Dealing with trees is often the province of landscapers, but construction jobs sometimes involve arboreal concerns as well. Another area of crossover includes companies offering a mix of services, including some landscaping and construction. Contracting crews have to deal with trees during initial build site preparations, and when it comes to repairs on homes and commercial businesses. Because construction projects will need to deal with the trimming or even removal of trees on a regular basis, building firms need to make sure they're ready to deal with the potentially life-threatening safety issues that can arise. To promote education and safety as they relate to trees, the Occupational and Safety and Health Administration is hosting a program on these issues in some areas of the U.S. this summer, including the 5-state Philadelphia region that includes all of Pennsylvania and Virginia, along with Washington, D.C.
About a week ago, a construction worker fell to his death from the Dream Hotel in New York City, according to Gothamist. In the construction industry, falls account for the highest number of deaths. In 2012, 278 of 775 construction deaths were caused by falls alone, the U.S. Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration reported. That portion represents 36 percent of construction-related deaths.
To address these devastating numbers, OSHA started a Fall Prevention Campaign in 2012 by partnering with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and the National Occupational Research Agenda. As part of the OSHA'S ongoing Fall Prevention Campaign, the administration is hosting a national safety stand-down from June 2 to 6. During this time, OSHA is asking employers, workers, industry groups, government agencies, civic and faith-based organizations, among other group and companies, to hold a safety stand-down. This voluntary, nationwide event involves discussions surrounding "Fall Hazards," and reinforces the importance of taking preventive measures.
The safety initiative requires employers to take a couple hours out of the day to discuss ladder, scaffolding and roofing safety, as well as protective measures and company-wide safety policies. OSHA's national safety stand-down website provides further information on conducting an effective educational safety workshop. The administration's goal is to have more than 25,000 employers hold a stand-down, which will reach nearly 1 out of every 10 employees in the nation.
OSHA is working with the National Institutes of Health, the Center for Construction Research and Training, the American Society of Safety Engineers, the National Safety Council and the OSHA Training Institute Education Centers, among other key groups.
"This safety stand-down serves as an important opportunity for everyone to take the time to learn how to recognize and prevent fall hazards," said Dr. John Howard, NIOSH director.
In addition to this safety stand-down, the Fall Prevention Campaign also provides information and educational resources on the appropriate equipment for workers and how to use it properly.
The Boston Fire Department got an early start on March 20 when seven floors of a 33-story building under construction at 45 Stuart Street in the Chinatown area abruptly collapsed around 8 a.m. Two workers were injured and taken to Tufts Medical Center when floors 5 through 11 of the structure caved because of what Deputy Fire Chief Robert Calobrisi is calling a "dead load," reported Boston ABC affiliate WCVB.
"I think they were putting something heavy on the roof, and it caused the roof to give in a little, and unfortunately two workers were under that," Boston Police Commissioner William Evans told the news source.
Collapses Cause Safety Concerns Among Workers
Fire department spokesman Steve MacDonald told The Boston Globe that all workers were accounted for minutes after the collapse, but one suffered a serious head injury.
"Everyone's shaken up," said Boston Mayor Marty Walsh. "You know, it could be anybody. Construction is a dangerous, dangerous job."
With roughly 120 laborers, iron workers and carpenters working in various places in the structure, it demonstrates that contractors should always be prepared for anything when working on construction jobs. The Globe reported that inspectors from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the city and the state will be investigating the site and plan to help the builders at Stuart Street, the company contracted to construct the building, to understand how to prevent these instances in the future.
Have An Evacuation Plan
Emergencies like this one in Boston serve as a reminder to construction companies to be prepared for anything. Keeping this in mind, managers must create a set of evacuation policies and procedures to ensure that all workers are safe when a structure collapses, a fire occurs or any other type of disaster takes place.
Not only should an action plan be in place, but OSHA states that all employees must be trained on how to properly carry it out. Practicing evacuation strategies will help workers stay prepared at the onset of an incident. Contractors should ensure that evacuation routes and exits are properly marked, wide enough for all people on the site and don't expose employees to any other risks.
According to OSHA, every worker who is active on a construction project must be quickly accounted for when a disaster occurs. To make this process easier for managers, every company should designate assembly areas for employees after the evacuation of a building. It's also important to have an accounting system in place to ensure that no one is forgotten. Construction firms can create a culture of safety and increase safety awareness by developing and utilizing a comprehensive company safety plan in conjunction with site-specific safety plans. Written safety plans are an OSHA requirement and will help educate construction employees to recognize job site hazards and react appropriately to emergency situations while on the job site.
One of the most important aspects of construction management is ensuring that employees and contractors are safe while working on a project. When staff members are at high risk of experiencing an injury on the job, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration will often step in and issue a citation. Some problems come up more often than others, which is why OSHA has developed a list of the top 10 most frequent violations.
Recent research from the agency showed that the number of citations issued on its list increased 45 percent in 2013. Jay Bruscato, vice president of first aid and safety at specialized services provider Cintas, believes the spike in violations demonstrates that OSHA is not afraid to penalize companies that aren't exercising safe practices.
"To avoid these fines and protect employees, it's critical that businesses understand OSHA requirements and take the proper steps to recognize and fix potential hazards in the workplace," he said in a press release.
Provide a Safe Workplace for Construction Workers
Understanding the regulations set forth by OSHA is just the first step in staying compliant with the agency. Construction company managers must not only ensure their jobs sites are set up with OSHA in mind, but see that workers feel safe carrying out their daily roles. Below are two of the most common violations and some tips from Cintas on what construction firms can do to avoid being cited by OSHA:
1. Failing to Communicate the Potential Hazards Caused by Chemicals on Site
When working on certain projects, workers can come into contact with harmful substances and chemicals that are cause for several health concerns. OSHA urges construction firms to train employees on the dangers of these materials, as well as produce data sheets for staff members and label any containers that are storing the hazardous substance.
Construction companies that may not have the resources in-house often hire a third-party safety company that can provide on-site consultation to the entire workforce and ensure that all workers are aware of the potential issues that can stem from contact with harmful chemicals.
2. Not Exercising Best Practices for Machine Guarding
Many projects require workers to operate large machines that can be the reason for several safety risks. To keep employees protected from potential risks, OSHA asks construction companies to use barrier guards, two-hand tripping technology or electronic safety devices to avoid issues caused by airborne debris and rotating parts.
Proper employee training and instituting the latest machine-guarding and lockout/tag-out standards will greatly increase worker safety on any project.
Trapped on a fourth-floor balcony in the midst of a five-alarm fire, a construction worker recently needed to be rescued by the Houston Fire Department as the flames were just feet away from him. Spokesperson Ruy Lozano told Houston ABC affiliate KTRK that a ladder truck arrived just before the worker was going to attempt to jump to safety.
The fire spread quickly throughout a luxury apartment building under construction in West Dallas located at Marconi in the Montrose area. The wind swept the flames from one side of the building to the other, forcing workers to evacuate the complex while roughly 200 firefighters rushed to the scene to battle the blaze.
"Because it was under construction, a lot of things were exposed and we're having a lot of collapses of the construction in different areas," Lozano said to USA Today.
Workers Must be Prepared for Risks of Construction Projects
The cause of the fire remains unknown at this point, but it serves as a reminder that contractors must remain aware of all of the potential threats that can cause an emergency in a matter of moments. Sometimes having a fire extinguisher handy is not enough to prevent the spread of flames throughout a construction site. Eyewitness Larry Reader told KTRK that he watched construction workers try to battle the fire with an extinguisher, but since flames were spreading so quickly, it didn't help very much. He added that one of them was the same man who eventually needed to be rescued by the fire department.
Another witness of the fire, political consultant Adam Harris, took a video of the flame as he was caught in traffic that was caused by the fire, he told the news source.
"How amazing it is that nobody was hurt," Harris said. "Blows my mind. I actually talked to some of the workers and said, 'What happened?' And they said, 'We don't know. Everyone yelled fire, fire, fire and we got out.'"
Contractors Were Amazed by the Flames
Workers who are on construction jobs a majority of the year often believe they have seen everything that can occur during the length of a project. However, Juan and Raul Hernandez, two of the construction workers who were on-site at the building were astonished at how quickly the fire spread throughout the building. Juan told KTRK that the wind must've have been a major factor in how the building was completely engulfed in flames, the enormous cloud of black smoke and the eventual collapse of the complex. Many of the other workers stopped what they were doing and got off the site as quickly as possible as it became apparent that this wasn't something they would be able to handle on their own.
"When everybody started screaming, I just climbed down the scaffold and walked away," Raul told the news source.
While no workers were injured as a result of the fire, it demonstrate that safety must be a top priority when working on large construction projects.