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OSHA’S Single-Minded Summertime Focus: Construction Safety

Every year during summer, attention turns nationally toward recurring seasonal pastimes and pursuits: vacation, sports, cook outs, gardening and other outside activities.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) and other worker safety groups are a bit tunnel-visioned when it comes to what most garners their attention over the same period. Summer is the season for residential and other construction projects, and with the approximately three-month burst of building activity comes an inevitable rash of construction accidents that OSHA and other safety advocates are focused mightily on reducing.

The acute attention on worker safety during this period is well-placed, since virtually every type of statistic that is used to measure workplace hazards and danger indicates that summer is — flat out — the most dangerous time of year for construction workers.

In fact, 164 workers died nationally in construction accidents in a recent year in August, with many other fatalities additionally suffered owing to mishaps involving falls (the number one cause of death), , electrical hazards and what the construction industry calls “struck-by” accidents. Those three causes of death alone account for about 65 percent of all construction fatalities. OSHA states that about 40 workers die every year from simply falling off residential roofs.

OSHA seeks to reduce those adverse numbers through close construction inspections, citations and other penalties assessed for lax safety standards. Additionally, the agency has announced new fall protection compliance guidelines for all residential construction, which it will begin enforcing on June 16.

We will revisit the summer construction season and the effect of OSHA’s new guidelines in a future post.

Related Resource: Occupational Health & Safety, “Keep an Eye on Construction Safety” May 1, 2011