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Protect Against Falls or Pay Up

Worker safety is simply a priority for us at Construction Citizen just like it should be for any company doing construction around the world.  Apparent safety violations were a big part of the recent problems that turned into a huge embarrassment for several companies involved in student housing construction at the University of Texas at Austin.  The “race to the bottom in construction”, as it's been called, nearly always involves companies that have total disregard for worker safety.  It's part of a culture in which it's also routine to deny workers their overtime pay as well as misclassify them specifically to avoid paying taxes.

Now comes news that OSHA dropped the hammer on a construction company in Oregon that wasn't protecting its workers from falls.  Perhaps more importantly, the government seems to be getting more aggressive about taking preventative steps to ensure worker safety.  The Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined the company in this case, Munoz Construction, $70,000.  That's the maximum for any single violation and it was imposed because OSHA considered that Munoz knowingly allowed safety to be ignored.  The online publication Oregon Live quoted OSHA administrator Michael Wood who stated:

“Falling is what kills people in the construction industry.  For that reason, we – and frankly I think most jurisdictions around the country – put an emphasis on it, as do the best employers.  In this case, it was clear from the record that the employer had consciously and knowingly decided that it wasn’t necessary to follow the rules.”

More from Oregon Live:

“Owner Juan Munoz appealed the citation but later accepted it following an informal conference with OSHA officials, according to an October 2nd press release.  Munoz did not return a call for comment.

“An OSHA inspector issued the citation February 27 at a Portland apartment complex.  While driving, the inspector noticed construction work being done and observed two employees working on a second-story roof without protection.

“‘He stated the roof was fairly flat and his employees were comfortable working without fall protection,’ the inspector wrote in OSHA records obtained by the Forest Grove Leader.  ‘Fall protection was available in the company trailer and was installed before I left the job site.’

“To protect employees from falls, employers can use such protection methods as guardrails, catch platforms or personal fall arrest systems.

“OSHA rules state that employers must protect employees from falling while working at height levels of 10 feet or more.  First-time violation penalties range from $400 to $1,000 for small companies and increase with each repeat violation.”

Have you seen examples of the government getting tougher on safety violations? Let us know what's happening in the comments section or use our anonymous tip line to report safety violations we need to know about.

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