Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Push for Tougher Penalties

I saw the following article published in today's (Mobile) Press Register by Sean Reilly, Washington Bureau.

This article notes the rate of deaths on job sites all over the country and what the latest push is for OSHA to do more inspections and do more strict adherence to the Regulations.

Of course, there can always be very "hard nose" inspections and penalties issued that would literally shut down a large number of companies performing construction work in the country and boggle up OSHA's workers and courts to a point that it would be years before a case would be settled. But, on the other hand, a "Horse Sense" approach seems the best overall method of safely performing the work, yet keep a pretty tight rein on the enforcement of the OSHA regulations.

I agree that in many cases, contractors whether large of small try to use the "Donkey Way" and eke by on adherence to the rules and their employees suffer many needless injuries and deaths.

Here's the article which is quite long but good reading on a good subject:

Washington -- With the latest statistics showing a national uptick in on-the-job deaths, Fairhope safety activist Ron Hayes again urged lawmakers Tuesday to stiffen penalties for businesses that flout safety rules.

"There is no justice for us when we have a company that is blatant." Hayes, whose late teenage son was buried alive under tons of corn in a 1993 silo accident, told the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

In particular, Hayes and other witnesses said, Congress should make employers subject to felony charges if their willful violation of a safety regulation leads to a worker's death. Such negligence is now a misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in prison.

By contrast, improperly importing an exotic bird carries up to two years behind bars, committee Chairman Edward Kennedy, D-Mass, said.

Tuesday's hearing took place one day after Workers Memorial Day, a creation of organized labor that coincides with the 1971 founding of the U.S. Occupational and Health Administration, or OSHA.

No OSHA officials were invited to testify, but in a statement issued afterward, agency spokeswoman Sharon Worthy said that "election-year political theater cannot mask the truth that under his administration, workplace illness, injury and fatality rates are the lowest in OSHA's history"

In 2006, the last year for which figures are available, the workplace death rate for American workers remained unchanged at four per 100,000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

While the rate of fatal work injuries has remained largely f
lat in recent years, the actual
number of deaths has
increased slightly, government statistics show:

1992...........................................6,217 deaths
1997...........................................6,238 deaths
2000...........................................5,920 deaths
2001...........................................5,915 deaths
2002...........................................5,534 deaths
2003...........................................5,575 deaths
2004...........................................5,764 deaths
2005...........................................5,734 deaths
2006...........................................5,840 deaths
Source U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

But the actual number of fatalities increased nationally from 5,734 to 5,840. After a large drop in 2002, workplace deaths nationally have crept upward in every year but one.

Alabama, however, has bucked that trend, the numbers indicate. In 2006, the state recorded 100 on-the-job deaths, down from 128 the preceding year and 133 in 2004.

Frustrated by the ordeal of prying information out of OSHA after his son's death, Hayes founded The FIGHT Project, which stands for Families in Grief Hold Together. He testified Tuesday at Kennedy's request.

He also recommended that OSHA have someone to represent and help families, create a fatality investigation team, and allow families to sit in on negotiations with companies over penalties.

New legislation sponsored by Kennedy and almost two dozen other Democrats would strengthen punishments for employer misconduct, including the possibility of felony charges if willful negligence is suspected.

In the past, however, Republicans have opposed that provision. At Tuesday's hearing , for example, U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., asked whether employers could be charged for worker deaths related to drug use.

"There have to be compelling factors for the negligence to be a threshold for the felony," Isakson said.

"I couldn't agree more," replied David Uhlmann, a former federal prosecutor who now teaches law at the University of Michigan. If the government tries to criminalize accidents, Uhlmann said, "judges and juries will bounce them right out of the courtroom,"

"It's the egregious cases we need to address," he added, "and right now we can't."

Monday, April 21, 2008

I urge everyone to take a few minutes to read the following article from the New York Times, published on April 20, 2008 regarding unusual problems regarding anchor points incorporated in Fall Protection systems. Also, there are several other items discussed in this article that are common to Fall Protection on Construction Job Sites.

High-Rise Safety Rules Offer No Guarantee

Published: April 20, 2008

In the decades since steelworkers balanced at dizzying heights over Manhattan with little to prevent them from falling, high-rise construction has been layered in safety regulations and equipment. From straps and harnesses to guardrails and nets, safety devices have reduced the risk that a slip-up will lead to a death.

But the limits of construction safety are being tested in the city. Amid a building boom, 10 people have been killed since the beginning of the year in high-rise job site accidents, some because a simple piece of safety equipment failed.

That was the case on Monday, when Kevin Kelly, 25, a worker who was installing windows on the 23rd floor of a condominium tower on East 67th Street, fell to his death. An initial investigation by the city found that Mr. Kelly did nothing wrong, but that a nylon safety strap that was intended to secure him to the building pulled loose from its mooring.

Inspectors believe that other nylon devices, slings valued at about $50 apiece, played a crucial role in the most deadly construction accident in years. Seven people were killed on March 15 when a 200-foot crane toppled at another high-rise project on the Upper East Side. The nylon slings, which appeared to have torn, were being used to install a six-ton collar that would fasten the crane to the building.

With developers and contractors under pressure to maintain tight schedules, people in the construction industry fear more accidents, if not fatalities.

“There is no question that building quickly creates risks,” said Joel Shufro, executive director of the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health, which represents construction trade unions. He said the risks include inadequate training of workers in procedures and equipment, and the hurried installation of some required safety devices, including hooks, guardrails and cables.

In many cases, experts say, safety precautions are no match for human error. A 2000 study of fatal falls at construction sites around the country had numerous examples of workers dying for lack of a simple piece of equipment.

“They think, ‘It can’t happen to me,’ ” said Michael Gianatasio, an engineer and site safety consultant for large developers. “A guy will say he is not going to put on a harness because he is only going out on the edge for a minute,” he said. “How long does it take to fall? Less than a second.”

In one instance cited in the report, written by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, a 37-year-old worker carrying metal decking material was blown off a roof by a gust of wind. He might have been saved by a safety harness, the federal agency said. In another, a 29-year-old ironworker steadied himself by placing one hand on a steel girder, and attempted to loosen a bolt from another girder using a wrench in his other hand. When his wrench slipped on the bolt, he lost his balance and fell 35 feet. In that case, as in several others, the report found that a safety cable and a harness could have stopped the fall.

But not all the deaths could be blamed on human error. The report described the fatal fall of a 29-year-old woman working as a concrete finisher on the 13th floor of a high-rise. Intending to go to lunch, she was waiting for an electric lift, put her hands in her pockets, leaned on the lift’s safety gate, and fell through. Why the gate failed was not determined, the report said.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration provides detailed specifications for an arsenal of required construction safety equipment, like straps, cables and hooks, some of which can be bought for less than $20 at a hardware store.

The regulations say that body harnesses, which are used by workers installing windows or working close to the edge of a high-rise floor, must be capable of stopping the fall of an object weighing 1,800 pounds, and be rigged so that they would not allow workers to fall more than six feet or hit the floor below. The harnesses, looped over workers’ shoulders and between their legs, are attached to a variety of hooks, cables and clips, which have their own federal specifications.

The attachments include steel D-rings, snap hooks and lifelines attached to the back of the safety harnesses, all with at least 5,000 pounds of tensile strength.

Guardrails can sometimes be used in place of safety harnesses. They must include three rails, one 39 inches to 45 inches high, one at least 21 inches high and another along the floor to prevent tools or small objects from sliding over the edge.

In New York, the death of Mr. Kelly, who was strapped properly into a harness and secured by a nylon cord to the building, has puzzled safety experts and prompted a broad investigation by the Department of Buildings at the East Side construction site.

Mr. Kelly, who fell from the 23rd floor to a balcony on the 14th floor of a 30-story condominium known as the Laurel, at 400 East 67th Street, had his entire safety system — the harness, a D-ring attached to his nylon strap, and the entire length of the safety strap — on his body when he fell. That came as a shock because the strap was supposed to have been tied off on a metal girder and set in concrete, making it all but impossible to pull from its mooring.

Mr. Kelly’s death immediately cast doubt on the way more than 100 safety straps had been implanted to protect window installers and other workers. Work was ordered halted by the city, and Patricia J. Lancaster, the city’s commissioner of buildings, said on Monday that “the method the crews used to install safety straps throughout the building” would be investigated.

Workers at several building sites said the fatal accidents had made them more vigilant about safety, and about checking the condition of their most basic equipment. “That’s the No. 1 rule: we’ve got to check everything,” said Isaiah Israel, a plumber working on a building on North Eighth Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. “Every morning we come in, we check everything, we make sure it is lined up and secure, and then we start working.”

David S. Hirschman contributed reporting.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Struck By

There have been many "struck by" incidents involving speeding vehicles striking roadside workers in the past several years. There is truly no excuse for "Donkey" drivers in such a rush that they can't spend about 20 seconds to slow down to the posted speed limits in road construction sites.

This speeding also applies to School Zones. Just yesterday, I was traveling on US Highway 43 north of I-65 in Mobile and Washington Counties, Alabama. There are 4 work sites and one school zone on the part of US 43 that I traveled. As I would slow to the posted safe speed in these zones, I got passed prior to lane narrowing points and passed by three vehicles in the school zone with flashing lights directing drivers to slow to 35 MPH.

Below are excerpts from WALB-TV News in Albany, GA on April 18th regarding the roadside problems.

Tifton: Contractors for Georgia DOT will perform major reconstruction of Interstate 75 from the Lowndes/Cook County Lint to the Crisp/Dooly County Line. To ensure motorist and contractor safety, this work will warrant lane closures and traffic shifts along this section of I-75, which could cause short delays. ...
...The DOT notes that the above construction schedules are proposed activities planned by the contractors and may change due to weather conditions or other factors.

As in any work zone, motorists should pay special attention to traffic control devices, signing and marking, and posted speed limits to ensure safe passage through the work zone. Motorists also should double your usual following distance; get into the correct lane well in advance; pay close attention to construction equipment; and be aware of y our surroundings.

Since 1973, 56 state Georgia DOT workers have been killed in work zone accidents. Nationally, Georgia is close to the top for work zone fatalities, but an on-going Work-Zone Safety Awareness Program, which began in 2001, seems to be getting the word out. Georgia's Work Zone Safety Awareness Program highlights the fact that motorists are more likely to die in a work zone accident than workers. Fines for exceeding the limit in a work zone could run up to $2,000 per violation.

Georgia DOT urges travelers to call 511 for updated information about this or any other construction project on Interstates and state routes. Georgia 511 is a free phone service that provides real-time traffic and travel information statewide, such as traffic conditions, incidents, lane closures, and delays due to inclement weather. Callers also can transfer to operators to request assistance or report incidents 24 hours a day, seven days a week. More information is available at

The Georgia Department of Transportation is committed to providing a safe, seamless and sustainable transportation system that supports Georgia's economy and is sensitive to both its citizens and its environment. For general information on the Georgia DOT, please visit our web site. (

Please, use a little Horse Sense and take the extra 20 to 30 seconds that slowing down in a roadway work zone takes and protect, not only the workers, but accidents and damage to your vehicle and possible injury or death of you and you r passengers. Also, remember the costs, especially in Georgia, could cost you up to $2,000 per incident.

Also, do you have children going to school and trust that they are safe while in school zones with drivers like you?!?!?!?!?!?!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Construction Worker Falls to His Death on East Side of Manhattan

Note: The following article details another useless death created by a faulty anchorage in a fall arrest system. It is apparent that the company doesn't take Safety as seriously as they should according to the noted previous violations that City Inspectors have found. These many violations are like so many across this country by companies using the "donkey way" safety attitudes by taking shortcuts where a safer way proves that the "Horse Sense way" not only pays, but prevents needless deaths."

Published: April 15, 2008

A construction worker fell to his death from an East Side building on Monday when a safety strap system intended to secure him to the building failed, the authorities said.

David Goldman for The New York Times

The worker fell from the 23rd floor to a 14th floor balcony.

The city buildings commissioner, Patricia J. Lancaster, right, at the construction site where a worker died on Monday.

The worker, Kevin Kelly, 25, of Bayside, Queens, was installing windows at a condominium tower under construction when he fell from the 23rd floor to a 14th floor balcony at about 10:30 a.m. Contractors at the site of the 30 story tower, the Laurel, 400 East 67th Street at First Avenue, had been cited by city inspectors for 25 code violations during the last year, city officials said.

Patricia J. Lancaster, the city’s commissioner of buildings, said that Mr. Kelly’s fall remained under investigation, but that “a failure of the safety strap connecting the worker to the concrete ceiling played a role.” Late Monday, the Buildings Department said the entire strap had pulled out of its steel and concrete mooring, and remained attached to his harness when he fell.

The Buildings Department, which halted all work at the site, will investigate “the method the crews used to install safety straps throughout the building,” Ms. Lancaster said.

“We will be holding the individuals responsible for this terrible tragedy accountable,” Ms. Lancaster said during a visit to the site. “Construction companies, owners, architects and engineers have to obey the law.”

Construction in New York has been proceeding rapidly recently, and there has been a string of fatal accidents. Ten people have been killed in high-rise construction accidents since January, including seven who died on March 8 when a 200-foot crane collapsed at another East Side condominium project, demolishing a four-story town house on East 50th Street.

The deaths have prompted criticism of city safety rules and enforcement. On Monday, Representative Carolyn B. Maloney and Scott Stringer, the Manhattan borough president, criticized the Department of Buildings during a joint visit to the accident site.

“Safety is not a priority for the Buildings Department,” Ms. Maloney said.

The Laurel condominium is being built by the Alexico Group, a development company in Manhattan, and the project manager is Hunter Roberts Construction Group, which has several projects under way in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Officials of both companies did not return calls for comment on Monday.

Mr. Stringer said citations for 38 building code violations had been issued at the construction site since July 2005. Department officials said that 25 of the citations were issued since work on the building began in April 2007, and that the others were issued during demolition and other work to prepare for the construction.

The department said the contractors and developers of the project had been ordered to pay $25,690 in fines for 23 of the 25 violations. It said Monday night that all but one of the past violations had been corrected. It said the one unresolved violation involved failure by a contractor to provide design drawings for a sidewalk scaffold shed.

The department’s Web site indicated that the violations had included things like failure to provide safety nets, which are required to prevent debris or workers from falling, and to install standpipes, which are designed to pump water to combat high-rise fires.

The department said it cited the project for five new violations on Monday after the accident, including failing to safeguard the public and having damaged safety netting on the 23rd, 24th and 25th floors.

The nylon safety strap used by Mr. Kelly was a standard piece of safety equipment at high rise construction sites.

Michael Gianatasio, an engineer and site safety consultant at several New York City projects but not at the East 67th Street project, said nylon straps were secured to steel girders that provide the framework for each floor before concrete is poured.

The straps, designed to hold 4,000 pounds, are normally installed near each window and are equipped with rings that are secured to construction workers’ safety harnesses, he said.

The police and buildings officials said that no one else was injured in the fall, but that another worker at the site, who had apparently witnessed it, complained of chest pains and was taken to a hospital for observation.

Several workers mingled quietly at the site afterward. When approached for comment, all of them said they had not witnessed the fall and declined to say more.

Mr. Kelly, a graduate of Benjamin N. Cardoso High School in Bayside, was single and living with his father at his childhood home at 73-84 Springfield Boulevard. He was described by a neighbor, Rita Meyers, as an outgoing man who had held a succession of jobs before he went to work installing windows about two years ago.

“He is a very friendly kid,” Ms. Meyers said. ”He finally got settled into what he wanted to do.”

A description of the Laurel condominium on a Web site of Hunter Roberts says the project is scheduled for completion in January, with 129 apartments, 14,000 square feet of retail and office space and two levels of underground parking.

C. J. Hughes, Angela Macropoulos and Stacey Stowe contributed reporting.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Another Trenching Incident

“Feds Assess Large Safety Fine”

This article was taken from the (Mobile) Press Register’s Saturday issue on April 5, 2008 by Jeff Amy, Business Reporter. It is just another example of contractors not properly protecting employees during trenching operations by doing it the Donkey Way.
“A construction company has been fined $31,500 by federal officials because of problems with excavation safety rules.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Mobile office fined (the company) based in (Alabama) over problems at the company’s work site (in the Mobile area). Road work there has centered on lengthening (a road), which connects with (an Interstate Eschange0.
The fine is one of the largest levied by the Mobile office in the last 12 months, according to a Press-Register examination of OSHA records. OSHA proposed a $60,000 fine earlier this year against (another company) for violations at its foundry, but reduced that fine to $18,500 after negotiations.
All of the violations that OSHA found at the (above) site were related to excavation and trench safety. The federal agency has extensive standards relating to how workers must be protected when working in trenches because many workers have been injured or killed when earthworks collapse.
The (above company’s) fine was so high because one of the five violations cited was a repeat violation, similar to one found at another work site, said (the company’s) vice president. That ended up costing the company $25,000.
“Normally it would not have been so high,” the VP said.
(The VP) said the fine resulted in part because the company and OSHA had different interpretations about how stable the kind of soil at the site was.
“There was no one injured,’ (the VP) said “There was no potential for anyone to be injured.”
OSHA originally proposed $37,000 in fines, but reduced some amounts last month after an informal settlement conference. Heads of OSHA offices are allowed to cut fines following such meetings.
(Note: I chose not to identify the company or their VP in this article to make it more generalized, even though the newspaper item is a public document.)
This shows that the monetary cost of violations relating to trenching operations and apparently were proven by the assessment of the fine. The $31,500 fine and the earlier $25,000 fine are far less in the amount it would have cost the contractor to use “Horse Sense” to analyze the soils appropriately and had taken proper steps to create a “Safe Work” site. Besides this fact, the fines, insurance costs and many other costs that COULD have occurred if there had one or more fatalities in doing the work the “Donkey Way.”
“Which makes the Safest and Best Way:
“Horse Sense” way or the “Donkey Way?”