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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.

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OSHA Campaign Seeks to Prevent Falling Deaths

High above the ground, a man stands, sledgehammer in hand, prepared to bring down the rusted, old bridge whose ancient steel beams reach across the murky stream of water below. He mounts the scaffolding, his arms and legs propel him up the structure at a breakneck pace. The sun warms his rugged features and he slows his pace to have a look around. The ground which had been so close to him earlier now seems miles away. A bolt slips from his belt, and he counts quietly to himself, “one, two… three,” until the bolt collides with the muddy earth below. He shakes his head and grabs the next rung. It moves. His fingers slip. He falls backwards, plummeting towards the ground and just manages to get his legs underneath him. With a dull, THUD, he slams into the mud and collapses next to the river.

About a month ago, a 29-year old construction worker had a similar experience when he fell approximately 25 feet from a structure beneath the Pulaski Skyway Bridge. Miraculously, the man suffered no broken bones, though he was placed under careful observation. Not all construction workers are so lucky. According to Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, “Falls account for more than a third of all deaths in this industry.” The statistic prompted OSHA to launch a Fall Prevention Campaign back in 2012.

The campaign focuses on information distribution, giving employers the necessary lifesaving resources and educational materials so that they may inform their employees. This information includes: how to plan ahead to prevent falls, how to get the right equipment, and training employees to use that equipment. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has partnered with OSHA to expand the campaign.

Dr. John Howard, director of NIOSH, stated, “We are pleased to join again with OSHA and our NORA partners to focus on fall prevention at construction sites. Preventing falls in the construction industry benefits everyone… This safety stand-down serves as an important opportunity for everyone to prevent fall hazards.” The initiative could save both your life and the lives of your employees. If you would like to partner with OSHA for a training seminar please visit http://www.osha.gov/StopFallsStandDown/.

Stay safe!