Thursday, March 27, 2008


Another post from Jerry Solomon:

The new 2008 construction season is just weeks away. As you plan and prepare for your new jobs think about the safety of your workers and subcontractors. Make sure everyone knows how to do their work safely and is aware of the safety rules that apply to residential construction.

OSHA continues to focus on residential construction as a high hazard industry. They are out there looking for you. Last year they issued over 4900 citations against home builders and renovators with penalties of over $3.7 million. You need a lot of profit to cover those penalties which come off your bottom line.

The most frequently cited violations are for fall protection for workers on floor edges, roofs, etc. Workers must be protected against any falls of 6 feet or more. Guardrails may be impractical except for fall hazards that might exist for a few days or more. For trained workers, safety harnesses with lanyards which are properly worn and secured are often the best option. OSHA citations for inadequate fall protection account for almost $1 million of last year’s total penalties against residential contractors.

Close behind in dollars and frequency are citations for inadequate scaffolds. A scaffold is any elevated work platform. You’ve got to think about a stable base, the load capacity, proper bracing to the building, proper planking or pics, safe access, and fall protection. The OSHA fines are not all there is to worry about. There was a recent report of a roofer at a condo site who fell 17 feet when the scaffold he was working from pulled away from the building. He was paralyzed. The general contractor was sued as was the contractor that erected the scaffold. The case was settled for over $2 million. Imagine what a settlement like that will do for your future insurance costs. For some contractors the worst part is thinking about the guy who fell and how some small additional precautions might have avoided this accident.

The third most frequently cited OSHA violation is for ladders that don’t meet proper standards. Get rid of those old crappy ladders. If you build ladders on site, make sure you know the rules and do it right. Open step ladders before using them. Make sure your extension ladders are at the appropriate angle and braced at the top. And keep your ladders away from electrical lines.

OSHA also frequently cites residential contractors for electrical violations. Make sure everything is grounded. Throw away cords that are frayed or where the grounding pin has been cut off. Don’t use extension cords where they can be pinched or cut or crushed. The use of GFCIs is the norm. Don’t allow work on live circuits. Even the old-timers are starting to come around on that. Don’t cut corners on electrical safety. Lives may be at stake.

Jerry Solomon
Law office of Jerrold Solomon


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