April 2015: Playing It Safe

Words: Dan Kamys

New Weaponry for Fighting Crime

Zach EverettBy Zach Everett

Just the other day, I pulled up on a jobsite to deliver some hi-vis jackets and do a routine safety inspection. As most safety directors do, I suppose, I scanned the site landscape for safety issues as I pulled in. I usually have a pretty good idea how the inspection will go before I ever get parked. In this case, things looked good. The three-second once-over of the scaffold yielded safety rails, toe boards and completed planking in place as it should be. It seemed uneventful, until I parked and was met by our superintendent. I immediately learned that OSHA would be there on site at any minute, due to an injury – an amputation to be exact. A man working for another contractor was operating a table saw, got his thumb where it shouldn’t have been, and cut the end of it off. It was the very tip of the digit; it didn’t even touch the bone, in fact, because it was so close to the tip. So, why was OSHA called, with people turning themselves in and OSHA en route to do an investigation? OSHA has some new angles for issuing citations and penalties. One such way is through new injury reporting requirements. Before Jan. 1, 2015, the only reporting requirements, other than the OSHA 300 Log, were fatalities and three or more injuries resulting from the same incident. In those cases, it must be reported to OSHA within eight hours. Things have changed in 2015, and so will the number of citations and penalties. I believe they will increase exponentially. The new standard requires any in-patient hospitalization, loss of an eye or amputation to be reported to OSHA within 24 hours of the incident. Looking at it from a practical stand point, it provides OSHA with a “slam dunk” citation and penalty. Before the new rule, the administration investigated fatalities/three+ hospitalizations (slam dunks), complaints, planned inspections and drive-bys (inspector sees a violation while en route somewhere else). But some of those didn’t yield citations, and some that did were fought and won by the employer. Now, with a focus on leads from the new rule, the evidence is right there – lying in the hospital bed or on the floor underneath the saw. OSHA’s job just got a whole lot easier.

Hi-tech crime-fighting weapons

I recently heard something interesting from an OSHA employee. He said the administration was looking into utilizing drones to do aerial video inspections of jobsites. He noted that the drones are relatively inexpensive. Again, this is looking for more slam dunk potential. Rather than an inspector seeing only a limited street view and having to present himself at the GC’s office before entering, the drone can see more of the project and video any violations completely. Or, if none are observed, he can quickly move on to the next construction site. With all the new rules and potential for hi-tech spy gadgets used “against” a contractor, some of you could be feeling some negative vibes toward OSHA about now. According to Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels, “OSHA will now receive crucial reports of fatalities and severe work-related injuries, and illnesses that will significantly enhance the agency’s ability to target our resources to save lives and prevent further injury and illness. This new data will enable the agency to identify the workplaces where workers are at the greatest risk, and target our compliance assistance and enforcement resources accordingly.” I believe in fighting for what is right, and I have also been taught to turn a negative into a positive, when possible. We are a company that strives to do the right thing for the safety and well-being of our employees. So, if OSHA is chasing the folks who are cutting their appendages off and hospitalizing their folks, then that means they hopefully won’t be in my hair. Judging someone’s intentions is difficult at best, so giving the benefit of the doubt…let’s say OSHA is not just trying to make more money, but trying to focus on the companies that are actually hurting and maiming their workers. Be the guy who is protecting his workers, and stay out of the crosshairs.
Zach Everett is corporate safety director for Brazos Masonry Inc. He has served as the Safety Committee Chairman for the MCAA and can be reached at 254-848-5830 or zeverett@brazosmasonry.com. Return to Table of Contents
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