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Workplace Safety and Health Law Blog

Posts in construction safety.

Allen Smith, J.D., the manager of workplace law content for SHRM. ( @SHRMlegaleditor) recently asked three attorneys, including me, to set out our wishes and cautions for OSHA in 2014, and then wrote a good (and short!) article. My responses are below, along with some comments from some construction safety experts, but please read Allen’s complete article. Allen generates good content.

The recent “Polar Vortex” has stunned even snow-hardened Minnesotans. I became concerned about worker safety in this brutal cold when I stopped late one night to pump gas on my way back to Atlanta from out of state trial prep. Thermometers showed it as seven degrees but with the substantial wind, it was well below zero. I nearly froze pumping gas. When I arrived the next morning at a rental car garage, it was obvious that despite the attendants wearing more winter clothes than Ralhie’s brother in the Christmas Story, they were suffering in the shade and wind. Imagine the injury potential for a construction worker, lineman or any employee working in the cold.

Next week, EHS Today hosts its second annual conference and celebration of the recipients of the 2013 Safest Companies In America award. Last year’s first time conference was the best safety event I have attended; mainly because the presenters and attendees were some of the most recognized companies in America for safety success. The multiple educational tracks were outstanding, but the time spent with attendees and fellow presenters at dinner and over drinks was even more useful. One can genuinely learn from attendees, and yes, I’ll be buying drinks again on behalf of Fisher Phillips, so come see us.

Fisher Phillips supports the efforts of associations to recognize employers who put their money where their mouth is, and demonstrate superior safety processes. We are especially excited about the October 28 - 30 celebration of EHS America's safest Companies.

I just learned from Fred Walter at Walter & Prince LLP that Ellen Widess has apparently resigned effective immediately from her position as Chief of the Division of Occupational Safety and Health, and is taking another post. No specific reason was given for her resignation. No press release appears to yet be out, but if accurate, this resignation could meaningfully affect the current approach taken by Cal-OSHA.

I’m on my 16 hour flight back from South Africa to Atlanta and processing my experiences. Surely such a varied and unusual adventure will provide me with fodder for some philosophical musings which lead to my usual practical “Action Points” on safety and employment law.

Don’t get me wrong. I make a handsome living in part because common sense is anything but common. However, I like to prevent labor and employment problems, and I’d do anything to reduce the number of workplace deaths, so I chew on this question a great deal … like now as I continue on my 16 hour flight fueled by a surprisingly good Bordeaux. I’ll leave the thoughtful psychological, sociological and anthropological analysis to more thoughtful people than me. I’ll settle for just throwing out some examples.

I’m not talking about kindergarten playtime or its “adult” equivalent … politics.

Any time multiple employers are involved, labor and employment matters becomes much more complicated. The classic example is a construction site. OSHA refers to such settings as “multi-employer worksites.” Multi-employer sites are not limited to construction sites. Do you use temps? Have contractors or consultants performing work onsite? Maintain locations in malls, resorts, or arenas? Host trade shows? Build autos, aircraft or ships? On occasion, every worksite becomes a “multi-employer site.

Work gloves are so ubiquitous that we may forget that gloves can present as many complex challenges as any type of PPE. The gloves selected may not address site-specific hazards, especially for a mobile workforce, such as construction. Not only does the texture and material affect performance, but so does the way in which the glove works with other PPE and clothing. Some employers find that changing gloves reduces a large number of the minor injuries and strains that plague their workers.

Last Week, Sandy Smith, Editor in Chief of EHS Magazine, interviewed me for two articles she prepared on the continued difficulties presented as employers struggle to rely on leading indicators to manage safety rather than relying on workplace injury data – “lagging indicators.” I enjoyed the interview because Sandy knows her stuff, and EHS Magazine is committed to making a difference in the safety culture.

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