OSHA’s Focus Four

I’m a safety professional. It’s what I do. When I drive around my neighborhood, I observe the practices of roofers who are working. Rarely—if ever—do I see them using proper fall protection. It is upsetting to me because hundreds of roofers fall to their deaths in the U.S. every year, and fall-related standards are consistently in OSHA’s most cited standards.

The Washington, D.C.-based Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Focus Four are the four most common causes of death and serious injury in the construction industry. OSHA’s title, Focus Four, is basically a warning in and of itself: These are the four hazards to which OSHA officials pay the most attention. It is not surprising, then, that the Focus Four are always among OSHA’s most cited standards.

The Focus Four Are:

  • Falls
  • Struck by object
  • Electrocutions
  • Caught in/between

The Focus Four with statistics from construction in 2013 are:

  • 1) Falls: 302 out of 828 total construction deaths (36.5 percent)
  • 2) Struck by object: 84 deaths (10.1 percent)
  • 3) Electrocutions: 71 deaths (8.6 percent)
  • 4) Caught in/between: 21 deaths (2.5 percent)

Now do you see why these hazards are titled the Focus Four?

Falls from height are the primary cause of fatalities in the roofing industry. Between 2012-14, there were more than 1,300 roofer fatalities from falls. Year after year, falls are No. 1 on OSHA’s Focus Four. In addition, fall-related topics are heavily represented in the top 10 most-cited OSHA standards (see list below).

Struck-by incidents, while not as common as falls, can also cause death and serious injuries in the roofing trade. Employees throwing scrap material off a roof without a chute or in a controlled landing area combined with employees not wearing proper personal-protective equipment can lead to serious struck-by incidents.

Electricity also poses a safety risk for roofers. It can kill in three ways: falls, burns and electrocution. Working too closely to electrical lines, using aluminum ladders and working with metallic conductive gutters, as well as using conductive roofing and flashing materials, can lead to death from electrocution. In addition, a lack of ground-fault protections while using damaged, non-construction-rated electrical cords with missing ground plugs can lead to fatalities.

Caught-in/crushed-by incidents are less prevalent in the roofing industry. However, there have been occasions where employees are caught in ladders and killed. It happens.

The Focus Four are, of course, not the only hazards. Particularly in hot weather, heat syncope, heat exhaustion and heat stroke are all prevalent in the roofing industry.

Construction inspections account for 60 percent of OSHA’s total inspections. In 2009, preliminary data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Washington, suggest there were 816 fatal on-the-job injuries involving construction workers—more than in any other single industry sector and nearly one out of every five work-related deaths in the U.S. In the same year, private-industry construction workers had a fatal occupational injury rate nearly three times that of all workers in the U.S.: 9.7 per 100,000 full-time equivalent construction workers versus 3.3 per 100,000 for all workers. (Learn more from the Construction Focus Four: Outreach Training Packet.) Therefore, it seems to me it’s a good idea to follow OSHA’s fall-protection standards—as well as its other standards. It just might save lives.

THE 10 MOST FREQUENTLY CITED OSHA STANDARDS IN 2014

  • Fall Protection, Construction (29 CFR 1926.501)
  • Hazard Communication Standard, General Industry (29 CFR 1910.1200)
  • Scaffolding, General Requirements, Construction (29 CFR 1926.451)
  • Respiratory Protection, General Industry (29 CFR 1910.134)
  • Powered Industrial Trucks, General Industry (29 CFR 1910.178)
  • Control of Hazardous Energy(lockout/tagout), General Industry (29 CFR 1910.147)
  • Ladders, Construction (29 CFR 1926.1053)
  • Electrical, Wiring Methods, Components and Equipment, General Industry (29 CFR 1910.305)
  • Machinery and Machine Guarding, General Industry (29 CFR 1910.212)
  • Electrical Systems Design, General Requirements, General Industry (29 CFR 1910.303)

Thirteen Metal Building Systems Manufacturers Receive MBMA Safety Awards

The Metal Building Manufacturers Association (MBMA) annually recognizes metal building systems manufacturers that show exceptional commitment to ensuring workplace safety. The Annual MBMA Safety Awards were presented at the MBMA Spring Meeting held in Kansas City, Mo.

“A total of 46 plant facilities participated in MBMA’s Quarterly OSHA Injury Statistics Program,” states Dan Walker, P.E. assistant general manager of MBMA. “Awards were presented for a plant’s performance throughout 2014, based on our analysis of the submitted data, which is directly compared to the OSHA industry average.”

MBMA and its members are committed to the safety of everyone who works in the metal building systems industry. The organization has had a long-standing Safety Committee and Safety Awards Program, which was revamped in 2013 to increase the stringency of the awards so that companies with truly outstanding safety performance are recognized for their achievements. “Our members are focused on the safety of their employees, and MBMA is very pleased to recognize their commitment through these awards,” says Walker.

From the 46 manufacturing facilities nationwide that submitted data, 13 awards were presented. MBMA’s award criteria stipulates that winning plants must have work-related accident and illness rates that are at least 50 percent below OSHA-reported averages for the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) Code 332311 (Prefabricated metal building and component manufacturing). For the Safety Performance Award, the industry average incident rate, as reported by OSHA, was 5.0 for NAICS Code 332311. Therefore, MBMA’s award cut off was just 2.5 or fewer incidents.

The Superior Safety Award, under the rules of the MBMA Program, was awarded to those plants that achieved zero recordable cases for the 12-month period, which is a very significant achievement.

Awards were presented at the following levels to individual plant locations:

2014 Superior Safety Award – In recognition of having zero recordable incidents.

  • AMERICAN BUILDINGS CO.
    Carson City, Nev.

  • BLUESCOPE BUILDINGS NORTH AMERICA INC.
    Laurinburg, N.C.

  • NUCOR BUILDING SYSTEMS
    Swansea, S.C.

  • RUFFIN BUILDING SYSTEMS INC.
    Oak Grove, La.

2014 Safety Performance Award – In recognition of having achieved an incident rate equal to 50 percent or better than the industry average as reported by OSHA.

  • AMERICAN BUILDINGS CO.
    Eufaula, Ala.

  • BLUESCOPE BUILDINGS NORTH AMERICA INC.
    Jackson, Tenn.

  • CBC STEEL BUILDINGS
    Lathrop, Calif.

  • GULF STATES MANUFACTURERS
    Starkville, Miss.

  • KIRBY BUILDING SYSTEMS INC.
    Portland, Tenn.

  • NUCOR BUILDING SYSTEMS
    Terrell, Texas

  • NCI BUILDING SYSTEMS INC.
    Houston

  • NCI BUILDING SYSTEMS INC.
    Caryville, Tenn.

  • SBC BUILDING SYSTEMS LLC
    Ambridge, Penn.

The Hidden Costs of Workplace Accidents

Asking an employee why he or she wants to be safe is like asking them why they work. Overwhelmingly, every roofer I ask this question to tells me he or she wants to go home at the end of the day. He doesn’t want to lose any time because losing time is losing money. And, believe it or not, money can buy happiness. A New York City carpenter once told me he fell 35 feet and broke multiple bones. He was out of work for two years, during which he collected $57,000 from workers’ compensation insurance. If he worked, he would have made more than $100,000 per year. In his words, “I almost lost my big house on Long Island and my high-maintenance wife.”

In addition to how accidents impact workers’ finances, they can seriously affect a company’s bottom line. A good Health and Safety Program can save a company money by cutting workers’ compensation insurance premiums; heading off needless, expensive and embarrassing OSHA citations; avoiding expensive and embarrassing lawsuits; increasing the efficiency of the workforce; and boosting workers’ morale, which consequently will improve their productivity. A good Health and Safety Program also will give a business owner peace of mind by knowing all his or her employees are working safely.

In my experience, project managers, job-site superintendents and crew foremen are the people who are reluctant to want job-site safety. They believe following safety standards slows the job down. Management is responsible for making money in a business that regularly grapples with close bids, tight schedules and limited job budgets. However, these factors do not take into account the “hidden” costs of workplace accidents. Oftentimes, accidents are more expensive than people realize because of these hidden costs.

Examples of Hidden Costs

Some costs created by accidents are obvious; for example, workers’ compensation claims cover medical costs and indemnity payments for an injured or ill worker. What people often don’t think about are the hidden costs, like the costs to train and compensate a replacement worker, repair damaged property, investigate the accident and implement corrective action, as well as maintain insurance coverage. Even less apparent are the costs related to schedule delays, added administrative time, lower morale, increased absenteeism and poorer customer relations.

Washington, D.C.-based OSHA’s Safety Pays Program states the lower the direct costs of an accident, the higher the ratio of indirect to direct costs. The more accidents that occur in a workplace, the higher the costs in increased insurance premiums and greater indirect costs. According to the Boca Raton, Fla.-based National Council on Compensation Insurance Inc., these include the following kinds of indirect costs:

  • Any wages paid to injured workers for absences not covered by workers’ compensation.
  • The wage costs related to time lost through work stoppage associated with the worker injury.
  • The overtime costs necessitated by the injury.
  • Administrative time spent by supervisors, safety personnel and clerical workers after an injury.
  • Training costs for a replacement worker.
  • Lost productivity related to work rescheduling, new employee learning curves and accommodation of injured employees.
  • Clean-up, repair, and replacement costs of damaged material, machinery and property.

Some of the possible indirect costs not included in these estimates are:

  • The costs of OSHA fines and any associated legal action.
  • Third-party liability and legal costs.
  • Worker pain and suffering.
  • Loss of good will from bad publicity.

The Human Factor

Direct and indirect costs certainly are motivation for preventing workplace accidents. In fact, when I ask roofing company owners why they want their employees to work safely, many automatically default to the money answer. However, in most cases, business owners are generous, caring members of their communities. I once sat across the desk of an owner of a large construction company after his team experienced a fatality. He asked me, “How do I look at myself in the mirror every morning, knowing one on MY guys didn’t go home today?” Even though he did not know this employee personally, he considered this worker one of his guys. Ultimately, it’s the human factor that is the most important reason to ensure safe working conditions on job sites.

My favorite phrase is “To protect my employer, I protect his employees.” I think they’re words to live by.