Many rural builders tend to be a bit lax in safety procedure, partially because their work is often off the beaten path and not visible to OSHA. Gary Auman, legal counsel for the National Frame Building Association provides some insight into why that is a dangerous assumption.
Are there any misconceptions about safety on the post-frame job site? Are there fewer safety hazards?
Auman: This is a loaded question. I think the biggest misconception by post-frame contractors is that OSHA has no interest in them because they are rural builders. Some believe that because they employ fewer than 10 employees OSHA does not apply to them. This is very wrong. From a safety compliance perspective OSHA has jurisdiction over any employer who employs one or more people. There are different types of safety hazards on a post-frame site than some other construction sites. For example post-frame contractors will not encounter excavation hazards or tower crane hazards but post frame has probably more fall hazards and struck-by hazards than are experienced by other contractors. I find that many post-frame contractors take safety training for granted, so they are much more likely to be cited for failure to train their employees in hazard recognition.
Do you know what types of injuries are more common on post-frame job sites?
Auman: Post-frame contractors experience a higher number of injuries from falls and struck-by injuries and lacerations per capita than other contractors in other forms of construction.
Any new OSHA standards builders need to know about?
Auman: Post-frame contractors need to be very aware of the anti-retaliation provisions of the new electronic record-keeping standard as well as the requirements for electronically filing their OSHA 300’s by December 1st of this year if they employed a total of 20 or more employees in 2016. In addition, they need to be sure that they have a heat stress program in their safety program that covers the five points in the NIOSH criteria document. They need to see that they are having the site supervisor monitor employee compliance with the program. I do not believe that post frame contractors should have too many issues with respirable crystalline silica unless they are doing a renovation on an older structure or are pouring concrete and then finishing it and creating dust. While it is not a new standard, it is one that post frame frequently misses and that is to have a qualified competent person make frequent and regular daily visits to the job site to identify and mitigate any safety hazards observed.
Can you provide any real-life situations where a company’s failure to have a good safety program resulted in big losses?
Auman: Where should I begin? I am aware of several cases in which employees suffered fatal injuries from working in a high heat index environment because the employer did not take heat stress seriously and did not have a heat illness prevention program. This resulted in very high fines. In another case an employer had an employee lose a finger because he was working close to an unguarded fan without locking it out or guarding it before the work was performed. Here the employer received citations for failure to guard as well as failure to have a lockout/tag-out program. Perhaps the most notable citation was for failing to train the employee in hazard recognition and avoidance.
OSHA is less prevalent in rural areas, but surprises occur. Any stories you can share? (Perhaps a job site visible from a busy highway).
Auman: The example you gave is a good one. I have seen several cases like that one. Post-frame contractors have grown complacent thinking that OSHA will never get to them because of the rural nature of their work. But we are becoming more visible to compliance officers in the situation you mentioned above. Also, as OSHA is in and on the news more and more, more employees are becoming more aware of the agency and the ease with which they can file a safety complaint. I have seen several cases in post frame where OSHA got to a job site because of an employee safety complaint. In each of these cases the employer received a citation and penalty. As the size of penalties increase, the impact of fines on a post-frame contractor can be disastrous. Post-frame contractors need to remember that even if they determine the identity of the complainant, they may not take any action against him or her. RB