Oklahoma construction workers may be interested to know that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has identified falls as the leading contributing factor in accidental fatalities on construction sites. In 2015, out of the 937 workplace fatalities that were reported around the country, 350 of them were attributed to falling. In 2017, construction falls are first on OSHA’s list of top safety violations.
To improve safety in the workplace, OSHA has begun assessing large fines for violations like repeat offenses. In one example, the agency fined a roofing contractor in Florida in excess of $1.5 million after it was repeatedly cited for fall-protection violations. The company was also placed into OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which means it will be marked for additional inspections and monitoring.
OSHA has also begun stepping up its efforts to address trench safety. In August 2017, a contractor in South Dakota was fined $95,000 for workplace conditions that resulted in a collapse. Although the worker survived the collapse, OSHA determined that the company failed to have the proper protections systems in place and failed to conduct the necessary inspections that may have stopped the incident from occurring.
Another tactic OSHA uses to enhance workplace safety is the issuance of press releases that report the violations and that detail the corrective actions taken against the guilty companies. There are some people who assert that this does not contribute to better workplace safety. However, others contend that the publicity is helping to increase awareness about safety concerns.
Individuals who sustain workplace injuries due to unsafe working conditions or the negligence of a non-employer third party may have legal basis to file a lawsuit. While the acceptance of workers’ compensation benefits precludes a lawsuit against the employer, subcontractors or others might be held financially responsible in some cases.