Category: Fall Protection

Improper Fall Protection May Cost West Virginia Contractor $109k

It looks like 2015 is a big year for negligent construction companies, as yet another large OSHA fine has surfaced. K&F Construction, a construction company working out of West Virginia, has been penalized for several violations of OSHA standards. The inspection of the Morgantown work site was conducted September last year, with the violations coming to a head earlier this month.

Among the violations were improper fall protection, improper eye protection during operation of a nail gun, and (the most serious and costly violation) using a forklift to support scaffolding.  No news has surfaced yet as to the company’s plan to accept or fight the findings, but the $109k fine looms regardless.

It’s quite obvious that equipment (i.e. the forklift) should never, ever be used for anything besides its intended purpose; some of the other violations may seem innocuous in comparison. When we take the time to isolate these instances, however, it becomes clear that each individual violation is just as serious as the last, and all pose a threat to the safety and health of those workers involved:

– Protecting your eyes is just as important as protecting the rest of your body, especially when using tools like nail guns and saws. Tools that are used to cut and pierce may cause fragmentation of materials or can injure workers directly; protecting your eyes from wood and metal shrapnel can be the difference between going home and going to the hospital.

– Fall protection is something OSHA pushes a lot, and that’s because falls are the leading cause of death in the construction industry. Workers exposed to heights without proper protection like railings, stable structures, and well-placed ladders can be seriously or fatally injured. Overlooking protection techniques, no matter how small they might seem, could lead to fatalities in the workplace. Employees put their safety on the line to work on projects, and keeping them as safe as possible is our most important responsibility.

– The reckless use of the forklift is the biggest culprit in the K&F fine, and illustrates something that many companies do all too frequently. When the right tool for the job isn’t available, or there isn’t time to fix something due to deadlines, companies often go the route of “ingenuity,” trading safety for convenience and efficiency in the process. They might stuff something under the leg of a ladder if the foot is broken or use boxes to hold up platforms. Though these things may seem like good substitutes, equipment poses an immediate threat when it’s being used for something outside of its main function. When it comes to safety, don’t think exclusively about customer deadlines. Get the right tools for the job and do right by your employees. Doing a job safely is more important than doing it quickly.

Effective safety practices are vital for the successful safety management of your business. Of course it’s nice to avoid a $100k fine that could put your business in the red, but your first duty is assuring that everything is in place for proper inspections and your employees end their workday injury-free.

Learn more about how you can keep your workplace injury (and violation) free at Field iD’s website.

More Must-Know Fall Protection Requirements & Tips

If you haven’t read the first part of this series and need a refresher on common fall protection standards, visit our Fall Protection for a Safer Workplace article.

            Now that we’ve gone over some of the general rules and regulations for heightened surfaces, we can dive into the more nuanced necessities for keeping employees safe from other falls around the workplace.

Falls from ladders, as you could imagine, account for many workplace injuries. Things like slippery surfaces, improper placement, and (unfortunately) defective equipment have caused serious injuries and death among industrial work sites. Here are some tips and standards for the work site that can prevent the worst cases.

 

Slipping Hazards

 

  • Slipping hazards like oil, grease, and even water can be extremely dangerous when employees are working on ladders. Employees should be aware of any slippery materials on any rung of the ladder and should remove them (and maintain their dryness) by any means.
  • It’s just as important to assure that the floor is free of any slippery materials. Those ladders with slip-resistant feet are always a good bet, but they don’t mitigate the risk completely. If at all possible, the slipping hazard should be removed as completely as possible and ladders should be properly tied or lashed whenever necessary.

 

Proper Usage

 

  • There is a right way and a wrong way to use a ladder, yet it’s so common to see workers improperly working with ladders. It’s no surprise that these improper uses so commonly end in injury. First and foremost, the ladder should always be held by at least one hand. In order to cut time, many workers sometimes carry materials in both hands while trying to remain balanced. Something as simple as making two trips can save lives.
  • When climbing the ladder, it’s imperative that employees face forward. Climbing down ladders like stairs is one of the easiest ways to slip and can cause devastating injuries. Although it’s commonly denoted on the top shelf of a ladder, some workers still use it to get a bit more reach. Anyone who sees this should be quick in acting to get them off. With no support on that top shelf, it’s nearly impossible to prevent a fall once it starts.

 

Specific Requirements

 

  • If an area is only accessible by ladder and 25 or more employees are set to work in that area, double-cleated ladders (or two or more ladders) should be provided for two-way traffic to and from the site.
  • When the ladder in in position, every part (rungs, feet, and steps) must be spaced evenly and inspected to assure sturdiness. Inspection also includes checking surfaces for sharp points that may cause clothing snags or cuts and lacerations.
  • Do not tie ladders together in order to create longer ladders unless the ladders are specifically built for that usage.

 

Though these are just a few examples of safety precautions you can take around ladders, there’s plenty more to digest. If you want a more in-depth primer after our refresher, you can to read up Ladder and Stairway stands standards straight from OSHA.