I was just informed that one of our Fall Protection instructors will be spending the next few days in Concord, New Hampshire as a safety compliance officer and fall protection instructor. It turns out OSHA hit a job this morning and found numerous fall hazard violations. The contractor was instructed to immediately remedy the situation. He called Safety Trainers Inc and we are dispatching one of our instructors immediately to help out.
Turns out there is no fall protection plan or safety measures in use. No record keeping. No proof of effective training to reduce hazards. No manuals. The contractor has to immediately do what ever it takes to please OSHA including spending the money for training and equipment if he wants to stay on the job. No word on the penalties yet.
This situation is very similar to what occured this past winter after the snow and ice accumalated on roofs. In the winter when everyone was shoveling off roofs OSHA was all over and we were placing safety monitors for weeks. Some contractors reported OSHA was following trucks to jobs.
Now that Hurrican Irene is gone repairs are underway. Lots of roof and siding work. It would not be surprising if OSHA was right around the corner looking for construction activity.
I was reading an article tonight before this news came in from Safety News author Travis Rhoden. He titles his article "Tougher Enforcement Main Focus of OSHA." He cites retroactive extensions will go back 5 years now instead of three. This impacts the criteria for penalty reductions. He also mentions the increase in serious violation fines rising $2-3000
Next he describes the Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP)
This program includes;
- Mandatory inspections of an identified company
- Mandatory follow-up inspections, including other locations of the same company.
- Intense examination of the employer's history to assess if there are systemic problems that would trigger additional mandatory inspections.
The article ends with a quote from Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis;
"OSHA is acting like a sheriff now"
Residential contractors are saying what's next? Why are you all of a sudden waging war on our industry? Don't you know we are companies with only a handful of employees not some huge commercial contractor or union company?
It seems like everyday we are hearing from contractors that they have been visited. This intensive scrutiny all of a sudden on the residential construciton industry is unprecedented and will cause many to go underground or leave the trades.
Residential contractors probably have little choice but to comply right now due to the current political leadership. The financial risks are too steep. However we need residential industry leaders and contractors to start the grass roots process of reversing the trends. We need to find more sensible and equitable ways of teaching an industry how to evolve to an acceptable level of compliance without forcing them out of business. We need regulators to ease off the guys who do good work safely (even if they haven't learned about OSHA standards) and nail the illegally operating contractors first. And yes this means go after undocumented stealing work and those who hire them, munincipal workers working on the side for cash, workers on unemployment who are working for cash while collecting and the real dirt bags. Why can't the current political crowd take some of the billions from EPA and OSHA and funnel it to training programs for non union residential contractors just like they send money to unions to train their people for free! Why don't we stop sending billions to weatherization programs (which do not work) who employ people with no skills or desire to learn skills, no desire to work and create and pay for safety and business programs for the thousands of residential craftsman who are being required to remodel their business to the same standards as large commercial companies?
mark the coach
"one voice for the residential construction industry"