COVID-19 and the Construction Industry

Here's How You Can Protect Your Business

Monthly Archives: January, 2020

  1. Is OSHA Enforcement Fair Across the Board?

    Since 1970, OSHA’s mission has been “to ensure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance.” While the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) has undoubtedly saved lives in their mission, many construction companies feel that their businesses have been needlessly targeted by the administration. Does OSHA really treat all worksites equally?

    In this article, we discuss OSHA’s increased focus on contractors in Florida. As we’ll see below, OSHA may not be “enforcing standards” equally. If your construction company has been given massive repeat fines, consult the Florida OSHA defense lawyers from Cotney Law. 

    Targeting Roofers

    Here’s how it happens: an OSHA compliance officer will drive by a construction site and catch a glimpse of a worker not complying with OSHA regulations. Often, this offender is a roofer operating without a personal fall arrest system. Remember, employers must provide fall protection to anyone working at a height of 6 feet or more. Even if fall protection was provided, OSHA will fine this employer for their employee’s negligence. However, many employers are finding this practice anything less than fair. 

    Related: Understanding OSHA’s Investigation Process 

    As NBC2 News reports, construction companies across Florida are pushing back against OSHA operation methods. Construction companies, especially roofing companies, are coming to find that, despite their best efforts, they are being labeled willful or repeat offenders by OSHA and given harsher fines. “To keep fining the employer for actions that are purposely done by the employee is not making them safer,” said one roofing company’s safety director. “What’s going to happen is that we won’t be able to be in business anymore and those employees are going to work for someone that guess what is not going to be as safety conscientious as we are.” 

    Related: How OSHA Inspection Representation Helps Contractors Save Money 

    Pushing Back 

    The above quote highlights a serious problem within the industry. You can do everything in your power to provide a hazard-free work environment for your workers, but it doesn’t mean much in the eyes of OSHA if your workers themselves are creating an unsafe work environment. As we’ve covered previously, OSHA can administer $132,598 fines per violation for willful or repeated offenses. While these fines are warranted in severe cases, there are many cases in which these fines are undeserved and serve little purpose other than to bankrupt a construction company. 

    If you’ve done your best to remain compliant with OSHA regulations, don’t sit back while your company is unfairly targeted. Consult the Florida OSHA defense lawyers from Cotney Construction Law who can represent your company and push back against unwarranted OSHA fines. 

    If you would like to speak with one of our Florida OSHA defense attorneys, 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. Is Your First Aid Plan Compliant With OSHA Rules?

    It’s a frigid day in February and your team is rehabbing apartments in Corktown. The project is proceeding as planned, that is, until you hear a loud crash and one of your workers crying out for help. What is the first thought that passes through your mind? I need to grab the first aid kit. Only there’s a problem, you have no idea where the closest first aid kit is. Now other workers are crying out for help, pressure is mounting, and the project site has devolved into chaos. 

    In moments such as this, it’s important to have a first aid plan in place that complies with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA’s) rules and guidelines. Noncompliance can result in project delays and lost profits, and severe violations could require the assistance of a Michigan OSHA lawyer. It’s important to take OSHA seriously; otherwise, finding success in the construction industry will be a tremendous challenge. 

    You can’t change the past, but you can make an ardent commitment to improving worker health and safety on the project site in the future by taking a vested interest in OSHA compliance. Small actions, such as making sure every work trailer is stocked with a first aid kit, add up over time, resulting in a safer and more productive project site. 

    OSHA’s Thoughts on Workplace First Aid Plans

    OSHA maintains that “employers provide medical and first aid personnel and supplies commensurate with the hazards of the workplace.” However, the policy is somewhat unclear as the scope of a company’s medical or first aid program varies from workplace to workplace.

    Related: 3 Ways to Reduce Injuries in the Workplace

    OSHA regulations dealing with first aid in the construction industry are contained in 29 CFR 1926. 1926.23 deals with first aid and medical attention, while 1926.50 covers medical services and first aid, asserting that “first aid supplies shall be easily accessible when required.” As you can see, OSHA does not have extremely specific guidelines for putting together an effective first aid program; however, they do have plenty of recommendations that contractors can follow to ensure workers have access to potentially life-saving medical items and equipment when injured on the project site.

    Related: Basic Safety Rules for Construction Professionals

    Going Beyond the First Aid Kit

    First aid isn’t just about a small white box with a red medical cross stamped across the front. It’s about training your workers to react to an injury on the project site so that they are prepared to administer first aid services, if necessary. Being able to keep an injured worker stable until an ambulance arrives could mean the difference between an employee going into shock or suffering from significant blood loss. If a worker broke their leg on your project site today, would your workers know how to respond? If the answer is no, it may be time to consult a Michigan OSHA attorney about what you can do to maintain OSHA compliance.

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

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  3. Primary Reasons for OSHA Inspections

    Before we dive into anything else, realize that OSHA inspectors have the right to show up at any time. While it is not illegal to refuse them access to your job site, an inspector can simply return with a warrant if you don’t comply. The good news for contractors is that OSHA has over 7 million businesses to monitor across all industries, which means that if you take project site safety seriously and avoid injuries, you might not have to worry about them at all. Below, we have listed the official reasons why OSHA performs inspections in order of priority. If you have recently been cited, partnering with an OSHA attorney will give you a chance to protect your business. 

    When an Employee Succumbs to Injury or Death

    According to OSHA record-keeping standards, all businesses must report work-related fatalities within eight hours, while employers must report all hospitalizations within twenty-four hours. Due to this tight timeline, many contractors who fail to report in a timely manner find themselves being contacted by OSHA inspectors looking to see if the death or injury was the fault of the employer. 

    When an Employee Complains

    OSHA has made it easy for employees to confidentially complain about work safety, and the Whistleblower Protection Act protects these workers from facing any company retributions for reporting their concerns to OSHA. Essentially, any disgruntled worker could alert OSHA of something at any time — so always be prepared by having at least one OSHA lawyer’s contact info on hand. 

    When Federal, State, or Local Agencies Deem it Necessary

    This kind of inspection is exactly what it sounds like — any level within the government can urge OSHA to perform an inspection of an unsafe workplace. There have even been instances where stories published by the media have given government agencies enough reason to send an OSHA inspector. 

    When You Work in a High-Risk Industry

    In high-risk industries like construction, where newer employees aren’t familiar with how to properly use safety equipment, there is a much higher probability for workplace accidents. Many similar industries have higher-than-average rates for injury or death, placing them firmly at the center of OSHA’s inspection priorities.

    When Checking Up on Previously Inspected Sites

    As the most predictable type of inspection that holds the least amount of priority, follow-up inspections follow a prior inspection to ensure that all identified OSHA violations have been taken care of. While the purpose of these inspections is to verify that the contractor has done their duty to become compliant, do not let other standards slip, because the OSHA inspector could penalize you for any new issues, too. Additionally, for certain targeted industries or repeat violators, these inspections may receive a higher priority and be performed quicker than usual.

    When Death or Injury Is Imminent

    While this is the least common reason for an OSHA inspector visit, understand that it can carry the most severe consequences. This kind of inspection is conducted when it has been determined that employees or workers are in imminent danger of being harmed. The determination can come about for a variety of reasons, but one thing is certain: the project site will be shut down until all safety concerns are addressed.

    If you would like to speak with one of our experienced OSHA lawyers, please contact us at 1-866-303-5868, or submit our contact request form.

    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. Safety and Technology in the Workplace

    As advocates for the construction industry, we often boast about the technological wonders of the new era within construction. From bricklaying robots to exoskeleton suits, there’s some pretty exciting (and cool) technology entering the jobsite. The truth is that this technology is helping contractors produce high quality projects on-time like never before. However, an often overlooked aspect is the fact that this technology can also save lives, prevent injuries, reduce violations, and improve the overall safety of a workplace.

    In this article, a Texas OSHA lawyer will discuss three areas of technology that are rapidly improving safety practices in the workplace. 

    1) Wearables for the Workplace

    Although wearable technology is in demand beyond the jobsite, wearables are becoming more and more popular on the jobsite too. With sensors that can monitor everything from a worker’s body motion to their vital signs in real time, wearables are even being integrated into the modern construction worker’s personal protective equipment (PPE) with smart hard hats and state-of-the-art lenses in development. The future construction worker may be decked out head-to-toe in wearable microchips that monitor all facets of their health and productivity. 

    Related: Wearables and the Construction Industry

    2) Autonomous Equipment for Everyone

    As we previously mentioned, there’s a lot of exciting autonomous equipment that has the potential to change the way contractors take on projects. These machines can not only work around the clock but also replace many of the most dangerous jobs in the construction workplace (while creating new ones as operators). As more autonomous equipment hits jobsites across the globe, workers will be put in less precarious positions on jobsites and the casualties of human error will be less apt to occur.   

    3) The Success of Safety Software 

    There’s no disputing the fact that mobile technology isn’t going anywhere. From smartphones to watches, these mobile devices aren’t just for consumers. They allow construction professionals access to valuable data when they need it in real time. In construction, mobile technology offers professionals the opportunity to develop strong communication channels that keep their team safe and in the know. From cloud-based communication systems to electronic investigation software or VR training programs, companies are adopting software systems that keep their workforce protected at the workplace while improving their processes. The best part is they can reach all of this data via a tablet on the jobsite.  

    If you would like to speak with one of our Texas OSHA defense 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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