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Are You Ready for an OSHA Inspection?

Understanding the OSHA Inspection Process

Many contractors consider OSHA to be a real thorn in the side. This is unfortunate, because the agency exists to protect you and your workers from injury, loss and liability. There will be occasions when you have an accident on site and OSHA will come in to inspect the area and issue violations. Understanding the how and why of the OSHA inspection process can save you a lot of time and grief.

Reasons for Investigations

There are three main reasons that OSHA conducts site inspections and investigations. The first of these is that the organization believes there is an imminent danger to your workers present. The second is if a catastrophic accident results in death or serious injury, and the third reason is when a job site is subject to a number of complaints from workers.

Refusing Inspections

As a contractor, you can refuse an OSHA inspection when they show up on site. However, this doesn’t mean the investigation won’t happen. It does mean that the organization can come back with a court order or compulsory mandate that requires the inspection. Understand that if you force them to get a mandate, they will be less likely to show lenience on minor violations.

OSHA inspection

If a Violation Is Found

If OSHA does issue a citation, you have fifteen days to respond and defend against reported violations. This defense will occur through either an informal conference or a formal hearing. The faster you respond to infractions, the better able you will be to reduce any fines or citations. Make sure that if the violations are legitimate, you address the problems quickly and decisively and are able to show that you’ve taken care of the issue. This way your penalties will be far lessened.

Most Common Violations

The most common violations of OSHA standards involve common safety and security issues. The single most common citation handed out by the agency is for falls. These accidents create more jobsite fatalities than any other issue. In fact, in 2013, over 300 deaths were reported as a result of falling accidents. This is from a total of over 825 deaths in the industry.

Second to falls is hazard communication, where improper signage or warnings of dangerous conditions are present. Third comes scaffolding safety issues. They collapse and workers have accidents due to improper securing of the devices. Fourth among violations are the use of respirators (or failure to use them, more accurately) to protect workers from harmful gases or fumes. Finally, the fifth most common violation cited relates to heavy equipment such as hand trucks, pallet trucks, forklifts and other heavy machinery. One in six fatalities at the workplace are caused by accidents related to heavy equipment.

Insurance

At some point, almost every contractor faces an OSHA inspection and potential violation. Having the right insurance coverage can protect you from the financial losses you can face as a result of the accidents that lead to these investigations.



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10 Winter Weather Safety Tips for NY Contractors

Winter is about to get a whole lot chillier over the next week. Cold, arctic air from the northern-most regions of Canada and Alaska is about to swoop down and turn the five boroughs into a winter wonderland. While that might be a great opportunity for you to take the kids out sledding or a snowball fight, it can make working outside downright dangerous. That’s why we’ve put together this comprehensive list of winter weather safety tips that should make the next couple months a lot less troublesome.

OSHA’s Top 10 Winter Weather Safety Tips for NY Contractors

OSHA or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has made it a priority to make sure that contractors who are working during the winter months are prepared for what the cold has in store. A few years ago they published a cold stress card which, we still feel is one of the best points of reference for those contractors who decide to operate during the winter. Here are their top 10 winter weather safety tips for NY contractors.

1. Recognize

Take note of the environment. If it looks too dangerous, re-evaluate and plan accordingly.

2. Learn

Understand the signs of cold-induced illnesses and injuries (such as hypothermia). It will save you and your employees during a time of emergency.

3. Train

Train your employees on how to identify cold-induced injuries and illnesses because they will need to know how to react if you’re not around.

4. Encourage

Encourage employees to wear proper winter clothing if they are planning on working in frigid conditions.

5. Take Breaks

Sometimes the slower party wins the race. Short, frequent, sheltered breaks will help your employees stay warm. They’ll also be more physically and mentally acute.

6. Schedule

Try to work during the warmest part of the day in order to avoid costly setbacks and injuries.

7. Avoid

Avoid exhaustion which can occur easily when energy is expelled to keep muscles warm. The warmer your employees are the more productive they’ll be.

8. Use the Buddy System

Accidents happen, but with the buddy system your employees will be able to identify danger signs much more easily.

9. Eat Warm, Drink Warm

Warm, high calorie foods (like pasta) and warm, sweet, de-caffeinated beverages are excellent at keeping the body at a desirable temperature in frigid conditions.

10. Remember

Their may be an increased risk of injury if employees are taking certain medications, are ill or are unfit for work. So, make remember who is best suited for you.

We hope our top 10 winter weather safety tips for NY contractors will keep you and your employees safe over the next couple months. If you have any further questions please feel free to give us a call at 1-800-649-9094. We look forward to hearing from you!





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OSHA Contractor Safety Tips – Preventing Backovers

Thus far, we’ve had an unseasonably warm winter. There has been very little snow, plenty of rain and overall, just overcast and dreary weather. The good news is that we don’t expect that to last for too much longer (which is a good thing if you are a snow removal contractor). The bad news is that winter, though good for business, brings a lot of inherent danger, danger (like backovers) that could bring down your business if you’re not careful. That’s why we have included these OSHA contractor safety tips which should keep you, your employees and your business safe this holiday season.

OSHA Contractor Safety – How to Prevent Backovers

Before we talk about how to prevent backovers, maybe we should tell you what they are. Backovers occur when a backing vehicle strikes a worker who is standing behind your company vehicle. While you might think that you would never hit one of your employees it happens more often than you might assume. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics over 70 of these incidents resulted in a death in 2011. So, even though this may not have happened to you, backovers do happen enough to be considered a serious issue (which is why we have included it in our OSHA contractor safety tips).

So, since we know backovers are an issue, what can we do to prevent them? There are a variety of prevention options but, what you ultimately decide to do will depend on your business and how much you would like to spend to keep your employees safe. Listed below are a few of those OSHA contractor safety options that you can choose from.

  • Use a spotter to help backup your vehicle (but make sure they are not standing directly behind your vehicle)
  • Proper training on the location of vehicle blind spots and how to avoid being in them (check out these diagrams)
  • Video cameras with in-vehicle display (so drivers can see what’s behind them)
  • Tag based systems that your employees wear and will alert the driver if an employee is standing behind the vehicle


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OSHA Releases Bulletin in Response to Underreporting Epidemic

The sound of circular saws tearing through splintering beams reverberates across the fenced-in concrete lot that serves as the enclosure for a group of men clad in yellow hardhats. With the sun setting, some men begin to pack up, but two of the temporary workers remain in the building, setting drywall into the ceiling. With an enormous effort and a grunt, one of the men thrusts the drywall sheet skyward as the other scrambles to fix the heavy panel in its place. With the first few nails in place, the man supporting the drywall collapses. The panel falls from the ceiling and crashes into the man below, while the other dives for safety. Luckily, the man under the drywall sheet appears to be uninjured.

“Are you okay?” asks his friend, noticing the bruises on the fallen man’s chest, “You could report that.”

“Nah, it’s just a bruise,” mutters the worker on the floor, clearly embarrassed for dropping the sheet.

Black and blue patches have already begun to form across the man’s chest, and his breaths come in ragged bursts. His friend looks at him with his brows raised. But respectful of his friend’s wishes, they pack up their things and exit the building as the light of day begins to fade away.

How a Complicated Reporting Process Could Harm Both You and Your Workers

Stories such as this are not uncommon for temporary workers. There are a variety of reasons that workers tend to underreport their injuries, chief among them are that reporting an injury could result in them being unable to work, or the process of reporting is too complicated to bother with. A recent educational bulletin from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) addresses the complicated process in an effort to clarify the requirements for injury recording of temporary worker injuries and illnesses.

A lack of reporting can result in fines and legal action against your business, while workers can suffer serious or fatal injuries. Here are a few steps your company can take to ensure the safety of temporary workers, as well as the financial future of your business.

Injury and Illness Recordkeeping Requirements

Q: Temporary workers often come from a staffing agency, resulting in confusion when a worker comes to report an injury. Do you cover them or does the staffing agency?

A: The answer: both (but in most cases, the host employer is responsible for recording injuries).

 

Q: Should both employers’ record the injury just to be safe?

A: No, injuries and illnesses should be recorded on only one employer’s injury and illness log.

 

Q: Okay, so say my company is responsible for recording the injury; who puts it in the books?

A: Those recording the injury should be supervising the workers on a day-to-day basis. Day-to-day basis meaning those employers who direct the worker and control potential hazards

 

Q: So the staffing agency has no role to play in worker safety and health; true or false?

A: False, the staffing agency (or non-supervising employer) should be in constant communication with their workers to ensure injuries and illnesses are reported and recorded.