Vince Gallagher, Professional Safety –
Writing in Professional Safety magazine, Vince Gallagher uses ironworkers and fall protection as examples to illustrate the importance of going beyond OSHA compliance to ensure adequate safety for your employees. He notes that ironworkers suffer more fatal injuries from falls than any other construction craft, yet there remains a lack in sufficient preventative standards that would provide complete safety for these individuals.
According to OSHA standards, fall protection is not required for ironworkers working below 15 feet, despite the remaining potential for serious injury or death. Furthermore, fall protection is not standard for workers performing connecting work or installing decks between 15 and 30 feet above the ground. Both of these pose risks to the workers involved, leaving room for fatal errors.
“While not required by standard, it is economically and technologically feasible to provide ironworkers with 100% fall protection for all exposures beginning at 6 ft above ground level”
One reason why employers do not provide fall protection in these situations is the overall costs. When projects are awarded to the lowest bidder, companies look for ways to cut costs to remain competitive, and installing complete fall protection seems unnecessary and costly. However, the costs of injury or death far outweigh that of installation. Before the bidding begins, the project owner must make it clear that no project will be chosen unless it includes full safety protections. Otherwise the owner and the contracted company are leaving their employees vulnerable.
“Do not wait until a tragedy has occurred to show that it is technologically feasible and cost effective to control hazards that could produce serious injury or death – whether OSHA requires it or not”
Employers, guided by the economical benefits and ethical imperatives, should advocate for feasible controls and procedures, despite the lack OSHA mandates. Simply because the project complies with OSHA does not mean it is safe. Utilizing OSHA standards as the baseline, going beyond compliance is the best way to provide the necessary policies and safety procedures for your employees. Safety always pays.