RCMA Supports Campaign to Prevent Fall Fatalities and Injuries

To increase awareness of construction fatalities caused by falls from elevation, the Roof Coatings Manufacturers Association (RCMA) recognizes and supports the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) awareness campaign to prevent fall fatalities and injuries.
 
Falls from elevation are a leading cause of death in the construction industry, and labor statistics indicate that the number of fatalities and injuries from falls have risen in recent years. Lack of proper fall protection is the most frequently cited OSHA violation.
 
OSHA’s National Safety Stand-Down Campaign takes place May 8 – 12, and will ask employers and workers to voluntarily devote work time to discuss safety hazards, protection, and fall prevention initiatives. Stand-Down events have been scheduled in all 50 states by a host of industry, community, educational, and nonprofit organizations.
 
RCMA recommends that roofing inspections be performed by a roofing professional authorized and capable of making repairs. If homeowners or in-house staff are conducting inspections, they should always first attempt to observe the roof from the ground. Maintenance, repair, and coating applications should be coordinated by a properly trained building owner or by an experienced roof coatings applicator.
 
“OSHA’s Safety Stand-Down highlights the safety risks inherent in roofing where specialists routinely perform high-elevation work,” says RCMA Executive Director Matt Coffindaffer. “We encourage RCMA members to participate in this event by taking a moment to emphasize safety issues and preventative practices, educate others about best practices, and open a dialogue with all shareholders to ensure a safe workplace environment.”
 
Stand-Down participants can use the hashtag #StandDown4Safety on social media to help raise awareness for OSHA’s safety awareness campaign. Participants can also share photos of Stand-Down events, certificates of participation, or highlight their own fall prevention efforts.
 
To learn more about OSHA’s National Safety Stand-Down campaign to prevent falls in construction, please visit the website

NAHB Chairman Issues Statement on Legal Challenge to OSHA Rule

Ed Brady, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a home builder and developer from Bloomington, Ill., has issued the following statement on the legal challenge filed by NAHB and several other industry groups against the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Department of Labor, regarding OSHA’s final rule called “Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses:”
   
“NAHB and other industry groups have joined together to fight this rule. We have opposed this rule from the start, and cannot allow this type of regulatory overreach to occur.”
   
“Among the issues with the rule, there are concerns associated with OSHA’s requirement of employers to submit detailed injury and illness logs to the agency for public posting. Not only does OSHA not have the authority to do this, it also exposes a business to reputational harm, all without demonstrating any evidence that it would reduce workplace injuries and illnesses.
   
“We also have concerns about the anti-retaliation portion of the rule which would allow OSHA inspectors to cite an employer without needing a complaint from a worker–this is an overreach of authority as it goes against Congress’s mechanism to address retaliation that is specifically set forth in the OSHA statute.
   
“OSHA has not justified any of the rule’s requirements with any real benefits analysis and has relied on anecdotal information. This is insufficient and cannot be allowed to stand and potentially serve as a precedent for other agency rules. Workplace safety is of the utmost concern of our members, however this rule is unlawful and does not serve its intended purpose of improving workplace safety. The rule needs to be vacated and set aside in its entirety.”

OSHA Sets Rule for Affordable Care Act Whistleblower Complaints

The Washington, D.C.-based Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has published a final rule that establishes procedures and time frames for handling whistleblower complaints under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) . The rule protects employees from retaliation for receiving Marketplace financial assistance when purchasing health insurance through an Exchange. It also protects employees from retaliation for raising concerns regarding conduct they believe violates the consumer protections and health-insurance reforms found in Title I of the ACA.

The rule also establishes procedures and time frames for hearings before Department of Labor administrative law judges in ACA retaliation cases, review of those decisions by the Department of Labor Administrative Review Board and judicial review of final decisions.

“This rule reinforces OSHA’s commitment to protect workers who raise concerns about potential violations of the consumer protections established by the Affordable Care Act or who purchase health insurance through an Exchange,” says Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels.

In 2013, OSHA published an interim final rule and requested public comments. The final rule responds to the comments and updates the rule to clarify the protections for workers who receive financial assistance when they purchase health insurance through an Exchange.

OSHA’s Affordable Care Act fact sheet provides more information regarding who is covered under the ACA’s whistleblower complaints protection, protected activity, types of retaliation and the process for filing a complaint. The fact sheet is available at Whistleblowers.gov/factsheets_page.html.

Safety Week Seeks to Raise Awareness at Job Sites

More than 50 national and global construction firms have joined forces for the annual Safety Week, a construction industry-wide education and awareness event. Safety Week 2016 will be held May 2-6 to align with what the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and other federal agencies have set as the National Safety Stand-Down focusing on fall prevention on the job.

Safety Week is an opportunity for people and companies—even competitors—to work together and rally around a common cause. During Safety Week, construction companies will take the opportunity to thank their employees for the commitment to safety and work to educate, inspire and share best practices. Many companies will conduct on-site safety awareness activities.

“Ask anyone in construction and they will tell you that safety is the No. 1 priority—it crosses competitive boundaries and ties us all together,” says Ross Myers, CEO, Allan Myers and Safety Week co-chair.

“That is the reason we’ve chosen Safety Ties as our theme this year, because the commitment to safety is strongest when it’s woven into the culture of our work and is a visible part of our everyday routines and processes. For workers on a job site, this starts with the individual. Every day, each person needs to take responsibility for their own safety and the safety of those around them.”

To symbolize Safety Ties, participating companies will launch social media campaigns around photos of bootlaces as a visible homage to Safety Week.

Three major U.S. construction sites will host ceremonial events during which the laces and a “ribbon tying” will be used as powerful emblems of safety.

Job sites include:

  • The New NY Bridge (replacing the Tappan Zee), Tarrytown, N.Y. – featuring eight general traffic lanes, cashless tolling, and a shared-use path for pedestrians and cyclists.
  • The Crenshaw/LAX Transit project, Los Angeles – an 8.5-mile light-rail line, with eight stations, serving the Crenshaw District, Inglewood, Westchester and surrounding area.
  • The 35Express Project, Dallas, Texas – a $1.4 billion expansion of Interstate 35E between U.S. Highway 380 in Denton County and I-­635 in Dallas County extending approximately 30 miles, through nine cities and two counties to relieve traffic congestion. AGL Constructors, a joint venture between Archer Western Contractors LLC, Granite Construction Inc. and the Lane Construction Corp., in partnership with the design team of Parsons and HDR Inc., manages construction of the 35Express Project for the Texas Department of Transportation. The project is scheduled for completion in mid-2017.

At these events, guest speakers and project executives will speak about the status of their projects and the importance of and unifying nature of safety.

“A culture of safety starts at the CEO’s office and I applaud all the corporate executives who focus on safety as their essential product,” says LA Metro CEO Phillip A. Washington. “The end users of these great transportation projects understand that by caring for the safety of workers, we also care about the quality and safety of the entire system.”

Additionally, Safety Week activations will be held at many other job sites across the country.

How to Deal with an OSHA Inspection

Dealing with an OSHA inspection requires some knowledge of the Washington, D.C.- based Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s history and its background. OSHA is part of the U.S. Department of Labor and was created through the Williams-Steiger Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, which was signed into law on Dec. 29, 1970, by President Richard M. Nixon. Before OSHA, there were nearly 6,000 workplace fatalities annually, 50,000 deaths from workplace-related illnesses and 5.7 million non-fatal workplace injuries. Injuries alone cost American businesses more than $125 billion.

OSHA is responsible for worker safety and health protection, and it has made a significant difference in the safety and health of workers in all industries. Since its inception, OSHA helped cut the work-related fatality rate in half; worked with employers and employees to reduce injuries and illnesses by 40 percent; and reduced trenching and excavation fatalities by 35 percent. To accomplish these goals, OSHA encourages employers and employees to reduce workplace hazards and implement new safety and health programs, as well as improve existing ones.

Consequently, all U.S.-based businesses covered by the OSH Act are subject to inspection by OSHA compliance safety and health officers (CSHOs). Most inspections are conducted without advance notice. Because OSHA cannot inspect all 7 million workplaces it covers each year, it seeks to prioritize its focus on those that present imminent danger situations—hazards that could cause death or serious physical harm.

Keep in mind that OSHA considers an employee on a roof over 6-feet high without fall protection imminently dangerous.

Other high priorities include fatalities and catastrophes, which are any incidents involving the deaths or hospitalizations of three or more employees. These catastrophes must be reported to OSHA within eight hours. In addition, employers must report any employee hospitalizations, amputations or loss of an eye within 24 hours. Complaints, allegations of hazards or violations also receive high priority. Referrals of hazard information from other federal, state or local agencies; individuals; organizations; or the media receive consideration for inspection. Follow-ups—checks for abatement of violations cited during previous inspections—are conducted by the agency in certain circumstances. Planned or programmed investigations will sometimes be aimed at specific high-hazard industries or individual workplaces that have experienced high rates of injuries or illnesses.

Roofing is considered a high-hazard industry. Roofing job sites are highly visible and working roofers can be seen from several blocks away; therefore, possible infractions or violations are much more visible. As such, it is likely OSHA may come to visit your job site.

When a CSHO comes onsite, the first thing he or she is supposed to do is announce himself or herself to the management representative (the owner, superintendent, foreman or safety consultant). At this point, the CSHO will show his or her credentials—these credentials are similar and carry the same weight of law as those of an FBI agent. CSHOs also have a working relationship with other governmental agencies. An OSHA compliance officer can call in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, local Department of Environmental Protection, Department of Transportation, or U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement if he or she suspects other regulatory infringements.

At this point, the CSHO will conduct the opening conference and explain why this workplace was selected for inspection and describe the scope of the inspection. The employer will choose a representative to accompany the officer during the inspection. An authorized representative (often a union representative, someone designated by employee consensus or even the complainant) of the employees has the right to join the inspection. Regardless, the officer will consult privately with a reasonable number of employees during the inspection. The company representative may not be allowed to participate in these consultations. (Learn more in an OSHA Inspections Fact Sheet.)

Following the opening conference, the compliance officer and representatives will walk through the portions of the job site covered by the inspection, looking for hazards that could lead to employee injury or illness. The compliance officer also will review workplace injury and illness records and posting of the official OSHA poster.

During the walkthrough, the compliance officer may point out some violations that can be corrected immediately. Although the law requires these hazards be cited, prompt correction is a sign of good faith on the part of the employer. Compliance officers try to minimize work interruptions during the inspection and will keep confidential any trade secrets they observe. The only time a CSHO can stop a job is if an employee is in immediate danger.

As a professional safety consultant, I have been involved in numerous OSHA inspections. During these inspections, I collect information. I listen to what the CSHO has to say and take copious notes. I know the rules OSHA must follow and I note every possible mistake or shortcut the officer may make during the information-gathering process. While doing this, I am cordial with the officer; I speak politely and respectfully and as little as possible. The information I gather can sometimes be used at the informal hearing to get some of the citations lowered or, if OSHA is mistaken or has not followed its own protocols, removed completely.

In the meantime, I make sure my client immediately fixes any issues that OSHA has cited us on. Just like OSHA, I want all employees to be able to work safely and without the fear of injury and illness.

CISC Report: Proposed Silica Rule Will Cost 10 Times OSHA’s Estimates

A report released by the Construction Industry Safety Coalition (CISC) found that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) proposed silica standards for U.S. construction industry will cost the industry $5 billion per year—roughly $4.5 billion per year more than OSHA’s estimates. The coalition cautioned that the flawed cost estimates reflect deeper flaws in the rule and urged the federal agency to reconsider its approach.

OSHA’s proposed rule, intended to drastically reduce the permissible exposure limit (PEL) of crystalline silica for the construction industry, has been underestimated by the agency to cost the construction industry about $511 million a year. The estimates released by CISC estimate that the costs to the industry will actually be approximately 10 times the OSHA estimate—costing nearly $5 billion a year.

The cost and impact analysis from OSHA reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the construction industry. The OSHA analysis included major errors and omissions that account for the large discrepancies with the CISC report. The CISC report estimates that about 80 percent of the cost ($3.9 billion per year) will be direct compliance expenditures by the industry such as additional equipment, labor and record-keeping costs. The remaining 20 percent of the cost ($1.05 billion per year) will come in the form of increased prices that the industry will have to pay for construction materials and building products such as concrete block, glass, roofing shingles and more. OSHA failed to take into account these additional costs to the construction industry that will result from the proposed standard, which will then be passed down to customers in the form of higher prices.

Not only will the proposed rule be more costly than originally estimated, but it would translate into significant job losses for the construction industry and the broader economy. The CISC estimates that the proposed regulation would reduce the number of jobs in the U.S. economy by more than 52,700 yearly. That figure includes construction industry jobs, jobs in related industries such as building material suppliers, equipment manufacturers and architects, as well as losses in non-construction sectors. Additionally, the losses are full time employee positions. Factoring in the many part-time or seasonal jobs, that number could increase to close to 80,000 positions lost.

“We are deeply concerned about the misguided assumptions and cost and impact errors that OSHA has relied upon in creating this proposed rule that will significantly affect our industry,” says NAHB chairman Tom Woods, a home builder from Blue Springs, Mo. “This report reveals the critical need for OSHA to withdraw its proposed rule until it can put forth a technologically and economically feasible rule that also works to improve industry workers health and safety.”

“This report clearly demonstrates OSHA’s lack of real world understanding of the construction industry and raises serious questions about their ability to responsibly craft industry standards,” says ABC Vice President of Government Affairs Geoff Burr. “We hope that this report will lead OSHA to withdraw its proposed rule and work more closely with the construction industry to emphasize compliance with the current standard.”

“These errors raise serious and significant questions about many of the other assumptions the agency relied upon in crafting its new rules,” says Stephen E. Sandherr, the chief executive officer of the Associated General Contractors of America. “We need measures in place that are going to allow all of us to continue the significant improvements in silica safety the industry has made, and the sad truth is that the agency’s rule is too riddled with errors to do that.”

“The assumptions that were made by OSHA in developing this rule are completely off base and we hope this report adequately tells the truth of what this rule will truly mean to the construction industry. We believe the current silica rule has done a fantastic job of reducing related illnesses so much so that it is still declining every year and current projections have it being eliminated over time,” according to Jeff Buczkiewicz, president of the Mason Contractors Association of America. “Our industry needs a rule that is based on real world construction site scenarios that is not technologically and economically infeasible to implement and this report clearly shows that this rule does not fit that bill.”

OSHA Extends Comment Period on Proposed Workplace Safety Rule

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced that the comment period on the proposed rule to improve workplace safety and health through improved tracking of workplace injuries and illnesses will close on March 10, 2014. The comment period was originally scheduled to close March 8. However, this date falls on a Saturday. OSHA will accept comments submitted March 10 as timely submittals.

The proposed rule would amend OSHA’s record-keeping regulations to add requirements for the electronic submission of injury and illness information that employers are already required to keep.

Comments may be submitted electronically, the Federal eRulemaking Portal or by mail or facsimile. See the Federal Register notice for more details. (Accessibility Assistance: Contact OSHA’s Office of Communications at (202) 693-1999 for assistance accessing PDF materials.)

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance.

OSHA’s Pending IIPP Standard

The Washington, D.C.-based Occupational Safety and Health Administration is directing its efforts toward enforcing a standard in which employers nationwide will be required to establish a thorough, written Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP).

OSHA’s Assistant Secretary of Labor David Michaels calls the IIPP the organization’s highest priority and said it could go into effect in the next one to two years. Its goal is to reduce injuries and the associated costs to business. In fact, California, which implemented the requirement in 1991, has experienced overwhelmingly positive results from it.

What’s Involved

IIPPs aren’t a new idea; most companies already have a program in place designed to reduce or eliminate worksite health and safety hazards. OSHA’s standard, however, will make it a requirement and will set guidelines for what must be included in the program. OSHA is accepting input during the drafting phase but has officially stated the following will be required IIPP inclusions:

Hazard Identification/Assessment: A written process by which hazards will be identified. This will include investigating incidents, inspecting the workplace for hazards, and identifying new hazards created by worksite changes or emergencies.

Hazard Prevention/Control: Control methods by which hazards will be isolated or eliminated. This portion of the IIPP also will require documentation of the control methods and their determined effectiveness.

Management: This will cover a company’s chain of command, including managerial duties, resource distribution and allocation, and the proper network for employee communication.

Education and Training: Training requirements, such as specific hazard training, control methods and timetables, will be required. In addition, incidents would dictate the need for residual or refresher training.

Employee Involvement: This will ensure employees participate in creating and maintaining the IIPP. It provides employees with access to important safety information and sets guidelines for employee involvement in risk assessments and incident investigations.

Program Evaluation and Improvement: Employer IIPPs will need to be considered a living document, constantly being evaluated and updated. These evaluations will include performance monitoring and using incident investigations to identify and correct program deficiencies.

Why?

OSHA’s goal in making its IIPP standard a federal requirement is to encourage employers to implement clear directives for reducing health and safety hazards in the workplace. By mitigating hazards and reducing safety incidents in this way, employers should expect to see an overall improvement in workplace health conditions.

The standard will also allow OSHA to look more deeply at an employer’s systems and efforts to reduce workplace hazards. By making safety at work more transparent, OSHA will be able to get more involved in evaluation and risk reduction.

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Connect to and Motivate Your Staff

A friend of mine recently lost his job because of budget cuts. He was employed at a satellite office and not a single manager who made the decision about his livelihood took the time to commute to the satellite location to share the news. Instead, he was called to a conference room where human resources personnel laid him off via speakerphone. My friend was not surprised he was let go, nor was he surprised by how it was done, considering how disconnected he believes the “worker bees” at his former corporation are from management. He had been disgruntled by the lack of communication and management’s questionable decision-making for some time.

I can attest that managing people is arguably one of the most difficult jobs in any line of work. Being a leader requires a thick skin, excellent communication skills and the ability to make tough decisions, among other talents. However, at a time when budgets are tightened and everyone is doing less with more, becoming too consumed in your own tasks and disconnecting from employees is a fatal mistake. Now is the time to embrace your team, make them feel appreciated, motivate them to take on new roles, and identify and reward their strengths. Employees who feel disconnected from what is occurring within a business will feel unappreciated and will not perform at their best. In addition, without employee buy-in, it will be difficult to enforce new programs and procedures within a company.

In this issue, we feature articles about two safety programs you should seriously consider implementing within your roofing business not only to protect your employees, but also to protect your business as a whole. For example, “Business Sense,” addresses distracted driving. I think you’ll be surprised by the broad interpretation of the law in some of the court cases mentioned within the article: Your roofing business could be liable if a worker has an accident while using a mobile device in his personal vehicle or sightseeing on a business trip. According to the author, state and federal mobile-device laws are not enough; developing and enforcing a reasonable mobile-device safety program is a major step toward minimizing your business’ liability.

In “Safety,” Michael Rich explains the Washington, D.C.-based Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s priority to require all businesses to have a written Injury and Illness Prevention Program probably within the next two years. California employers already have been operating under this requirement since 1991, providing a model you can duplicate within your business before the requirement is mandated across the country.

Establishing these programs within your business offers a wonderful opportunity to connect to and motivate your staff. You can create teams of volunteers to explore and create policies. When the teams meet, buy them lunch. When your staff goes six months without a distracted driving incident or an injury, celebrate with awards or a party. Take the time to show your employees you appreciate their efforts not only to make your business safer, but also to successfully execute their daily tasks.

In addition, consider setting aside some time on a regular basis specifically to reconnect with the “worker bees”. Join a roofing crew for a week, or answer phones in the front office. Your efforts will establish a new level of trust with your employees and, ultimately, create a better workplace. Perhaps most importantly, your staff will feel as though operational changes, like the safety programs mentioned in this issue, are happening “with” them rather than “to” them.