Construction Safety and OSHA Compliance


It was a pretty bad accident. Theyíre taking the worker to the county general,
but I can tell you right now this is one construction worker who wonít make it to the emergency room. On average, the same kind of thing happens 5 times a day on construction sites somewhere in America. The sad thing is, it didnít have to happen. Whatís even sadder is that every day there are
a whole lot of near misses that could have ended up like this one, and they didnít have to happen either. Today is a perfect example. Clarence Givens is looking forward to watching his only daughter graduate from high school. Joann Kimball is a single parent whose pride and joy are her two kids. Jorge Martinez is excited about his new job for several weeks now heís been getting his feet wet as a construction worker. And Frank Mitchelson is looking forward to the week after next when he takes his family to the beach. Today at different job sites all 4 of these people came face to face with death.
3 of them were lucky, but this time one of them wasnít. Jorge Martinez and his foreman are connecting a segment of sewer lines on a road construction project. Theyíre working inside a trench box that will protect them if the walls cave in,
but Jorgeís foreman is violating OSHA regulations by having the latter outside the box. That means they are both taking a risk every time they have to get in and out of the trench.
The foreman is getting frustrated because itís taking too long to make the connection. Itís tough from this angle, so he tells Jorge to go to the other side just for a few minutes,
just long enough to clear some dirt and line up the pipe. Heís risking Jorgeís life. OSHA has some basic safety rules about excavations.
Any trench deeper than 5 feet has to be shored or sloped. Also the spoil pile has to be at least 2 feet back from the edge.
There has to be an egress latter inside the shored up area and it has to extend to 3 feet above the top. The trench box has to be level with the top of the trench, and there canít be any more
than 2 feet of space between the bottom of the box and the bottom of the hole. There may be other rules that apply in other situations, but in all
situations workers must never go into an unprotected trench! Even for a few seconds. Jorgeís employer has given him an order to do something that is unsafe.
Jorge has a legal right to refuse. This is one of the most difficult situations a new worker may face, but your union training has taught you the risk of entering an unprotected trench.
Is it worth risking your life? But Jorge has a responsibility here too. A responsibility to himself, and to the other workers on this jobsite.
Jorgeís responsibility is to take a good hard look at the situation to recognize that itís not safe and to say that heís not going to any part of that trench that isnít safe.
Today because he didnít do that, his life is on the line. Clarence Givens is a signalman. Because drivers of heavy equipment canít see where theyíre backing,
itís Clarenceís job to make sure that the vehicle doesnít hit anyone or anything. But there are 2 problems here. The contractor sent a truck with a broken back-up alarm,
and Clarenceís foreman is about to distract him. ìClarence when you get done here, I got another truck coming in on the other side of the job.
I want you to back him inÖî Contractors have a responsibility to make certain that everything on a job site meets common sense OSHA safety standards.
Signalmen and drivers have a standardized set of signals for communication. The signalman must be positioned to the side and far enough back to see the truck and anything that could cross itís path. And the driver must keep visual contact with the signalman.
Letís not forget about Clarence, because he has a responsibility in this situation too. Construction is dangerous work.
His responsibility is to keep his eyes and ears open at all times, especially when heís helping a truck back up, and because Clarence didnít do that, today might just be his last. Itís morning break time for Joann Kimball.
On a construction site when itís a hot summer day that usually means finding the closest source of cold water. But you donít take a break from safety during breaks from work.
Joann found a water jug sitting right on the crane. As she takes that cool refreshing drink, Joann leans against the crane to relax.
But she fails to see that itís getting dangerously close to an overhead power line. If the crane gets too close to the power line, Joann becomes a statistic.
Electrocution is one of the primary causes of death on construction jobs, and most electrocutions are caused by some kind of contact with high voltage power lines. Now there are regulations to protect people like Joann and me,
but regulations only work if people pay attention to them. Cranes arenít the only thing that can make contact with high voltage power lines,
you also have to be careful using ladders, scaffolds, and other metal objects around energized power sources. Joannís employer has not implemented an effective safety program to identify potential hazards like this one.
This is a blueprint for disaster. Frank Mitchelson is an iron worker. Today heís working 6 stories up.
His job is to bolt down crossbars. Frank is not as protected as he should be. He should be wearing a body harness. Frank has been an iron worker for a lot of years.
Even though working at these heights has become second nature, heís generally pretty careful. But Frankís in a hurry, and this connection looks easy, so Frank is not going to hook up.
In the United States, falls are the leading killer of workers. You should always use a fall protection system that suites the work youíre doing,
and if equipment is involved, you have to know how to use it and maintain it. Your employer must ensure that you are trained, ask and take advantage of the training.
Your union might also offer it. The real shame here is that Frank ties off probably 95% of the times when he should, so he knows better.
You just canít cut corners when it comes to safety, and Frankís about to find that out the hard way. The 4 people in this story are just like you and me.
They want a comfortable life for themselves and their families. So they go to work to earn the money to help them reach for the American dream.
3 of them have come away from this experience kind of shaken up, but theyíre wiser for it. The 4th will never get another chance. Jorge Martinez was lucky when he saw what was happening,
he was able to pull himself out before the dirt could trap him. He came out of it alive and well, but heís well aware of how close he came to dying today. Clarence Givens was just a whisper away from being hit by the dump truck and knocked under itís wheels.
A few more inches the other way, and Clarence would have been another construction fatality. It turned out to be Joannís lucky day too, they say that timing is everything,
in Joannís case timing was the only difference between life and death. Frank Mitchelson never had a chance, when he lost his balance,
his lanyard wasnít attached and he fell 6 stories. When Frank gets to the hospital, heíll be DOA, Dead On Arrival.
The sad thing is, it didnít have to happen. Construction accidents can be prevented. We have to remember that weíre the ones on the job. Weíre the ones who sees the dangers.
Weíre the ones who report them. Weíre the ones that can avoid them. Even though accidents cost the construction industry billions of dollars,
accidents cost us our lives. Who has the most at stake?  

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