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A shockingly unsafe commercial construction site - #HazardSpotting

When it comes to playing fast and loose with safety, some of the worst offenders are commercial and residential building contractors. They need to work quickly and efficiently, and must be able to freely move around the roof of a building. As a result, they sometimes ignore the need for safety precautions and devices.

The construction crew pictured here is taking a particularly cavalier approach to getting the job done. Judging by the perspective of this photo and the position of the background, it looks like these three men are working two to three stories off the ground. Here are the biggest safety problems we see:

No railing or fall arrest system at the roof’s edge When working at this height, OSHA requires construction crews to erect a temporary railing, to prevent workers from accidentally falling over the edge. This contractor doesn’t bother with such an engineered safety device. The young worker on the upper right side of the picture is walking within 2 feet of the roof’s edge. The other worker in the background is also working very close to the edge. OSHA regulations state, "Each employee on a walking/working surface (horizontal and vertical surface) with an unprotected side or edge which is 6 feet (1.8 m) or more above a lower level shall be protected from falling by the use of guardrail systems, safety net systems, or personal fall arrest systems." <29 cfr part 1926 subpart m (fall protection), §1926.501(b)(1)>. Clearly, these workers are more than 6 ft. above the ground.

Workers are not wearing fall restraint harnesses OSHA says, "A fall arrest system is required if any risk exists that a worker may fall from an elevated position, as a general rule, the fall arrest system should be used anytime a working height of six feet or more is reached." It also specifies different types of belts and harnesses that are acceptable under certain circumstances here. Clearly, these three workers are in violation of OSHA regulations and would be cited if an inspector showed up at this job site. One other point: The worker with the hammer in the foreground is kneeling next to what looks like an opening. There is no telling how far down the next level is. But it’s safe to say that if this worker lost his balance and tumbled into it, he would be injured, if not killed.

Abundant trip hazards In the center of the picture, nails and scraps of wood are scattered around the roof. The worker in the center of the picture, with his back to us, could easily trip and fall over the circular saw and cord if he took a step backward.

No hand protection None of these workers is wearing hand protection. While it’s not required, it is advisable to wear protective gloves when performing this type of work.

No knee protection The worker kneeling in the foreground isn’t wearing kneepads. Knee injuries are among the most common repetitive strain injuries in the construction industry, caused by kneeling for extended periods of time on hard surfaces like wood and concrete.

PPE pluses One redeeming aspect of this job site is that all three workers are wearing hard hats and steel-toed boots. Unfortunately, that doesn’t compensate for their blatant disregard of safety regulations and safe work practices. Interested in related products? See: On Again, Off Again #HazardSpotting is a community safety initiative that helps raise awareness about dangerous workplace safety violations, developed by and supported by VISTA Training, Inc.

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