Monthly Archives: June 2016

More on Fall Protection for the Construction Industry

Due to seemingly continual confusion, misinformation and neglect on the part of employers, we have a link to a National Roofing Contractors Association Fall Protection Fact Sheet here: https://www.osha.gov/dte/grant_materials/fy12/sh-23536-12/StudentReferenceMaterials.pdf.

A link to the actual OSHA regulation is here: https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=STANDARDS&p_id=10757.

Fall protection is not just issuing harnesses and lanyards to workers. There must first be assessment of working conditions and development and then implementation of logical, effective and safe means to protect employees. Fall protection for construction workers such as roofers includes a variety of protection methods. These can include: railings, netting, scaffolding, personal fall arrest (PFA) equipment, covers over roof and work surface openings and/or skylights. Equipment may also include roof slide guards, however OSHA asks that the employer be able to demonstrate why alternatives to regularly used fall protection and to develop a written fall-protection plan.

If an employee or contractor is on a roof or elevated work surface at or above 6 feet from the next lowest elevation (and that does not mean some skimpy toe hold) that requires fall protection safeguards, then the employer must provide such. In addition, on flat roofs, employees without PFA (personal fall arrest) PPE must stay back 6 feet from the edge unless there is a barrier that effectively prevents falling from the edge.

According to OSHA’s construction industry rules:

“Unprotected sides and edges. Each employee on a walking/working surface (horizontal and vertical surface) with an unprotected side or edge which is 6 feet (1.8 m) or more above a lower level shall be protected from falling by the use of guardrail systems, safety net systems, or personal fall arrest systems”. 29 CFR 1926.501(b)(2).

So it does not matter what a worker is doing on an elevated work surface, if they are there, they must be protected. And yet, OSHA has made an allowance specific to non-construction activities. OSHA has made clear that inspection activities of a roof including investigation or assessment of workplace conditions prior to beginning construction or after construction is completed is not covered under their construction industry fall protection standard. Reference: 29 CFR 1926.500(a)(1). So the exception turns on pre or post construction and does not therefore specifically exempt other activities such as a roof or roof-mounted equipment inspection that does not specifically involve construction as noted above. In addition, OSHA’s own interpretation suggests that even roof inspectors, if not simply conducting a visual survey but also managing tools and equipment may become sufficiently distracted to increase the risk of falling and therefore their activities would not be exempt under 29 CFR 1926.500(a)(1).

We see OSHA’s qualification of their limited exemption as a concession to the roofing industry. Keep in mind that OSHA standards are minimum requirements as well and that you as an employer can always go better. In the end, we maintain that best practice is to prevent falls no matter the activity.

Finally, there are obvious downsides to non-compliance and although apparent, we will state some of them here:

1) worker injury or death;
2) increased worker’s compensation insurance premium costs;
3) Worksite closure while OSHA investigates;
4) fines;
5) loss of reputation;
6) other financial and/or opportunity costs.

Bottom line:
Better to be compliant and safe rather than to make excuses or hope for a favorable outcome.

Maintaining Environmental Compliance

Some quick tips:

1) review your environmental compliance documents on a regular basis and adjust them as needed based on changes to regulations, permit requirements, processes and equipment.
2) Update your environmental operating permits as requires
3) Gather necessary operating information, compile this data and as required, submit environmental reports such as air pollution permit emissions, Form R, and others.
4) If you produce hazardous waste, remember to properly manage disposal manifests and associated documentation.
5) Ensure that employees are versed in and familiar with their responsibilities under your environmental permits.

A Reminder to Stay on Target

Keeping environmental, health and safety (EH&S) compliance goals a consistent priority can be challenging. Productive and profitable commerce keeps a company in business and while that aspect is no doubt important, some organizations drift off target when it comes to balancing shareholder interests against other stakeholders. There are many variants that cause such problems. Sometimes companies simply fail to properly recognize EH&S as value added. Or companies try to implement and manage an EHS management system that may not fit their needs or is simply too grandiose to be practical. In other instances, some companies sort of scramble to manage an EHS program and end-up either reacting to one crisis after another or maybe switching out systems expectations are not met. In that case, there is often a chain of failed attempts to implement an effective EHS program if only because there is a lack of commitment and patience and also effective EHS administration.  There are other reasons why EHS programs falter or languish. In a recent case, one company president noted that because a workplace accident occurred despite their best efforts to prevent them, he lost interest in being a champion of EHS and consequently for a time, the program became all but invisible.

Bottom line, an effective and value-added EHS program requires careful crafting and consistent application. It also requires patience and especially in the health and safety realm, there is an often-overlooked vital element to administration and success of the program. An effective EHS management system must key in on and utilize dynamic use of the human element; aspects such as: social dynamics, group cooperation, training and comprehension, consequences for failure and even psychology. You can’t force a management system on people and expect the same level of benefit and utility when stakeholders have little or no say.

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