response program. In this two-part series, an OSHA defense lawyer will discuss everything contractors need to know about floods to prevent catastrophes on their project sites and surrounding areas.

    Where Do Floods Come From?

    Floods can be catalyzed by any number of factors, including heavy rains, rising rivers, tidal surges, ice jams, and dam failures. In Florida, hurricanes often lead to storm surges and severe flooding. By the time a flood has become a threat, it’s too late to prepare, so it’s important that contractors stay on top of flood advisory warnings, track hurricanes and tropical storms, and understand flood vulnerabilities and zoning information to protect their project sites against floods. If you aren’t sure where to start, an OSHA defense lawyer can survey your site and provide suggestions for avoiding an OSHA citation.

    Employer Responsibilities and Workers’ Rights

    As an employer, you are responsible for ensuring that your workers are safe and healthy when working on the project site. Addressing anticipated hazards like floods is important for preparing your workers. They should be familiar with flood response and recovery operations designed to mitigate hazards and provide safe return to the project site. It is OSHA’s job to ensure that you are following their guidelines, which we will discuss in further detail in part two.

    Remember, without a plan in place, all of your hard work could be washed away by a flood. Failure to prepare could lead to additional hazards for workers returning to the project site. Subjecting your workers to dangerous working conditions will put you on the fast track to an OSHA citation and a consultation with an OSHA defense attorney.

    If you would like to speak with an OSHA defense attorney, please contact us today.

    Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.

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