Are you paying attention?
In his President’s letter in this month’s TileLetter, James Woelfel stressed the need for all of us to be aware of the aspects of job site safety. I thank him for the reminder, and for some, it was the first notice that safety of your workers and others around them is vitally important to your organizations.
I was reading a post on this very subject last week from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) news blog. The title of the post was “OSHA Slams Builders With Hefty Fines, Jail Time For Noncompliance”. The first line of it stated “If you’re in the construction business, you may want to ensure that your worksite is free from serious safety risks and hazards”. While the obvious duty to keep those we employ safe is implied here, the emphasis of the article is the other side of the equation that affects all of us; the penalties and fines for breeches of the safety rules.
Yes I said that correctly, all of us. Many think that OSHA safety rules are only applicable to large companies who are working on larger job sites. That is not the case. While OSHA generally will not conduct a general scheduled OSHA inspection at a company with fewer than 10 employees, that company is not exempted from OSHA coverage. In 2010 they inspected 16,473 small companies that resulted in their handing out 50,630 citations. These violations cost employers more than $46 million. That’s not pocket change.
OSHA has jurisdiction over workplace safety in the United States and its territories with a few exceptions. When the Occupational Safety and Health Administration was established in 1970 exemptions to their purview were given to government workers (imagine that), sole proprietors, farmers and their family members working on their farm, and volunteers. Everyone else is under their watchful eye as they are “charged with the enforcement of safety and health legislation”.
The NAHB made an attempt to inform their membership of the monetary penalties of ignoring safety regulations, some of which were severe. I think the subject is also important enough to inform you in this post as well. In the three cited cases, construction companies were fined $150,000 , $153,000 and $195,000 in the period since June. In one of the cases OSHA “cited nearly all of the contractors on site” and in another the president and vice president of the violating company were arrested. The majority of the cases involved violations in the areas of fall protection, eye and face protection and ladder safety.
I do not mention these items to frighten you, although they probably do. I point out this area of your responsibility of the management of your business to make you aware that by choosing to ignore safety, you are putting not only your employees but your company itself at risk. I urge you to discover more about making your company OSHA compliant. You can start by visiting the website www.osha.gov/doc/.
If you are not paying attention to areas of your business like this, you may indeed pay.