Failure to Follow OSHA Safety Precautions on New York Construction Sites
During a recent one-year span, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued nearly 38,000 citations for violations of safety standards within the U.S. construction industry. As this shows, a large number of construction employers fail in their duty to ensure the health and safety of workers.
According to OSHA, the following are standards that are most commonly overlooked or ignored in the construction industry:
Problems arise when scaffolds are not properly erected, inspected or used. Specifically, a scaffold must be placed on solid footing and set up so that it can sustain its own weight plus four times the maximum intended load that it will carry. It should never be placed within 10 feet of a power line. Also, the scaffold must include guardrails. Workers should never be on scaffolds in icy or windy conditions. A “competent person” must supervise the building, dismantling, moving and altering of the scaffold and should regularly inspect it.
In addition to OSHA standards, New York Labor Laws §§ 240 and 241 establish standards that must be followed when scaffolding is used on construction sites. If contractors and owners of construction sites fail to adhere to those standards, and a worker suffers an injury or death as a result of that failure, the contractors and owners may be held strictly liable.
Falls occur frequently and for many different reasons at construction sites. However, if safety precautions are taken, serious injuries and deaths can be prevented. This is why OSHA requires guardrails, safety net systems and/or body harnesses to be used when workers are operating at heights.
Trenching and Excavation
Although trench collapses are rare occurrences, they carry a high risk of serious injury or death. OSHA standards mandate the use of a professional engineer-designed protective system for trenches that are 20 feet deep or greater. The system should meet specific sloping, shoring and shielding requirements as well as feature a ladder, stairway or ramp that provides a ready exit for workers.
Falls from ladders are another leading cause of construction accidents. OSHA requires that the “correct ladder” be used by workers. For example, the ladder should be long enough so that a worker can safely reach the area where a task must be done. A metal ladder should never be used near power lines. Also, the ladder should be routinely inspected for any safety issues such as bent rails, broken or missing rungs or slick contaminants. If the ladder is broken, a “Do Not Use” sticker or tag should be placed on it.
Under OSHA standards, hard hats should always be worn at construction sites in areas where workers could be struck by falling objects or come into contact with electrical hazards. Also, OSHA requires that workers be provided eye and face protection in order to prevent injuries caused by flying objects such as sparks, slivers, nails or chemicals.
Hazardous chemicals at construction sites present the risk of workers suffering burns from fires, explosions and direct contact with the chemicals. They may also suffer respiratory damage from inhaling chemical vapors. This is why OSHA demands that contractors and owners of construction sites clearly communicate to workers what chemicals are located at the site. Workers should also be trained on the risks of these chemicals and how to safely handle them. A plan should be in place to quickly clean up any chemical spills.
Cranes can be the most dangerous machines used in construction. Workers can suffer severe and possibly fatal injuries by falling from cranes, getting struck by a crane or operating a crane that comes in contact with a power line. OSHA requires pre-use inspection of cranes to ensure stability. OSHA also demands that a barricade be erected to prevent access within the crane’s swing radius. Also, the crane should never get any closer than 10 feet from a power line.
Forklift accidents can occur when they are operated by those who lack training and supervision or when they have been improperly loaded. OSHA seeks to prevent these accidents by requiring training and certification of operators, inspection of forklifts for defects and adherence to load limits. Additionally, the forklift should be equipped with seatbelts and a rollover protective structure. The forklift should never be operated at a speed exceeding 5 mph or with an elevated load.
Electrocution, electrical burns or arc burns may occur when safety procedures are not followed in the construction industry. OSHA demands that many precautions be followed. For example, all power must be shut off when working on electrical circuits. A lock out/tag out procedure should be in place (especially when cleaning or maintaining certain equipment). No cords or cables that are worn or frayed should be used. All electrical tools and equipment should be inspected and maintained.
Contact a Construction Accident Lawyer Serving New York State
If the violation of OSHA standards or New York State safety guidelines causes one to suffer an injury at a construction site, it will be important to consult with an experienced construction accident attorney.
At Powers & Santola, LLP, we can review the facts of your case and help you to understand your options under New York workers’ compensation, labor, personal injury and wrongful death laws.
Our law firm has decades of combined legal experience in construction accident law. Attorney Daniel R. Santola is widely recognized as a preeminent authority on New York’s unique laws that protect workers in the hazardous construction industry.
To learn more about how we can assist you, please contact us today and arrange for a consultation about your case.
Sources / Additional Information
- Compliance Assistance Quick Start, Occupational Safety & Health Administration