Focus, Construction, and Human Resources

MIOSHA launches a new construction safety program

October 9, 2015
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Three of Michigan’s construction sectors are about to get a major safety inspection.

On Oct. 1, the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration launched a Local Emphasis Program to “target the siding contractors, structural steel and pre-cast concrete construction sectors and improve overall workplace safety and health,” according to a MIOSHA statement.

A Local Emphasis Program, or LEP, is an enforcement strategy that addresses a specific hazard, industry, substance, trade, or type of workplace operation or equipment due to a high potential for injury or illness, said Tanya Baker, communications representative for the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, or LARA.

The LEP was developed as a response to a Bureau of Labor Statistics analysis of the 2013 national figures of non-fatal occupational injuries and illnesses by industry and case types, according to a release. The report revealed a significant rise in injury and illness rates in these sectors.

MIOSHA, which is part of LARA, developed a residential construction Local Emphasis Program in 2014, while general industry has had several LEPs, including those targeting the wood products industry and merchant wholesalers, she said.

“MIOSHA consultative services are offered at no cost to the employer. MIOSHA’s Consultation Education and Training Division has consultants available to provide employers with assistance in creating safety and health systems, developing accident prevention programs and implementing long-term safety and health solutions,” Baker said.

“The MIOSHA enforcement program is funded through a federal grant from the U.S. (Department of Labor) with matching state funds.”

In this latest LEP, which applies to programmed inspections, MIOSHA plans to inspect more than 50 siding, structural steel and pre-cast concrete contractors on various sized jobsites that expose workers to safety hazards that could cause serious injuries or even death.

The inspections will take place throughout the state from Oct. 1-Sept. 30, 2016. The inspections will track the number of employers, affected employees and violations.

Baker said a programmed inspection is defined as a planned inspection, based on MIOSHA’s inspection targeting system and strategic plan, and these occur when a workplace safety representative discovers a jobsite and performs an inspection not related to a fatality, complaint, referral or variance.

“MIOSHA’s Consultation Education and Training Division will be looking to its established partnerships and alliances to identify best practice opportunities, as well as to help raise awareness about the hazards associated with the three areas of focus,” she said.

“Additionally, the CET division will address issues related to the new LEP at construction-related expos, including the Great Lakes HBA Builders Show in Novi in February (siding sector focus), and the Michigan Construction & Design Tradeshow, organized by the Construction Association of Michigan (also in February).”

Baker said the inspections are focused on identifying and correcting hazards with fall protection, scaffolds, ladders, personal protective equipment and tool guarding, electrical, precast and tilt-up operations, and structural steel. The inspection reviews the entire jobsite and work activities.

The siding sector mainly consists of small employers with about 10 or fewer employees and small contractors performing specialty work with things like fascia, soffit, and gutter and downspout installation.

The structural steel sector mainly consists of medium and large contractors that specialize in steel erection where the work involves exposure to cranes, unprotected surfaces, and overhead and falling hazards.

The pre-cast concrete sector mainly consists of medium and large contractors that have specialized equipment.

“The inspections occur as part of the programmed inspection activity and are conducted without advance notice. MIOSHA’s Construction Safety and Health Division has compliance staff located throughout the state to ensure employers are in compliance with the three industries to ensure they are familiar with MIOSHA’s LEP. MIOSHA encourages and offers consultative services,” Baker said.

“MIOSHA construction inspections are based on reviewing reports of construction job start-ups and visual observation by compliance staff. Compliance staff are located throughout the state. When staff observe work activities covered by the LEP being performed, they will inspect these contractors.”

When the LEP inspections are finished, MIOSHA then will evaluate the findings using current injury and illness rates to determine whether the program has met the goal in improving workplace safety and health conditions in the targeted industries, or whether the program should be continued, Baker said.

Violations are taken seriously, she said.

“MIOSHA inspections represent a ‘snapshot’ picture of compliance at the time the inspection occurred. If there are conditions found that are not in compliance with MIOSHA requirements, a citation is issued, which includes the rule and a description of the condition that is out of compliance and a date by which the condition must be corrected, if it was not during the inspection,” she said.

“A citation may or may not include a penalty, depending on the classification. The MIOSH Act requires that any violation issued as ‘serious’ include a monetary penalty. Penalties are calculated considering a number of factors, including the severity of an injury should one occur, the size of the employer, history with MIOSHA, and good faith efforts to comply with MIOSHA requirements noted during the inspection.”

Baker said these inspections not only save lives but also dollars.

“There is definitely a business case for creating and maintaining a safe and healthful work environment. MIOSHA has implemented a Safety Pays campaign since 2010 to emphasize the financial and humanistic benefits,” she said.

“For example, a federal OSHA study found that, for every $1 invested in workplace safety and health, employers see a $4 to $6 return. Moreover, employers with strong safety and health systems tailored to the work performed see additional benefits including lower turnover and absenteeism, higher productivity and higher quality of work.”

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