May 2010: For The Record

Words: Dan Kamys For The Record

Times are tough, and everyone seems to be looking for ways to cut corners and save money. Production has to be up, and costs have to be down. So what would you do if you were slapped with a fine totaling nearly $200,000? If you aren’t mindful of what your employees are doing (or not doing) on the jobsite, you could find yourself owing big.

According to a recent report from OSHA, workers at a Newton, Mass., jobsite were said to be in danger of being crushed by concrete and dirt. OSHA inspectors found the workers in a 14-feet-deep excavation hole without hard hats and other safety equipment. The inspectors were responding to complaints about hazardous work conditions at a synagogue under construction. Other hazards at the worksite included excavation holes that weren’t braced to prevent them from collapsing, and protruding rebar that could have impaled workers. The companies at fault were fined more than $178,000 for not protecting workers from injury and possible death.

OSHA is urging employers to review their work practices, equipment and training to ensure that none of their workers enters an excavation until it is properly guarded. “Workers’ lives could depend on it,” says Paul Mangiafico, OSHA’s area director for Middlesex and Essex counties in Massachusetts. (See Think about the fines you could face if you aren’t protecting your workers, not to mention the possibility of the loss of a life.

Monday, May 3, kicks off North American Occupational Safety and Health (NAOSH) Week (visit OSHA has reported that more than 5,000 people lost their lives from on-the-job injuries in 2008. Every year, during the first full week of May, NAOSH participants raise public awareness about the importance of reducing the number of work-related deaths to zero. This year’s focus is on the importance of creating and maintaining safe workplaces.

The event will be held at the Frances Perkins Building in Washington, D.C., and will feature the American Society of Safety Engineers’ “Safety-on-the-Job” poster contest, in which children aged 5 to 14 create illustrated safety messages that could help their parents and other workers return home each day healthy and unhurt. OSHA, the American Society of Safety Engineers, and the Canadian Society for Safety Engineering will partner with several organizations representing thousands of businesses to promote NAOSH Week.

The more awareness we can create about safety in the workplace and on the jobsite, the better. So, tie off your guys, suit them up in hard hats and other personal protective equipment, and keep their training fresh and up-to-date. Safety is not negotiable in the world of masonry construction.

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