Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Were Safety Instructions Clear?

Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Were Safety Instructions Clear?

Article excerpt

Was scaffold secure?

Following an inspection of the Brawdy Construction Corp.'s worksite in Amherst, N.Y., the company was cited for an alleged violation of 29 CFR 1926.451(a)(2), for using unstable materials such as concrete blocks and wood to support a scaffold.

No monetary penalties were proposed. The company contested the citation, and the case came before Administrative Law Judge Foster Furcolo.

It was established at a hearing that the company's employees worked on a 9-foot scaffold supported by loose concrete blocks and pieces of wood in various shapes and sizes. The OSHA compliance officer testified that the scaffold's inadequate support system exposed employees to serious harm from falls. Further testimony that the ground beneath the scaffold was uneven supported the compliance officer's opinion. Accordingly, the citation was affirmed.

The company argued that its method of operation was safe and acceptable to enforcement inspectors because it had not been cited for identical or similar conditions during previous inspections.

Judge Furcolo determined that the mere fact that a citation was not issued during a prior inspection is no defense unless the company can prove that it was misled or deceived by OSHA representatives into believing the previous conditions were acceptable. The company had issued no claim that OSHA officials misled them into thinking that its use of unstable objects to support a scaffold was unacceptable.

Judge Furcolo did conclude, however, that although the absence of citations for prior violations is not a valid legal excuse, it is a mitigating circumstance in determining a penalty. A penalty of one dollar was assessed because there is no requirement in the OSHA Act that substantial fines be imposed for only technical violations of the Act.

Were safety instructions clear?

Following a fatal accident at a multiemployer worksite in Atlanta, Ga., Formwork Services, Inc., the forming subcontractor at the site, was issued a number of citations by OSHA for alleged violations of: 29 CFR 1926.21(b)(2), for failure to instruct employees in the recognition and avoidance of unsafe conditions in the use of safety belts and proper wrecking procedures; 29 CFR 1986.500(d)(1), for failure to protect employees working at the perimeter with standard guardrails or their equivalent; 29 CFR 1926.700(a), for failure to guard an opening in a platform; and 29 CFR 1926.25(c), for failure to remove scrap lumber, waste material, and rubbish from the immediate work area.

A total of $3,500 in penalties was proposed. The company contested the citations, and the case came before Administrative Law judge Joe Sparks.

At a hearing, in addressing the alleged failure to instruct employees about safe procedures, the superintendent acknowledged that the company did not have a written safety program. However, other witnesses from the company testified that the company held safety meetings to discuss safety programs.

In reviewing the testimony, Judge Sparks found that one employee testified that he had received instructions as to the proper method of stripping forms. Other evidence, however, proved that employees never received instructions regarding proper use of safety belts. Accordingly, a violation of the cited standard was proven with regard to failure to instruct in the use of safety belts but not proven with regard to instruction on proper wrecking procedures.

Regarding the citation for an alleged failure to provide perimeter guardrails, it was determined that the guardrails were the responsibility of the general contractor, and consisted of a single wire rope without any midrail. Although Formwork, the company cited, did not create or control the conditions, it was held responsible for exposing its employees to such hazards.

The compliance officer testified that he did not observe any employee exposed to the perimeter of the workspace during his inspection, although the work of the crew requires them to be all over the floors, including the perimeter. …

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