Safety Obligations Under the OSH Act Can Extend to Non-Employees and Other Trades

The nature of roofing (particularly re-roofing) frequently involves the presence of non-employees on or around active construction sites. This is true in both the residential and commercial contexts. However, the risk increases significantly on commercial projects, such as retail and mixed-use projects, where many parties can be present, including the property owners’ customers and employees, as well as other trades working at the project simultaneously.

As such, it is essential that roofing contractors understand the scope of their obligations to non-employees under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act). While accidents and injuries can certainly trigger an investigation by OSHA, employers are frequently charged with violations of the OSH Act for merely failing to implement appropriate procedures. Not to be taken lightly, OSHA citations carry significant consequences, including penalties of up to $134,937 per violation, as well as creating a stigma against the company and loss of future opportunities. Moreover, company owners may not always be free to “walk away” from these consequences by closing the business (a common misbelief in the industry).

In the OSH Act, Congress authorized the Secretary of Labor to develop safety and health standards (OSHA regulations). One of the most important of these standards to contractors, arguably, is 29 CFR 1910.12, which provides: “Each employer shall protect the employment and places of employment of each of his employees engaged in construction work.” [Emphasis added.] This provision, like OSHA’s general duty clause, seems to imply that OSHA-imposed obligations extend only to an employer’s own employees. However, this is frequently not the case.

For many decades, the phrase “his employees” has been a major point of contention because OSHA has frequently penalized employers for hazards which did not affect the employers’ own employees. While early court decisions initially rejected OSHA’s imposition of liability in these circumstances, the tide eventually shifted, and now the opposite is true. Today, most courts will impose liability under OSHA’s “Multi-Employer Citation Policy” where the contractor “could reasonably be expected to prevent or detect and abate the violations due to its supervisory authority and control over the worksite.” This is true even where the contractor’s own employees were completely unaffected, or even absent when the hazard occurred.

While the borders of OSHA’s policy are unclear and still developing, contractors should at least suspect they may be held responsible for the safety violations at a jobsite if they either: (1) created the hazard; or (2) exercised some degree of control over the subject worksite. With that in mind, roofing contractors can address this risk preemptively by starting with a plan to mitigate hazards and potential liability on their jobsites.

Identifying Risk

One method of doing so is by creating a Jobsite Hazard Analysis (JHA). According to OSHA, a JHA “is a technique that focuses on job tasks as a way to identify hazards before they occur.” By identifying risks, such as exposure of the public and other trades to an active construction site, roofing contractors can implement effective measures to mitigate known hazards.

While planning requirements will vary by jobsite, most roofing contractors’ JHA should address the following questions on this topic:

  • Will non-employees be present at the worksite during active construction? Could they gain access without the company’s knowledge or consent?
  • Can measures be taken to reduce or eliminate access to the worksite by non-employees?
  • What types of hazards could non-employees be exposed to? (e.g.,falling debris)
  • What steps will the company take to reduce or eliminate risks to non-employees?

In addition to addressing these risks in company policies, such as JHAs and a safety manual, it is also prudent to include provisions in the company’s contract which seek to limit exposure of non-employees to hazards. For example, the roofing contractor could include a provision in the contract which forbids the property owner’s employees from using certain entrances to the building during specific phases of construction. Roofing contractors may also seek indemnification from owners for claims of third parties based upon third parties’ failure to comply with contractual requirements. 

Under any circumstances, roofing contractors should take a preemptive approach to hazards, understanding the adage, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” is especially true in their industry. The first step in this process is assessing and appreciating the risks that safety hazards present. The second is implementing proactive safety policies which seek to eliminate or reduce those risks.

About the author: Travis S. McConnell is a construction law attorney with Cotney Construction Law, LLP. McConnell’s legal practice focuses on all aspects of construction law. He works extensively on matters relating to OSHA defense, which includes the management and development of safety and health strategies for construction contractors across the United States. McConnell’s OSHA practice concentrates on litigation and the appeals of citations involving catastrophic construction related accidents. He can be contacted by email at tmcconnell@CotneyCL.com.

U.S. Department of Labor Issues Revised Rule Concerning OSHA Access to Employee Medical Records

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has revised the Rules of Agency Practice and Procedure Concerning Occupational Safety and Health Administration Access to Employee Medical Records. The rule describes internal procedures that OSHA personnel must follow when obtaining and using personally-identifiable employee medical information.

OSHA has identified and amended several provisions of the regulation in order to improve efficiency in implementing these internal procedures. The final rule:

  • Transfers the approval of written medical access orders (MAOs) from the Assistant Secretary of Occupational Safety and Health to the OSHA Medical Records Officer (MRO). The MRO is responsible for determining the transfer and public disclosure of personally-identifiable employee medical information in OSHA’s possession;
  • Clarifies that a written MAO does not constitute an administrative subpoena; and
  • Establishes new procedures for the access and safeguarding of personally-identifiable employee medical information maintained in electronic form.

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 help ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. 

For more information, visit www.osha.gov.

The Right Protocols to Protect Your Roofing Teams from COVID-19

Surgical masks and other face coverings can prevent others around you from becoming exposed to any respiratory droplets you may exhale.

In the roofing industry, proper safety protocols are of paramount importance when it comes to protecting our most valuable assets: our people and our profits. And though many of us have long had training programs and procedures in place, it is crucial that we continue to adapt them in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Below are best practices that can help you mitigate the risks of COVID-19 and ensure the protection of your employees and customers. Though we have a team of safety coordinators at our company, you do not necessarily need a dedicated safety department to implement the prevention protocols outlined in this article. Additionally, some tools — such as online training courses — are available at no cost. Read on to find out how to best keep your roofing workers safe amid this ever-evolving situation.

Expand Safety Education

As mentioned above, various remote training programs have already been developed in response to the pandemic, with some of them provided free of charge. One such program is the COVID-19 Safety Guidelines for Home Inspectors and Contractors Course. Offered by the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, this online course is designed to educate contractors and other construction industry professionals on the best practices and safety guidelines regarding COVID-19 protection. We chose to enroll our 19 authorized Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Outreach Trainers on staff in the course, which they have all now completed.

Our OSHA Outreach Trainers play a pivotal role in our safety training, which has long been a priority for this company. They have completed the Trainer Course in OSHA Standards for Construction and other necessary requirements as mandated by the OSHA Training Institution (OTI) Education Centers. This certification enables them to teach both the 10-hour and 30-hour OSHA Construction Safety and Health training programs, which are offered to our frontline employees and supervisors to educate them about jobsite hazards and risk reduction. Since the roofing industry is constantly monitored by the federal government through OSHA, we work closely with Fed OSHA and, in California, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (CAL/OSHA) inspectors who are an integral part of our safety culture and are proud of the fact that we have earned recognitions of our safety records.

Neck gaiters are made from a closed tube of fabric that is worn around the neck and can be pulled up over the nose.

To ensure that we are able to continue to provide OHSA training to our employees while following the social distancing practices recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we began offering the 10-hour and 30-hour training programs via Zoom video conferencing in June. This digital format eliminates any coronavirus transmission risk since attendees will not be gathered in the same space, while the live video aspect enables them to interact with their instructors in much the same way as an in-person course. Employees can access the training courses via phone, computer or tablet. Tailored to the requirements of the OSHA programs, the training includes a specific module on COVID-19 and infectious diseases.

We have also incorporated COVID-19 into our regular list of tailgate safety topics. We distributed our coronavirus tailgate pamphlet for two consecutive weeks in March and have sent it to our crews the first week of every month since. The pamphlets contain information on how to prevent coronavirus exposure, how to detect COVID-19, and the proper protocol to follow if you think you have been exposed to the virus or infected with it. One important point to remember when communicating with employees via written materials is that they may not all have the same level of reading comprehension, due to language barriers or other factors. To that end, our coronavirus tailgate pamphlets are available in both English and Spanish and feature explanatory images to accompany the text.

As for the tailgate talks, which usually involve a crew of four individuals or less, they now take place with the proper social distancing and face coverings worn. To further reinforce the coronavirus safety information shared in the tailgate talks, we also posted the tailgate pamphlet on an informational board in the break room, along with our company’s coronavirus preparedness plan and a COVID-19 infographic explaining how to break the chain of infection.

Safety training is required not only for our frontline workers, but also for our division and operations managers, and general superintendents. To that end, we have a team of 24 employees who serve as dedicated, full-time safety coordinators in place. They oversee safety-related operations and lead monthly training seminars. Our corporate policy is to provide whatever funding it takes to fulfill our motto that “at the end of the day we will send every employee home safe.”

Review Federal Recommendations and Local Regulations

As a national roofing and solar installer, we have looked to guidance from federal agencies when creating our own safety procedures specific to COVID-19, though it is crucial that all companies also monitor the locally mandated protocols in every region where they work.

The CDC offers comprehensive recommendations regarding proper hand hygiene as an important protocol designed to protect employees from COVID-19. According to the CDC, “with appropriate hand hygiene, you do not need gloves to protect you from COVID-19. When possible, wash your hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60 percent alcohol.” The CDC further outlines the key times to clean hands, which include the following: before and after work shifts and breaks; after touching tools, equipment or other objects handled by coworkers; before putting on and after taking off work gloves; after putting on, touching or removing face coverings; before putting on or taking off safety glasses, goggles or other eye protection; after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing; after using the restroom; before eating and before and after preparing food.

To make it easier for our employees to comply with hand hygiene requirements, we have distributed hand sanitizer to them. Additionally, we have asked the general contractors on each site to provide handwashing stations for them. We have also been mindful of how we now approach heat exhaustion prevention. Instead of getting water from a shared water source like a five-gallon jug, employees are now supplied with individual water bottles.

Social distancing is another recommendation of the CDC (and Fed OSHA) that should be practiced at all times to reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure, starting with when your crews leave for their worksites. At our company, we no longer allow employees to carpool together in a company truck. Instead, they are required to drive to the site in separate vehicles. Once at the site, crew members must remain a minimum distance of six feet apart from each other, as advised by the CDC. Social distancing measures are further implemented by having employees take breaks at staggered intervals to prevent groups from gathering in the same space. 

Coordinate Safety Measures on the Jobsite

It cannot be emphasized enough how important it is to communicate with employees, builders, general contractors and all the other subcontractors on a project to ensure that coronavirus prevention is a coordinated effort. To that end, any information relevant to COVID-19 protocols and precautions should be shared with all parties.

Before we dispatch our teams to any site in Northern California’s Bay Area, for instance, we do a preliminary check to make sure all crewmembers are symptom-free. We then send the names of the cleared employees to the worksite, where a COVID-19 inspector is posted at the gate, courtesy of the general contractor. Every individual must undergo a temperature check before entering the site, which aligns with the CAL/OSHA guidance. According to the agency’s recommendations pertaining specifically to COVID-19 infection prevention in the construction industry, “employers may choose to prohibit employees with a high temperature (e.g., above 100.4 degrees F) from entering the worksite.” In addition to the temperature check conducted at the Bay Area sites, employees must also fill out a questionnaire asking if they have traveled, if they have been in contact with any confirmed COVID-19 patients and lastly, if they are exhibiting any symptoms. If it is discovered that an individual known to have COVID-19 has been on a work site, it will be communicated to the entire network — builders, general contractors, subcontractors — so that all are aware of the situation and can protect their teams accordingly.

Invest in Effective Face Coverings

One essential way of protecting your teams is to have them wear face coverings. By covering your face, you prevent others around you from becoming exposed to any respiratory droplets you may exhale, which can spread COVID-19 to others if you are infected — even if you are asymptomatic. Though face coverings are an effective tool when it comes to COVID-19 prevention, the subject has been a source of some confusion, as noted by the National Roofing Contractors Association. “When roofers are exposed to hazardous gases, vapors, fumes, dusts and mists, OSHA’s respiratory requirements are triggered,” according to the NRCA. “However, these scenarios aside, roofing workers fall into OSHA’s low to medium risk category of occupations for COVID-19 exposure — meaning required use of N-95 respirators is likely unwarranted. Shortages of N-95 respirators (and surgical masks) resulting from the pandemic have caused the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to recommend wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain—especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.”

However, surgical masks and similar face coverings are rendered ineffective by facial hair in most cases. Neck gaiters are an ideal solution for your crews, since unlike a mask, each one is made from a closed tube of fabric that is worn around the neck and can be pulled up over the nose. The price per piece can range anywhere from $3 to $14, but the investment is well worth the protection it provides.

We have given two neck gaiters to each of our employees, so that there is always a spare to wear while the other one is being washed after each use. They are mandated to wear them at all times during the workday except when eating lunch. Made from polyester microfiber and manufactured by Hoo-rag, these neck gaiters wick away moisture and can be dipped in water for a cooling effect, thus offering additional protection against heat illness. Looking ahead, we are currently investigating options for a face covering that adds a third layer of protection as well: silica filtration.

Implement Stay-Home Policies to Limit the Spread

Even when all preventative measures are put in place, there is still a risk that asymptomatic patients may go undetected and unknowingly spread the virus to others at the worksite. One way to decrease that risk is to require that any employees who have been in close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 patient stay home from work.

We are following CDC recommendations when it comes to protocol concerning confirmed exposure to the coronavirus, so any employee who may have been put at risk is not permitted to return to work for two weeks. “It is important to remember that anyone who has close contact with someone with COVID-19 should stay home for 14 days after exposure based on the time it takes to develop illness,” according to the CDC.

And if any one of our employees starts to feel sick, whether there has been known COVID-19 exposure or not, that person is also required to call out from work. Our number one rule in response to the pandemic is to stay home if you feel ill. Regarding a safe return to the jobsite, the CDC recommends that “sick employees diagnosed with COVID-19 shouldn’t return to work until the criteria to discontinue home isolation are met, in consultation with healthcare providers and state and local health departments.”

As we in the roofing industry continue to navigate this challenging situation, it is vital that we stay vigilant. The number of COVID-19 cases in the United States had climbed past 1.9 million as of press time, according to the CDC, with 37 jurisdictions reporting more than 10,000 cases. And total deaths from the disease had eclipsed 112,000. By closely monitoring conditions and modifying our safety measures as warranted, we can beat the statistics and keep our workers and customers safe.

About the author: Travis Post is the National Director of Safety at Petersen-Dean, Inc. Founded in 1984 by Jim Petersen, Petersen-Dean, Inc. is the largest, full-service, privately-held roofing and solar company in the United States. Specializing in new residential and commercial construction, the company works with some of the nation’s largest builders and developers. For more information, visit www.petersendean.com.

U.S. Department of Labor Reminds Employers of Important Protections for Working Safely in Summer Heat

Throughout much of the U.S., high temperatures and humidity in the summer season can create hot and hazardous working conditions, both outdoors and indoors. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reminds employers of their duty to protect employees from the risks and dangers of heat exposure. OSHA reminds employers of the following ways to mitigate heat hazards:

  • Water. Rest. Shade. Employers should encourage workers to drink water every 15 minutes, and take frequent rest breaks in shaded or air-conditioned areas;
  • New and temporary workers are most at risk to the hazards of excessive heat. Monitor new employees and offer them extra protections from elevated heat conditions until they are fully acclimatized. Create a plan to protect new workers from heat illness;
  • Strenuous physical exertion increases body heat and workers’ risk of heat-related illness.  Evaluate the combination of body heat and environmental heat to determine if heat stress is a potential hazard. OSHA recommends assessment tools that are based on levels of physical activity and wet bulb globe temperature readings;
  • Recognize that serious heat-related illnesses can occur on normal summer days, when temperatures are not extreme. A good rule of thumb is that workers need additional protective measures whenever the Heat Index is 80 degrees Fahrenheit or above;
  • Indoor industries, such as kitchens, laundries, and warehouses, can also become dangerously hot.  OSHA offers a list of those industries at high risk;
  • Increase ventilation, use cooling fans, and whenever possible schedule work at a cooler time of the day. OSHA’s heat page includes a list of best practices;
  • Ensure adequate planning and supervision to keep workers safe in the heat; and
  • Train workers on the hazards of heat exposure and how to prevent illness.

OSHA’s Occupational Heat Exposure page explains the symptoms of heat illness, first aid measures to provide while waiting for help, proactive engineering controls and work practices to reduce workers’ exposure to heat, and training.

For more information, visit www.osha.gov.

U.S. Department of Labor Issues Guidance to Ensure Uniform Enforcement of Silica Standards

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently issued a compliance directive designed to ensure uniformity in inspection and enforcement procedures when addressing respirable crystalline silica exposures in general industry, maritime, and construction.

The new directive provides OSHA compliance safety and health officers with guidance on how to enforce the silica standards’ requirements, including:

  • Methods of compliance
  • Table 1 tasks and specified exposure control methods
  • Exposure assessments
  • Housekeeping
  • Respiratory protection
  • Regulated areas
  • Recordkeeping
  • Employee information and training
  • Medical surveillance
  • Communication of hazards

The directive also provides clarity on major topics, such as alternative exposure control methods when a construction employer does not fully and properly implement Table 1, variability in sampling, multi-employer situations, and temporary workers.

OSHA began enforcing most provisions of the construction standard in September 2017, with enforcement of the requirements for sample analysis starting in June 2018. Enforcement of most of the general industry and maritime standards began in June 2018, with enforcement of some medical surveillance requirements commencing on June 23, 2020. On June 23, 2021, OSHA will begin enforcing requirements for engineering controls for hydraulic fracturing operations in the oil and gas industry.

For more information, visit www.osha.gov.

OSHA Issues Frequently Asked Questions About Face Coverings, Masks and Respirators in the Workplace

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has published a series of frequently asked questions and answers regarding the use of masks in the workplace.

“As our economy reopens for business, millions of Americans will be wearing masks in their workplace for the first time,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Loren Sweatt. “OSHA is ready to help workers and employers understand how to properly use masks so they can stay safe and healthy in the workplace.”

The new guidance outlines the differences between cloth face coverings, surgical masks and respirators. It further reminds employers not to use surgical masks or cloth face coverings when respirators are needed. In addition, the guidance notes the need for social distancing measures, even when workers are wearing cloth face coverings, and recommends following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance on washing face coverings.

These frequently asked questions and answers mark the latest guidance from OSHA addressing protective measures for workplaces during the coronavirus pandemic. Previously, OSHA published numerous guidance documents for workers and employers, available at https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/covid-19/, including five guidance documents aimed at expanding the availability of respirators.

For further information and resources about the coronavirus disease, please visit OSHA’s coronavirus webpage.

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 help ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit www.osha.gov.

SkillPath Expands Options for Virtual Instructor-Led OSHA Training

To help employers and workers understand common jobsite hazards and provide safe working environments, SkillPath announces it has expanded its online, instructor-led OSHA training programs for general industry. 

Beginning this month, which is also National Safety Month, SkillPath will offer virtual one-day OSHA Workplace Safety Training, 10-Hour OSHA Outreach Training for General Industry, and 30-Hour OSHA Outreach Training for General Industry. All three programs are certified by HRCI and SHRM for continuing education credits. 

These online courses are facilitated by OSHA-authorized outreach trainers, and programs have been developed for workers to recognize and prevent hazards and promote safety cultures within companies. 

• The one-day OSHA Workplace Safety Outreach training provides a comprehensive update on OSHA 29 CFR 1910 requirements, as well as essential safety information and ways to prevent accidents. 

• The OSHA 10-Hour Workplace Safety Training for General Industry provides two days of training with even more details on OSHA inspections, record-keeping requirements, and avoiding fines and penalties. Once completed, learners will earn their 10-hour OSHA card for general industry. 

• The 30-Hour OSHA Outreach Training Program for General Industry trains workers over five days on ways to assess an organization’s compliance with 29 CFR 1910 General Industry and improve areas of weakness. Once completed, learners will receive their 30-hour OSHA card for general industry. 

 “For more than 20 years, safety professionals across the United States have relied on SkillPath’s instructor-led OSHA programs to learn the latest information on industry regulations and standards,” said Michele Markey, CEO. “Our live, virtual courses bring students real-time interaction with OSHA-authorized trainers, who answer questions and educate workers on safe worksite practices.”

Upcoming Training Dates

OSHA One-Day Workplace Safety Outreach Training

Registration Page

  • June 17 – 10:00 AM Eastern
  • June 17 – 2:00 PM Eastern
  • July 9 – 10:00 AM Eastern
  • July 9 – 2:00 PM Eastern
  • July 22 – 10:00 AM Eastern
  • July 22 – 2:00 PM Eastern

OSHA 10-Hour Workplace Safety Training for General Industry

Registration Page

  • June 15 – 16 — 11:00 AM Eastern
  • June 25-26 – 11:00 AM Eastern
  • July 20-21 – 11:00 AM Eastern
  • July 30-31 – 11:00 AM Eastern

OSHA 30-Hour Workplace Safety Training for General Industry

Registration Page

  • June 8-12 – 9:30 AM Eastern
  • June 22-26 – 9:30 AM Eastern
  • July 6-10 – 9:30 AM Eastern
  • July 20-24 – 9:30 AM Eastern

To register for one of SkillPath’s virtual OSHA programs visit https://skillpath.com/land/osha

Skylight Safety and Fall Protection

Options for protecting workers from the fall hazards associated with skylights include guardrails and skylight covers. Photos: Malta Dynamics

The importance of fall protection for employees working at heights needs little introduction: falls remain one of the leading causes of workplace injuries and fatalities in general industry and construction. One fall hazard in particular can be especially dangerous to construction workers on roofing jobsites: skylights.

Skylights are a popular feature in modern architecture, which tends to emphasize natural light and an unobstructed view of the sky. Skylights are increasingly becoming a part of the rooftop designs of homes and commercial buildings of all kinds, particularly in high-end construction.

Because of their prevalence, skylight hazards for construction workers have earned special attention from regulators and advocacy groups. A recent National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) alert from the Centers for Disease Control cites hundreds of lost-time injuries and dozens of fatalities caused by workers falling through skylights, existing roof openings, and existing floor openings. Most of these injuries occurred in the construction industry, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The report highlights the dangers of skylight-related falls during snow removal, when the skylights may be covered with snow and their positions can become difficult to judge. The report also cited several cases of falls related to skylights that were unguarded or unsecured during construction or repairs on a roof.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has developed standards intended to safeguard workers—particularly in construction and general industry — who operate near skylights and roof and floor openings. OSHA 29 CFR 1926.501(b)(4) states: “Each employee on walking/working surfaces shall be protected from falling through holes (including skylights) more than 6 feet (1.8 m) above lower levels, by personal fall arrest systems, covers, or guardrail systems erected around such holes.”

Thankfully there are many options for protecting workers from the fall hazards associated with skylights. Let’s consider each of the types of solutions that OSHA recommends.

Personal Fall Arrest Systems

A personal fall arrest system should include a full body harness; connectors such as a self-retracting lifeline (SRL), shock-absorbing lanyard, or vertical lifeline assembly; and an appropriate anchor point on the roof. There are permanent and temporary options when it comes to roof anchors. Which you choose will depend on whether you intend to install the anchor fixture permanently — if you own the building, for example — or simply need an anchor temporarily for a short-term job. Permanent anchors can be installed in wood, steel, and concrete surfaces, whereas reusable anchors can be installed with screws or nails and then removed with minimal damage to the roof.

Temporary fall protection options include towable free-standing systems that can provide overhead tie-off for multiple workers.

There are several good temporary options for fall protection anchors in rooftop applications that do not puncture the roof’s surface, including roof carts and mobile fall protection units. A roof cart can be pulled around the roof’s surface to provide anchorage to workers where it is needed; these typically use friction or puncture the roof in order to arrest a fall. Mobile fall protection units include road-towable, free-standing systems that can provide overhead tie-off for multiple workers up to 34 feet in the air without damaging the roof’s surface even in the event of a fall.

Covers

Covers must meet the criteria set out in OSHA Standard 1926.502(i)(2): “covers shall be capable of supporting, without failure, at least twice the weight of employees, equipment, and materials that may be imposed on the cover at any one time.” This means that a cover must be able to support the weight of all workers who may be using the cover, plus all their gear and tools, times two. Covers need to be clearly marked either by color coding or with a word such as “HOLE” or “COVER.” A cover also must be secured in such a way that wind, equipment, or the employees are not able to move it.

Guardrails

Guardrails are a great way to partition off areas where skylights present a fall risk, especially for rooftops where snow cover may obscure a worker’s view of the hazardous area. Guardrails are classified as hazard barriers, acting as a physical barrier between the worker and the fall hazard. Portable, free-standing, and non-penetrating safety rail systems can be used as flat-roof fall protection along skylights and roof perimeters. These systems are easy to install and allow work crews the versatility to work around the existing infrastructure.

In addition to preparing the jobsite with appropriate covers or guardrails and outfitting workers with the necessary personal fall arrest systems, there are several general steps employers can take to identify and mitigate the risk of falls through skylights or roof and floor openings:

  • Assign a Competent Person to inspect the worksite before work begins to identify fall hazards and provide recommendations on what fall prevention system(s) workers should use for the job.
  • Conduct periodic inspections to ensure workers are using their fall protection equipment consistently and correctly, and that fall prevention systems such as covers and guardrails are being properly used and maintained.
  • Train each worker who may be asked to work on a rooftop to enable them to recognize fall hazards and become familiar with the procedures and equipment needed to minimize their risks.

Having adequate personal fall arrest equipment, covers, and guardrails — or a combination of these — in place whenever a worker ascends to the roof to complete construction or maintenance work will go a long way in keeping your team safe. You can go further by training your team and making sure the equipment and processes that are provided are being used consistently and correctly. A little extra effort will help to save lives and prevent injuries.

About the author: David Ivey is the Product Engineering Manager for Malta Dynamics, where he oversees the engineering of all mobile fall protection and custom fall protection systems. For more information or with questions about OSHA compliance of fall protection systems, contact divey@maltadynamics.com.

OSHA Issues Guidance to Help Construction Workers During the Coronavirus Pandemic

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has launched a webpage with coronavirus-related guidance for construction employers and workers. The guidance includes recommended actions to reduce the risk of exposure to the coronavirus.

Employers of workers engaged in construction (such as carpentry, ironworking, plumbing, electrical, heating/air conditioning/ventilation, utility construction work, and earth-moving activities) should remain alert to changing outbreak conditions, including as they relate to community spread of the virus and testing availability. In response to changing conditions, employers should implement coronavirus infection prevention measures accordingly.

The webpage includes information regarding:

  • Using physical barriers, such as walls, closed doors, or plastic sheeting, to separate workers from individuals experiencing signs or symptoms consistent with the coronavirus;
  • Keeping in-person meetings (including toolbox talks and safety meetings) as short as possible, limiting the number of workers in attendance, and using social distancing practices;
  • Screening calls when scheduling indoor construction work to assess potential exposures and circumstances in the work environment before worker entry;
  • Requesting that shared spaces in home environments where construction activities are being performed, or other construction areas in occupied buildings, have good air flow; and
  • Staggering work schedules, such as alternating workdays or extra shifts, to reduce the total number of employees on a job site at any given time and to ensure physical distancing.

Visit OSHA’s coronavirus webpage frequently for updates. For further information about the coronavirus, please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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 help ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit www.osha.gov.

U.S. Department of Labor Adopts Revised Enforcement Policies For Coronavirus

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has adopted revised policies for enforcing OSHA’s requirements with respect to coronavirus as economies reopen in states throughout the country.

Throughout the course of the pandemic, understanding about the transmission and prevention of infection has improved. The government and the private sector have taken rapid and evolving measures to slow the virus’s spread, protect employees, and adapt to new ways of doing business.

Now, as states begin reopening their economies, OSHA has issued two revised enforcement policies to ensure employers are taking action to protect their employees.

First, OSHA is increasing in-person inspections at all types of workplaces. The new enforcement guidancereflects changing circumstances in which many non-critical businesses have begun to reopen in areas of lower community spread. The risk of transmission is lower in specific categories of workplaces, and personal protective equipment potentially needed for inspections is more widely available. OSHA staff will continue to prioritize COVID-19 inspections, and will utilize all enforcement tools as OSHA has historically done.

Second, OSHA is revising its previous enforcement policy for recording cases of coronavirus. Under OSHA’s recordkeeping requirements, coronavirus is a recordable illness, and employers are responsible for recording cases of the coronavirus, if the case:

Under the new policy issued today, OSHA will enforce the recordkeeping requirements of 29 CFR 1904for employee coronavirus illnesses for all employers. Given the nature of the disease and community spread, however, in many instances it remains difficult to determine whether a coronavirus illness is work-related, especially when an employee has experienced potential exposure both in and out of the workplace. OSHA’s guidance emphasizes that employers must make reasonable efforts, based on the evidence available to the employer, to ascertain whether a particular case of coronavirus is work-related.

Recording a coronavirus illness does not mean that the employer has violated any OSHA standard. Following existing regulations, employers with 10 or fewer employees and certain employers in low hazard industries have no recording obligations; they need only report work-related coronavirus illnesses that result in a fatality or an employee’s in-patient hospitalization, amputation, or loss of an eye. 

For further information and resources about the coronavirus disease, please visit OSHA’s coronavirus webpage.

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 help ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit www.osha.gov.