Falls Top Construction Death Incidents

February 05, 2018

Falls Top Construction Death Incidents

A recently created database allowed researchers to determine that, in a 33-year period, falls accounted for nearly half of all construction worker deaths – and more than half of the workers killed lacked access to fall protection – according to the Center for Construction Research and Training (also known as CPWR).

Using data from the NIOSH Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation program, the researchers found fatality reports for 768 construction industry fatalities and created a searchable database, the Construction FACE Database, of those reports.

After analyzing the incidents in the new database, researchers concluded that, between 1982 and 2015:

  • 42% (325) of the fatalities involved falls
  • 54% of the workers killed had no access to a personal fall arrest system, and 23% had access to a PFAS but did not use it
  • Most of the workers with no access to PFAS worked for residential building contractors and contractors in the roofing, siding and sheet metal sectors
  • 107 of the 325 falls were from 30 feet or higher
  • 20% of the 768 deaths occurred in the victims’ first two months on the job.

“Even though this study was unable to assess effectiveness of the OSHA fall protection standard established in 1995, the considerable number of fall fatalities from lower heights provides strong evidence of the need for the OSHA requirement that fall protection be provided at elevations of 6 feet or more in the construction industry,” researchers said.

In the study abstract, the researchers say the database allowed them to analyze FACE reports “quantitatively and efficiently,” adding “comprehensive research using FACE reports may improve understanding of work-related fatalities and provide much-needed information on injury prevention.”

Continued Dangers for Construction Workers Revealed in New Report

A new report released by a state workplace safety watchdog highlights the deadly risks construction workers face in New York.

The New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH) released its latest construction fatality report, “Deadly Skyline: An Annual Report on Construction Fatalities in New York State.” The report found increases in New York State construction fatalities stating that “employers routinely violate legal regulations with impunity.”

The organization’s members include workers, unions, community-based organizations, workers’ rights activists, and health and safety professionals.

The report’s key findings:

  • In 2016, New York State had a 60% higher construction fatality rate than New York City. Over the past five years, the New York City fatal occupational injury rate in construction decreased by 21.3%, while the New York State rate increased by 29.5% over the same period of time.
  • Non-union job sites are especially dangerous for workers. NYCOSH analyzed OSHA’s 36 investigated construction fatality citations in 2016 and found that in New York State, 94.7% of workers who died on private work sites were non-union. In New York City, 93.8% of construction workers who died on private work sites in 2016 were non-union.
  • Falls continue to be the top cause of construction fatalities in New York State and New York City. In all of New York State in the past ten years, 218 workers died in falls, which accounted for 48% of all construction fatalities. In New York City alone, over the past ten years, 101 workers died due to falls, which on average accounted for 46% of all construction deaths.
  • Enforcement agencies are drastically underfunded. NYCOSH conducted an in-depth analyses of OSHA inspections in New York State since OSHA’s founding and found a staggering decrease in inspections over the past twenty years.
  • OSHA construction fines for fatality cases remain low. Average OSHA fines in construction fatality cases decreased by 7%, to $20,217.

The report, published in part by a grant provided by the New York State Department of Labor, offered a number of recommendations to improve worker safety in the state:

  • Require construction training and certification for New York State’s construction workers. Municipalities and New York State need to create rigorous training requirements for construction workers.
  • Establish funding streams for construction safety training programs in New York City. As the requirements for construction safety training increase, so should the funding to provide such training, especially to ensure that low-wage immigrant workers have the opportunity to access them.
  • Preserve the Scaffold Safety Law. Given that fall-fatalities are the top cause of death on construction sites, this legislation must be defended in order to prevent such deaths.
  • Pass Carlos’ Law to ensure corporate responsibility for worker fatalities.
  • Expand criminal prosecutions statewide.
  • Use existing city power to suspend or revoke licenses and construction permits for criminal contractors.

Police Officers at Risk for Exposures to Bloodborne Pathogens

Following a request to NIOSH’s Health Hazard Evaluation Program from employer representatives at the risk management office in a city in Ohio concerning needlestick injuries and other potential exposures to bloodborne pathogens among police officers in that city, the agency found:

  • The city’s bloodborne pathogens exposure control plan was comprehensive, but the police department had not yet adopted the plan
  • Thirteen needlestick injuries were reported across a 6-year period in a force of about 1,000 officers
  • Nine of 11 source persons tested were found to have hepatitis C. None were found to have hepatitis B or HIV
  • Most needlestick injuries occurred during pat-down searches of a suspect and during searches of a suspect’s property or vehicle
  • Thirty-seven additional potential bloodborne pathogens exposure incidents were reported, involving mostly spitting incidents, human bites, and contact with blood other than from needlesticks

The police department is not required to implement the requirements of OSHA’s bloodborne pathogens standard because Ohio does not operate a state OSHA plan; the standard only covers private industry employees and public employees in states operating OSHA-approved state plans.

However, NIOSH recommends voluntary compliance with OSHA’s bloodborne pathogens standard to improve the health and safety of the city’s police officers.

Those who conduct job tasks in laboratory areas or conduct job tasks with small quantities (< 100 L) of hazardous materials would require needle sharps training.

Onekey LLC Fined Nearly $300,000 in Penalties for Wall Collapse

OSHA cited Onekey, LLC, a construction management and development company, for exposing employees to crushing hazards after a concrete block retaining wall collapsed at a Poughkeepsie worksite. The company faces $281,583 in proposed penalties.

OSHA opened an inspection in August 2017 and found that the retaining wall was not designed or approved by a registered engineer. Its collapse led to the death of an employee of New Generations Masonry, a Connecticut-based subcontractor, and injuries to another employee. Onekey LLC, based in New Jersey, was also cited for failing to train employees to keep a safe distance from the wall and soil pile, and failing to provide proper fall protection.

“This incident should have been prevented,” said OSHA Albany Area Office Director Robert Garvey. “Establishing and maintaining effective construction safeguards and providing adequate employee training are crucial to protecting employees from serious or fatal injuries.”

Spirit Aerosystems, Inc. Cited for Exposing Employees to Known Carcinogen

OSHA has cited aircraft manufacturer Spirit Aerosystems, Inc., for exposing employees to hexavalent chromium, a known carcinogen. The company faces proposed penalties totaling $194,006 for one willful and five serious violations.

OSHA investigators found that the Kansas-based defense contractor exposed employees to airborne concentrations of hexavalent chromium nearly two times the permissible exposure limit. The company failed to implement sufficient feasible engineering and work practice controls to prevent exposure, conduct monitoring or sampling, provide training, and require employees to properly remove potentially contaminated personal protective equipment and clothing before leaving the sanding area.

“This company failed to protect their employees from exposure to a known carcinogen,” said OSHA Acting Wichita Area Office Director Ryan Hodge. “Employers are required to continually evaluate their facilities for hazards, and use the proper safety controls and equipment to keep their worksites safe and healthy.”

Maximum Penalties Proposed for Repeat Violation at HP Pelzer Systems Automotive, Inc.

OSHA has cited auto parts manufacturer HP Pelzer Systems Automotive Inc. for safety violations after an employee suffered a finger amputation. The company faces proposed penalties totaling $129,336, the maximum amount allowed.

OSHA investigators found that the employee was removing a gear box motor from an energized scissor lift when it rotated, severing the tip of the employee’s finger. OSHA cited the employer for one repeat citation for failing to train employees on energy control procedures to prevent machines from unintentionally starting during maintenance and service. The investigation was initiated as a result of the amputation and under the Agency’s Regional Emphasis Program on Safety Hazards in the Auto Parts Industry.

“Employers must provide adequate training and appropriate protective equipment to ensure the safety of their employees,” said OSHA Atlanta-East Area Office Director William Fulcher. “This company has a history of repeated disregard for safety requirements, exposing workers to amputation hazards. OSHA will continue to hold this company accountable to ensure the safety of employees.”

Framing Company Fined $113,000 for Safety Hazards

An Auburn-based framing contractor was cited by OSHA for exposing employees to fall and eye safety hazards. The company, Omar Garcia, faces proposed penalties of $113,073.

OSHA initiated an inspection after observing employees performing residential framing work without fall protection. The Agency issued one willful citation to Omar Garcia for failing to require employees to use fall protection, and one serious citation for allowing employees to use automatic nail guns without proper eye protection. The inspection was part of OSHA’s Regional Emphasis Program for Falls in Construction. Omar Garcia has been cited five times since 2015 for failing to provide fall protection.

"This company's continual disregard of OSHA standards is putting employees at risk of serious injury," said OSHA Mobile Area Office Director Joseph Roesler. "Employers must ensure that all required protections are implemented to ensure worker safety."

Cal/OSHA Reminds Employers to Post Illness and Injury Summaries

Cal/OSHA is reminding employers in California of the requirement to post their 2017 annual summaries of work-related injuries and illnesses. The summaries must be posted from February 1 through April 30.

“Employers must post these summaries so that workers are aware of work-related injuries and illnesses that occurred the previous year,” said Cal/OSHA Chief Juliann Sum. “This requirement also promotes accurate recordkeeping and can help bring attention to potential hazards that need to be addressed.”

The definitions and requirements for recordable work-related fatalities, injuries and illnesses are outlined in the California Code of Regulations, Title 8, sections 14300 through 14300.48.

Instructions and form templates can be downloaded free from Cal/OSHA’s Record Keeping Overview. The overview gives instructions on filling out both the log (Form 300) and annual summary (Form 300A) of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses. The annual summary must be placed in a visible and easily accessible area at each worksite. Current and former employees, as well as employee representatives, must be allowed to review the summary in its entirety. Employers are required to complete and post Form 300A even if no workplace injuries occurred.

More information on posting requirements or how to reduce workplace injuries and illnesses is available on the DIR’s Employer Information webpage.

Agenda Finalized to Address Safety Issues in Manufacturing Industry

The National Occupational Research Agenda for Manufacturing is intended to identify the knowledge and actions most urgently needed to identify occupational risk factors to prevent avoidable adverse health outcomes among workers. This Agenda provides a vehicle for stakeholders to describe the most relevant issues, research gaps, and safety and health needs for the Manufacturing sector. It is meant to be broader than any one agency or organization.

The NORA Manufacturing Sector Council began work on this agenda at a day-and-a-half meeting in February 2017. Members discussed available and needed surveillance data, and provided expert input on the state of the field and the industry. Minutes were taken to record key themes (not verbatim comments). Breakout groups engaged in in-depth discussions on the needs for occupational safety and health research particular to the manufacturing industry, and for its dissemination, and directions for strategic planning. Following the meeting, the Council leadership analyzed the input received by identifying themes that emerged in the discussions, the level of agreement on each theme, the frequency in which they were mentioned, and intersections between them. Using this analysis, the Agenda was drafted and circulated to the Council for review. The Manufacturing Council finalized this version of the Agenda after considering public comments on the previous draft.

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