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News Reaction Safety News

Roofing Company Cited $70k in OSHA Fines: Lessons Learned

On December 16, 2021, Double M Roofing & Construction had a crew of four employees replacing a roof on a townhouse in Berea, Ohio, when one of them fell 20 feet to the ground. The employee who fell was a 14-year-old boy, and he suffered critical injuries.

The owner of the company, Melvin Schmucker, who was onsite, and the two other employees, proceeded to retrieve and put on personal fall protection equipment that was in their trailer at the job site.

It is assumed that this act was an attempt to hide the company’s safety failures as there was no required report of the injury made to OSHA.

A nearby security camera captured the evidence OSHA needed of the boy and the other employees working without fall protection equipment. This evidence was submitted to local police, who passed it along to OSHA.

Approximately two weeks later, OSHA inspectors caught up with the company on a different jobsite where workers were once again working at heights of more than 22 feet, without the necessary fall protection equipment.

OSHA has just recently issued citations to the company for two willful, three serious, and one other-than-serious violations of OSHA’s safety standards, totaling more than $70k.

What Fines Did OSHA Issue?

There were a total of 6 citations issued between the two job sites. We outline them in layman’s terms below and also link to the referenced OSHA regulation which was broken.

Citation 1 & 2

Regulation 29 CFR 1926.21(b)(2) was broken when the company failed to instruct their employees on how to recognize and avoid unsafe conditions on their work site, in this case, a fall from heights.

OSHA designated the citation as “Serious” and assigned a fine of $4,096.00.

The second citation for this same regulation occurred on a jobsite two weeks later. OSHA assigned a fine of $30,037 to the second citation.

The difference between the two citations was that OSHA designated the second as “Willful – Serious”

Citation 3 & 4

Regulation 29 CFR 1926.501(b)(13) was broken when the company failed to ensure it’s employees were properly protected from the fall from heights hazard by either guardrails, safety nets or personal fall arrest systems.

OSHA designated the citation as “Serious” and assigned a fine of $4,096.00.

The second citation for this same regulation occurred on a jobsite two weeks later. OSHA assigned a fine of $30,037 to the second citation.

The difference between the two citations was that OSHA designated the second as “Willful – Serious”

Citation 5

Regulation 29 CFR 1904.39(a)(2) was broken when the company failed to report the in-patient hospitalization resulting from a workplace incident to OSHA within the required 24 hours, or in this case, at all.

OSHA designated the citation as “Other-Than-Serious” and assigned a fine of $2,926.

Citation 6

Regulation 29 CFR 1926.102(a)(1) was broken when the employees were not wearing safety glasses when using air powered nail guns.

OSHA designated the citation as “Serious” and assigned a fine of $2,341.

The Fallout

The fact that the injured employee was only 14 years old was not referenced in the citation. The Fair Labor Standards Act sets 14 as the minimum age of employment and limits the number of hours worked for those under 16. It also prohibits their employment in work declared as hazardous, but leaves the term open to interpretation.

When asked to comment, the OSHA Cleveland area director Howard Eberts said the Department of Labor’s child labor laws do not permit “a 14-year-old to work construction work at heights; the boy should not have been allowed to work on the roof.”

The company has fifteen days from the date of issuance to either pay the fines and provide corrective actions for each citation or, formally notify the board of their intent to contest.

What Can We Learn From These Mistakes?

There is a ton we can learn from the many many mistakes clearly made by Double M Roofing, but the three we should focus on are:

  1. Public Fall Out
  2. The names of company’s receiving OSHA citations are made publicly available. This means your community, insurance company, employees, competitors and potential future clients have full access to all the information.

    In addition to the fines handed out by OSHA, there is a huge potential for additional financial loss, through insurance rate increases, drops in revenue, employee turnover and damage to your reputation.

  3. What ‘Willful” Means
  4. In this case, the difference between a “Serious” and a “Willful – Serious” citation was $25k. As outlined in Section 17 of the act, OSHA increases the amount of the fine if the citation is repeated or they determine it was knowingly committed.

    The max fine for a serious citation is $13,653 while a willful or repeated citation max is $136,532.

    Obviously, the goal is to not break regulations to begin with, but if you do and are caught, there are no second chances.

  5. Instruct vs Ensure
  6. OSHA makes a distinction between instructing your employees in regards to hazards and ensuring they are following your instructions; So much so, that you can be cited and fined in both ways for the same infraction.

    “All too often, OSHA inspectors responding to reports of roofers without fall protection find the employer has the safety equipment on-site and refuses to ensure its use,” explains Eberts. “Exposure to fall hazards makes roofing work among the most dangerous jobs in construction. OSHA requires fall protection when working at heights greater than 6 feet.”

    In short, they require you to properly train workers and follow up to make sure they are using their training.

How Harness Can Help Avoid These Citations

We don’t know what kind of Safety Program Double M Roofing has, if they have one at all. If they do have documentation of Fall Protection training they provided their workers, they would be able to formally contest citations 1 and 2 and use their training documents as evidence.

Furthermore, if they possessed records of site inspections where a supervisor notes the workers wearing proper personal fall protection, they could attempt to contest citations 3 and 4.

If they could even come up with paperwork documenting disciplinary actions taken against their own employees for failing to adhere to company fall protection regulations, it would give them a stronger argument that they are doing their due diligence.

This is where a Safety Management System such as Harness can benefit companies: by creating, storing and making readily available the necessary documentation to challenge citations and even by preventing these infractions from happening to begin with.

We work with companies who require our help to start their safety programs, those with well established programs already in place and all levels of companies in between.

To find out more about what you can do to improve your safety program, click on the article below that best describes your current program, or lack thereof.

5 Easy Tasks to Start Your Construction Safety Program

5 Simple Tasks to Improve Your Existing Construction Safety Program

5 Key Tasks to Make Your Construction Safety Program Amazing

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News Reaction Safety Best Practice

COVID-19: The Top-Cited OSHA Standards, and How to Mitigate Them

The Covid-19 crisis has plunged many businesses into one of their most challenging times. Employers are struggling to keep pace with the new rules and regulations to keep workers, suppliers and the public safe during the pandemic but also to lessen the impact on generating business, maintaining client outreach and managing the financial impact covid-19 has made.

How are you keeping you, your employees, and the public safe while continuing to work during the COVID-19 crisis? This is a common question not only among business owners and managers but also essential workers everywhere.

Employee morale is low, and cases seem to be ever on the rise. To help combat these effects on businesses and workers, OSHA has shared the top-cited infractions during the pandemic.

OSHA’s Frequently Cited Standards Related to COVID-19 Inspections

OSHA’s has released the most common citations that are being issued during the pandemic; these are:

  • Failure to providing a medical assessment before a worker makes use of a respirator or is fit-tested
  • Lack of training employees to safely make use of respirators and other PPEs in the workplace
  • Neglecting to retrain employers regarding changes in the workplace that could make initial training obsolete
  • A disregard for keeping records of illnesses, injuries and fatalities related to work
  • Failure in storing respirators and other PPEs in a proper manner that will safeguard them from contamination, damage and face-piece deformation and exhalation valve where necessary
  • Coming up short with establishing, updating and implementing a written respiratory protection program that has the essential worksite-specific procedures

When OSHA shows up on your site, they are actively looking for accurate and up-to-date record-keeping concerning Covid-19 protocols in the workplace. Below are a few examples of additional measures that should be currently taking place to help mitigate the possibility of a citation on your business and your employees.

Additional Covid-19 Measures You Should be Doing

The CDC measures used to combat the spread of COVID-19 across the world are flattening the curve and slowing the spread of new cases.
The effects of COVID-19 vary from state to state. Because of that, local governments, working with local public health authorities, may change or update safety measures depending on where you live.

However, we’re seeing a positive change concerning outbreaks when these additional measures have been adopted into the work day.

1. Daily Screening Process

Screenings should be taking place before employees or the public enter the business/job site. The required questions tend to vary from state to state but all center around identifying possible symptoms and exposures. It is important to keep in mind that the form itself can be as simple as a “Yes” or “No” questionnaire, thus reducing the amount of time required to fill it out.

Here are some questions commonly found on a Daily Screening Form, currently being used in the construction industry:

  • Have you knowingly been in close or proximity contact in the past 14 days with anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19 or who has had symptoms of COVID-19?
  • Have you tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 14 days?
  • Do you have any of these symptoms that are not caused by another condition: Fever or chills, cough, etc….

The goal of daily screening is to catch any positive cases before they progress to an outbreak but also to identify who the worker has been in contact with. Having these records is a valuable tool when narrowing down when/where the exposure took place.

2. Exposure Process

What happens if someone has been exposed or has symptoms? We all know identifying an issue is the first step in finding a resolution to a problem. We have taken that step with our Daily Screening Process, but now what?

Typically, the response looks as follows:

  • The employee is sent home to isolate for “10 days since symptoms first appeared and at least 24 hours with no fever without fever-reducing medication and other symptoms of COVID-19 are improving”
  • Employee required to take a COVID-19 test
  • The Project manager and HR are notified immediately so
    Contact tracing by utilizing the Daily Screening Tool is completed

3. Sanitization

What new cleaning/sanitization procedures have you initiated since covid-19? How do you ensure that these new procedures are being followed?

Jobsite Hazard Assessments are a staple in the construction industry, updating your current JHA to accommodate identification and controls of all Covid-19 related hazards is a must.

The JHA should include (but not limited to) shared tools and vehicle sanitization both at the start and end of the day. This coupled with daily screening ensures that employees are starting and finishing their day in a clean environment while minimizing the risk of exposure to Covid-19

4. Education

“Knowledge is Power” – Francis Bacon

Arming your crews with up to date Covid-19 prevention and sanitization methods is paramount. What is the best way to get this information out? Toolbox Talks are an informal group safety meeting that dial in on a particular safety issue. Utilizing your current Toolbox Talk program is a great way to distribute Covid-19 related information out to your teams in the field.

Tools to Help Navigate the Pandemic

Everyone is tired and weary of continuing to work during the pandemic, I hope this article shed some light on some of the steps that should be taken to help pull through this together.

Safety Apps are great tools to help get vital training out to the crews in the field. Harness contains Toolbox Talks concerning everything from Covid-19 to Heat Stress available in both English and Spanish and can deliver and track these meetings with a touch of a button.

Harness has also made available a free version of the app oriented strictly around Covid-19 to help keep workers safe. Click the button below to download it now. learn more about the Free Covid-19 Safety App.

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News Reaction

Harness Software Acquires CertGround App, Hires Founder

CertGround app is used by union locals to manage training and its founder, Sean Campbell will join the Harness development team.

Harness Software announced today that it has agreed to acquire CertGround, an app used by union locals to manage training & track certifications for their membership.  Sean Campbell, the founder of CertGround will join the Harness development team.  The terms of the deal were not disclosed and the transaction is scheduled to close in the summer of 2021.

CertGround founder Sean Campbell, a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in London, ON Canada is a self-taught developer and initially created CertGround to help his local union chapter better manage training & certifications.

“When I met Sean, I was immediately impressed with the high level of skill he has as a developer.  The fact that he has worked for over 10 years as an electrician before learning to code gives him an insight into our users that is invaluable.  I’m so excited to have him join our team”, said Tom Whitaker, CEO of Harness Software.

Existing CertGround customers will not be adversely affected as Harness will continue to support them separately for the foreseeable future.  Eventually, the features of CertGround will be incorporated into the core Harness Safety App.

Harness Software currently serves thousands of daily active users and allows construction companies to easily deploy & manage a strong health & safety program.  Companies using Harness have safer job sites, fewer injuries, lower insurance costs, and are better able to recruit & retain workers.

This is the first acquisition in the company’s history.  The company isn’t done making noise and has plans to announce more major initiatives soon. “2021 is going to be a momentous year for our company,” said Whitaker.

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News Reaction Safety News

NYC Issues 88 COVID-19 Citations In Early July

Source: www.constructiondive.com

During its first five days of actively enforcing new COVID-19 safety protocols, New York City’s Department of Buildings issued 88 citations, including 41 stop-work orders, at construction sites throughout the city.

DOB used Geographic Information System technology, which integrates compliance data with interactive mapping tools, to efficiently route hundreds of inspectors to each of the city’s 40,000 job sites multiple times since the COVID-19 pandemic began, often responding to citizens who reported potential violations.

Since March 30, New York City residents have used the city’s nonemergency 311 phone system to lodge 6,127 complaints against contractors for potential COVID-19 job-site safety protocol violations.

DOB, construction workers and New Yorkers are working to ensure COVID-19 safety protocols are observed at the city’s construction sites, and compliance has been relatively high.

“A large chunk of the construction industry was really paying attention to what New York City went through the past couple months and took the pandemic and trying to slow the spread of the pandemic very seriously,” said Andrew Rudansky, press secretary for DOB.

Beginning June 8, when work at nonessential job sites was allowed to resume in New York City, DOB implemented a new set of mandatory health and sanitation regulations for worksites, including new rules for face coverings, social distancing, cleaning protocols, educational signage and recordkeeping.

The department allowed a 30-day grace period for job sites to become compliant after reopening. During that time, inspectors found instances of too many workers riding hoists together; small spaces that forced workers to be in close contact while entering or leaving a job site, such as stairways; large gatherings at lunchtime or during tool talk meetings; inadequate logs and recordkeeping regarding worker interactions (to be used for contact tracing); and insufficient tracking of on-site cleaning.

When inspectors saw those infractions in June, they reached out to supervisors with guidance and educational materials. Starting July 8, DOB began enforcing the new rules, with initial civil penalties of $5,000 for each offense and $10,000 for subsequent violations. It issued its initial 88 citations from July 8 through July 13.

Categories
News Reaction Safety News

OSHA Inspections Increase 3X in 2019

If you’ve never been subject to an OSHA inspection, your time may soon come. In a recent release of fiscal year 2019 activities, OSHA revealed that they conducted 33,401 inspections. This number represents more inspections than in the previous three years combined. The inspections focused on addressing violations related to trenching, falls, chemical exposure, silica, and other hazards.

Are you ready for OSHA?

Here are a few quick tips that you can follow to make sure your workers are ready when OSHA arrives on your site:

1. Have Your Crew Stop Working

There’s no point in continuing to work while the inspector is there. Instruct your guys to take a break or move them to a different part of the site for the duration of the visit.

2. Get The Right Person Onsite Before Allowing The Inspection To Proceed

Establish in advance who at your company is going to work with OSHA. Instruct your onsite leadership to contact them immediately when OSHA arrives and have them inform the OSHA compliance officer that he/she may not access the site until the company representative arrives onsite.

3. Find Out Why OSHA Is There?

Is this a complaint-based inspection, in response to a death or injury, a targeted inspection (government focus on specific industries), or just a random drive-by inspection? Have your company representative ascertain the reason so that you can take further steps to limit the scope of the visit.

4. Keep Good Notes. Share Only Strong Safety Records If Requested.

Have your company rep keep notes of the walkthrough and take their own photos of the items the compliance officer documents. Inspectors will likely want to review the current and prior 3 years’ illness logs and annual summaries of injuries. They may ask for training records such as toolbox talks, as well as for evidence of programs such as: hazard communication, lockout/tagout, emergency evacuation, silica, and bloodborne pathogens.

The speed with which your company is able to respond to these requests will tell OSHA a lot about you. As will the quality (or lack thereof) of the records you produce. If it takes you a long time to send them your stuff, that’s an indicator that you’re not running a tight ship when it comes to safety. They’ll likely want to look deeper.

Likewise, if you’re sending them crumpled pieces of paper with missing information or illegible handwriting, it will raise red flags and could lead to more citations.

Of course, you can make this kind of stuff easy if you’re using a safety management app like Harness!

One thing is for sure, now that OSHA is stepping up their enforcement activities, you can’t afford to be unprepared.

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