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OSHA Updates Temporary Worker Safety Guidance

As businesses across the country add temporary staff to meet the high demands of the holiday season, OSHA updates temporary worker safety guidance for staffing agencies and employers.

OSHA updates temporary worker safety guidance
OSHA updates temporary worker safety guidance

Concerned that employers may not always give equal consideration to temporary workers in regard to obligations under the OSH Act and other worker protection laws, OSHA sets expectations on roles and responsibilities in their “Protecting Temporary Workers” publication.

The safety of temporary workers can be overlooked as they get placed in a variety of jobs that they are not always given adequate training, explanation of duties, or complete safety and health training for. To complicate even further, temporary workers placed by staffing agencies can lead to misunderstanding of the role and duty of all involved.

While the extent of responsibility under the law of staffing agencies and host employers depends on the unique factors in each case, OSHA reminds that both are jointly responsible for maintaining a safe work environment. OSHA recommends that the staffing agency and the host employer define their respective responsibilities for compliance with applicable OSHA standards in their contract.

To work cooperatively in defining roles in complying with workplace health and safety requirements and sharing responsibility for ensuring temporary worker safety and health, the following should be considered.

  • Staffing agencies have a duty to inquire into the conditions of their workers’ assigned workplaces.
  • Ignorance of hazards is not an excuse.
  • Staffing Agencies do not need to be experts on specific workplace hazards, but they should communicate with host employers to identify what conditions exist, what hazards may be encountered, and how best to ensure protection.
  • Host employers must treat temporary workers like any other workers in terms of training, safety, and health protections.
  • Host employers must provide temporary workers with the same safety and personal protective equipment (PPE) that is required for their permanent employees.

OSHA reminds temporary workers that they have the same rights as permanent workers including:

  • A safe workplace free of dangers
  • Training in clear language that you understand
  • Appropriate safety equipment
  • Right to identify safety hazards
  • Right to report work-related injuries without being punished.

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Protecting Women Working at Heights in Construction

The Associated General Contractors of America is protecting women working at heights in construction by supplying fall protection harnesses sized for women to select, in-need member contractors.

Protecting Women Working at Heights in Construction
Protecting Women Working at Heights in Construction

The program, sponsored by Autodesk, comes in response to labor gaps in the construction industry. Women represent about 10 percent of the overall construction labor force, but are one of the largest demographics with potential to close the gap in construction labor shortages. To help attract and retain more women in the field, jobsites need to recognize and meet the needs of a gender-diverse workforce, including properly sized and comfortable PPE.

Ill-fitting PPE can uncomfortable but most importantly may not provide the appropriate level of protection. Even if a too-loose fall protection harness catches a falling worker, the harness may not properly protect the worker from injuries during the fall as would be expected from safely fitted PPE.
Fall protection harnesses designed specifically for women keep shoulder straps at the side and away from the chest, offer better hip support, and increase comfort.

“One of the most effective ways to successfully recruit more women into high-paying construction careers is to make sure firms are able to provide safety equipment that makes them even safer,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the chief executive officer of the Associated General Contractors of America. “We want to leverage these grants to encourage our member firms to provide a wider range of safety equipment and continue to expand the diversity of our workforce.”

Autodesk is funding the grant program that will provide approximately 300 fall protection harnesses sized for women to select, in need AGC member contractors. AGC members can apply for the grants until January 10, 2020. Winners will be notified in advance and honored at the AGC’s annual convention in Las Vegas in March.

You can purchase women specific fall protection harnesses here.

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Time to Plan for Safe Rooftop Snow Removal

The first measurable snowfalls have already taken place across the United States, indicating it is time to ensure you have a plan for safe rooftop snow removal. Under OSHA’s general duty clause, employers have a duty to protect workers from recognized serious hazards in the workplace, including hazards associated with snow removal from roofs.

Time to Plan for Safe Rooftop Snow Removal
Time to Plan for Safe Rooftop Snow Removal

Heavy snow loads can be a risk to structures and snowmelt and slide can pose hazards at ground level. While rooftop snow removal may be necessary, making sure the risks associated with removal are minimized is critical. Consider some of the following when evaluating and planning for safe snow removal operations.

  • What other hazards may rooftop snow removal workers be exposed to? (severe temperatures, high winds, icy surfaces, heavier physical exertion, unfamiliar equipment)
  • Are there known hazards that may be hidden by the snow?
  • What are the maximum load limits of the roof and what will the impact be of snow load, removal equipment, and workers adding to that weight?
  • How should the snow be removed to prevent unbalanced loading?
  • How will you protect anyone at ground level from falling snow and ice during removal operations?
  • Can snow be removed without putting workers on the roof?

If you have determined that snow removal is necessary, make sure to establish a plan that keeps your workers safe and stays in compliance with OSHA regulations. Your workers will be exposed to some of the most commonly cited worksite violations including lack of fall protection, ladder safety, and fall prevention training. 

  • Use snow removal methods that do not involve workers going on roofs whenever possible. 
  • Provide the appropriate tools, equipment, protective devices, clothing, and footwear.
  • Provide and ensure that workers use fall protection equipment.  
  • Ensure workers are using ladders equipped with vertical fall protection.
  • Make sure any hazards on the roof are marked to be visible during heavy snow events. (skylights, roof drains, vents, etc)
  • Train workers on fall hazards and the proper use of fall protection equipment.
  • Have a plan for rescuing a fallen worker caught by a fall protection system.
  • Establish a safe work zone in the area where snow is to be removed.

More complete information about the hazards and related regulations can be found through OSHA’s rooftop snow hazard alert. Fall protection specialists can help you plan for safe rooftop snow removal.

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Exposed Edges Damage Fall Protection Lifelines

The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries issued an alert after exposed edges damage fall protection lifelines in two worker fatalities in the state.

Critical evidence from the investigations of each incident indicated that their self-retracting lifelines (SRL’s) were severed during their fall, not before.

Exposed Edges Damage Fall Protection Lifelines
Exposed Edges Damage Fall Protection Lifelines
  • A steel-cable lifeline was severed when it contacted the edge of formwork made of steel plates
  • A nylon webbing lifeline was severed after contacting sharp, abrasive edges along a beveled wall.

Manufacturers of the lifelines warned about using SRLs around edges that could damage the lifeline or prevent the SRL from effectively arresting the fall. In both cases, the lifelines had been anchored horizontally (at a level below the harness D-ring) which necessitates extra safety precautions when working near metal or concrete edges.

To prevent similar complications at your work site, make sure to consider the following:

  • Anchor lifelines vertically overhead whenever possible to prevent the lifeline from contacting the edge and to minimize swing falls.
  • Routinely inspect lifelines and other fall protection equipment before each use.
  • Identify and document all potentially hazardous edges during your work site safety inspections.
  • Select and provide lifelines designed specifically for the application and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use.
  • Address and protect potentially hazardous edges by covering the edge with protective material.
  • Train your workforce on the use and limitations of the fall protection equipment provided and sighting potential hazards.

Employers are responsible for ensuring the safety of work sites and the state of Washington specifically instructs employers to protect safety lines and lanyard against being cut or abraded according to WAC 296-155-24613(1)(e).

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Fall Protection Most Frequent Violation for 9th Consecutive Year

OSHA reports that fall protection continues to be the most frequent violation for the 9th consecutive year. Falls also remain one of the leading causes of death in the construction industry.

Fall Protection Most Frequent Violation for 9th Consecutive Year

There were 6,010 Fall Protection – General Requirements 1926.501 violations, almost double of the number two violations category. The top 10 also included Ladder (1926.1053) violations in 6th place and fall protection training requirement violations (1926.503) in 8th place.

“Far too many preventable injuries and deaths occur on the job,” NSC President and CEO Lorraine M. Martin said in a Sept. 10 press release. “This list should serve as a challenge for us to do better as a nation and expect more from employers. It should also serve as a catalyst for individual employees to recommit to safety.”

Falls are preventable with commitment to a fall protection strategy that includes reviews, budgeting, equipping, and training.

Safety Reviews
Schedule an internal review that includes your Safety Manager, Foreman, and Supervisors. Walk your facility to inspect current fall protection systems and to identify new areas of need. Use this checklist to help identify hazards.

Budget & Equip
Work with a fall protection specialist who will complete an onsite analysis and will recommend appropriate solutions for your hazards. Solutions may include overhead rail, safe access, guardrail & anchorage, ladder & vertical systems, and personal protective equipment (PPE). Ensure your solutions are fully included in your budget. Make sure to inspect your application and equipment regularly.

Train
Train workers on the safe use of equipment and implement controls to maintain compliance with best practices. Educate all workers on spotting and reporting new hazards. 

Fall protection violations do not have to remain among top citations. Commit your company to a fall prevention and protection strategy through fall protection system application and equipment, the adoption of safe work practices, and the provision of appropriate training.

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Plan Now for 2020 Fall Protection Updates

When is the last time you reviewed your facilities and processes to ensure you are keeping your workers safe with compliant fall protection? Plan now for 2020 fall protection updates.

Plan Now for 2020 Fall Protection Updates

It is time for a fall protection review. Schedule an internal review that includes your Safety Manager, Foreman, and Supervisors. Walk your facility to inspect current fall protection systems and to identify new areas of need. Use this checklist and consider the following hazards:

  • Is every stairway floor opening guarded by standard railing on all exposed sides?
  • Is every ladderway floor opening or platform guarded by a standard railing and toeboard on all exposed sides? Is the passage protected with a swinging gate or offset to prevent someone walking directly into the opening?
  • Is every skylight floor opening and hole guarded by a standard screen or fixed standard railing on all exposed sides?
  • Is every hoist area where employee may fall 4 feet or more protected by a guardrail system and/or personal fall arrest system?
  • Is every ladder over 24 feet in height equipped with ladder or vertical personal fall protection?
  • Are all components of any personal fall arrest systems in compliant working order? (including anchorage, connectors, body harness, deceleration device, lifeline, etc.)

Falls continue to be the most common cause of serious work-related injuries and deaths. OSHA provides many resources on fall protection regulations and keeping your workforce protected from falls. Work with a fall protection specialist to have an onsite survey completed and have a fall protection system customized for your facility.

The cost of falls are considerable and compounding. A fall injures your valuable employee, negatively impacts resources and revenue, increases insurance costs, and exposes you to fines and penalties. Review your fall protection program to identify and budget a plan now for 2020 fall protection updates.

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Stricter Fall Protection for Solar Installers

Stricter Fall Protection for Solar Installers

In June, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit decided that stricter fall protection is required for solar installers. Their decision stated that rooftop solar panel installation is not roofing work defined under OSHA regulations. The implication for any contractor installing solar panels is they fall under more strict employee fall protection standards compared to the less strict standards for roofing work.

OSHA conducted a safety inspection of a work site involving a contractor installing solar panels on the roof of a hanger in San Diego, CA. Though the contracted employees were using warning lines, safety monitors, and, in the event they needed to go past warning line zone, they would use a personal arrest system (PFAS), OSHA cited the contractor for three major violations.

The decision to uphold a violation of fall protection standard rested on the “general standards of 29 C.F.R. 1926.501(b)(1), which require employees working near the unprotected sides and edges more than six feet above the level below to be protected by guardrail systems, safety net systems, or a PFAS.” None of those were being used by the solar installation contracted employees.

The decision was validated by an administrative law judge for OSHA and affirmed by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals because solar panel installation is not referenced in OSHA’s definition of roofing work. Because the contractor’s work on the hanger was not connected to constructing the hanger roof, but rather installing solar panels on the already completed roof, the less stringent roofing work fall standard was inapplicable and the contractor had to comply with OSHA 29 C.F.R. 1926.501(b)(1).

The take away for contractors installing solar panels or other rooftop affixed equipment after rooftop construction is that they must consider a stricter fall protection for before they begin work. If work is to be completed at or above six feet higher than a lower level, contractors must consider safe rooftop fall protection including equipping workers with a PFAS and evaluate whether guardrails or safety nets would be safer for the job site.

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MSHA Safety Best Practices

After a coal mine facility fatality on September 17, 2019 MSHA encourages an emphasis on MSHA safety best practices. An electrician was electrocuted after contact with an energized conductor.

MSHA Safety

MSHA Safety Reminders for Electrical Work

  1. Lock out and tag out the electrical circuit yourself. Never rely on others to do this for you.
  2. BEFORE entering an electrical enclosure or performing electrical work:
    • Open the circuit breaker or load break switch away from the enclosure and de-energize the incoming power cables or conductors.
    • Open the visual disconnect away from the enclosure and confirm that the incoming power cables or conductors have been de-energized.
    • Lock out and tag out the visual disconnect.
    • Ground the de-energized phase conductors.
  3. Wear properly rated and well maintained electrical gloves when troubleshooting or testing energized circuits, follow the proper steps before performing electrical work.
  4. Use properly rated electrical meters and non-contact voltage testers to ensure electrical circuits have been de-energized.
  5. Only use qualified, trained workers. Ensure electrical work is performed by a qualified electrician or someone trained to do electrical work under a qualified electrician’s direct supervision.
  6. Identify circuits and breakers. Properly identify all electrical circuits and circuit breakers before troubleshooting or performing electrical work.
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Unprotected Worker Falls From Building

In Bladen County, North Carolina an unprotected worker falls from building resulting in a fatality. The worker, Mildred Gray Williams fell approximately 15 feet while replacing metal roofing on the Bladen County Water Rescue Building.

unprotected worker falls

Williams was a firefighter for the West Lake Fire Department, but at the time of the accident was working for Young’s Construction.

“This is such a tragic event for our community,” said Sheriff Jim McVicker. “Because this is a work-related death, we are required to report this incident to the North Carolina Department of Labor for investigation which we have done.”

Although Williams was pronounced dead at the scene after the fall, she was escorted to the Cape Fear Valley – Bladen County Hospital by local first responders.

The Occupational Safety and Health Division (OSHA) is investigating the accident, according to officials with the N.C. Department of Labor.

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Fall Protection Costs Less Than Falls

Investing in proper fall protection costs less than falls, including the penalties imposed by OSHA for failure to prevent injuries of your workforce. Recently, OSHA cited Roofing Solutions LLC of Charleston, WV, for exposing employees to falls and other safety and health hazards. The company faces over $200,000 in penalties.

Citations included failing to provide employees with proper fall protection and training on fall hazards. In its Protecting Roofing Workers guide, OSHA explains the expectations of protecting workers on roofing jobs. Employers must identify the hazards present and take steps to address them.

Implementing fall protection solutions provides measurable return on investment by reducing incidents leading to worker compensation claims, civil liability damages, litigation expenses, and higher insurance premiums. Learn about other impacts on your resources and get access to OSHA’s online Cost Estimator.

Rooftop hazards can be mitigated through fall prevention and fall protection systems including guardrails & barriers, platforms & walkways, lifelines & anchors, and warning lines. Guardrail systems can be used around roof openings and at the roof perimeter. Modular access platforms and crossover stairs provide the work space of a fixed platform with the benefit of mobility. Lifelines and anchors are used to arrest a worker in the event of a fall. Warning lines are a free-standing, sturdy, durable, and cost-effective way of demarcation.

Complete this free assessment to determine what type of fall protection is best suited for you.

Fall Protection and Prevention Solutions

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