State and Federal OSHA Focus on Fall Safety

Federal and state Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) agencies are putting their focus on fall safety, the number one cause of death at construction sites, this summer.

Cal/OSHA inspectors fanned out at construction sites in the San Francisco Bay Area late last month, following a recent rash of fatal accidents in the region. Investigators have been deployed to inspect construction worksites throughout the coming weeks to determine whether adequate measures have been taken to identify safety hazards and prevent injury.

“Construction sites present special challenges to worker safety,” said Christine Baker, Director of the Department of Industrial Relations (DIR). “Employers need to have strong safety programs in place and train their workers to follow procedures.” Cal/OSHA is a division of DIR.

At the federal level, tens of thousands of employers and more than 1 million workers across the country joined the Occupational Safety and Health Administration from June 2 – 6 in “safety stand-downs” to focus on saving lives and preventing fatalities from falls in the construction industry. Falls are the leading cause of death in construction and more than 300 workers lost their lives in falls during 2012. Lack of fall protection is the most frequently cited OSHA violation, proving that these deaths are preventable when employers provide the right safety equipment and properly train workers how to use it. As a part of the Stand-Down, companies and workers will voluntarily stop work to host safety events focusing on how to prevent these fatalities.

Hazards at construction sites include open trenches and moving equipment at ground level, but elevated areas are particularly dangerous Four recent incidents in California illustrate the danger. On May 21, a worker at a residential project in San Jose fell to his death from a three-story building. On May 20, a worker on a San Mateo project tumbled 9 feet from a wall sustaining fatal head injuries. The same day in San Diego, a worker near the top of 22-foot rebar column was killed when the column fell on him. On May 18, a construction worker was killed when the train bridge he was dismantling in downtown Riverside collapsed, crushing him. All four accidents are currently under investigation by Cal/OSHA.

“Our goal is to raise awareness for everyone working in construction that hazards can be identified and corrected,” said acting Cal/OSHA Chief Juliann Sum. “Preparation and vigilance are vital to preventing workplace fatalities.”

Fall protection will be among the items Cal/OSHA inspectors will be checking during its inspections, from railings on buildings to personal devices such as hooks that attach to vests. Cal/OSHA’s teams will also examine trench safety, equipment safety and potential site hazards such as power lines. If inspectors find a lack of protection or a serious hazard, they can stop work at the site until the hazards are abated. Employers who fail to comply with Cal/OSHA safety regulations will be cited and ordered to correct the violations.

Make Sure Your IIPP is Up to Date

While falls are deadly, the most frequently cited Cal/OSHA violation is how employers deal with the Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP), and with its summer crackdown on fall protection and heat illness awareness, you can expect inspectors from Cal/OSHA to ask to see yours.

According to the agency, they have improved their free IIPP “e-tool” to prepare or update the IIPP, available on their website.

The IIPP is a basic, written workplace safety program. Title 8 of the California Code of Regulations (T8CCR) section 3203, requires every employer to develop and implement an effective IIPP. An effective IIPP improves the safety and health in your workplace and reduces costs by good management and employee involvement.

8 required IIPP elements are:

  • Responsibility
  • Compliance
  • Communication
  • Hazard Assessment
  • Accident/Exposure Investigation
  • Hazard Correction
  • Training and Instruction
  • Recordkeeping

An effective IIPP must:

  • Fully involve all employees, supervisors, and management
  • Identify the specific workplace hazards employees are exposed to
  • Correct identified hazards in an appropriate and timely manner
  • Provide effective training (see Effective Workplace Training e-tool and List of Training Subjects).

Remember, how well you actually put into practice your IIPP in your workplace is what will determine how effective it is. You must regularly review and update your IIPP in order for it to remain effective.

To assist employers with creating an IIPP, Cal/OSHA has developed an online e-tool for employers. The etool produces a written IIPP for employers through a set of questions. (see: How to Create Your Written IIPP – Questions). Each of the employer’s answers will automatically appear underlined in a written IIPP specific to the employer’s workplace.

For full information please visit: