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Cal/OSHA Launches Crackdown on Falls in Construction

By Roy Maurer  5/28/2014
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Construction employers should expect aggressive enforcement from the state Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) in the coming weeks, according to a May 27, 2014, agency announcement. Cal/OSHA is deploying investigators to construction sites throughout the state, but is especially targeting the San Francisco Bay area after four fatal accidents occurred there recently.

“Our goal is to raise awareness for everyone working in construction that hazards can be identified and corrected. Preparation and vigilance are vital to preventing workplace fatalities,” said Acting Cal/OSHA Chief Juliann Sum.

Inspectors will be specifically concerned with fall protection compliance, including checking safety railings, personal fall protection devices and equipment, and tie-offs.

“Cal/OSHA also will be looking for trench hazards, equipment safety and proximity to power lines,” the agency said. Cal/OSHA can issue a stop-work order at the site, if inspectors find serious hazards or a lack of fall protection, which will be in force until the hazard is abated.

Employers who fail to comply with Cal/OSHA safety regulations will be cited and ordered to correct the violations.

Fatalities Spur Action

On May 18, 2014, a construction worker, tied off to a train bridge being dismantled in Riverside fell when the section he was working on toppled and he was crushed to death. On May 20, a worker on a San Mateo project fell 9 feet from a wall and sustained fatal head injuries. That same day in San Diego, a worker near the top of a 22-foot rebar column died when the column fell. On May 21, a worker at a residential project in San Jose fell over a railing to his death from a three-story building. All four accidents are currently under investigation by Cal/OSHA.

Nationally, falls are the leading cause of death in construction. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has designated June 2-6, 2014, as National Safety Stand-Down week to encourage employers to talk with workers about fall hazards and prevention. Cal/OSHA has posted an industry-specific fact sheet on fall protection online, and will be participating with federal OSHA in a series of Safety Stand-Down events at construction sites across the state.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him @SHRMRoy

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