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June 11, 2014
Cal/OSHA takes action following spate of construction fatalities

Cal/OSHA is taking a hard look at safety compliance at construction sites in the San Francisco Bay area following four fatalities in 4 days last month. California construction employers should be on notice.

Inspectors have been dispatched to Bay Area construction worksites throughout the coming weeks to determine if adequate measures have been taken to identify safety hazards and prevent injury. Christine Baker directs the Department of Industrial Relations, which includes Cal/OSHA. She noted, “Construction sites present special challenges to worker safety. Employers need to have strong safety programs in place and train their workers to follow procedures.”

Cal/OSHA says the four recent fatalities illustrate the hazards of working at heights.

  • On May 18, a construction worker was killed when the train bridge he was dismantling in Riverside collapsed, crushing him.
  • On May 20, a worker on a San Mateo project tumbled 9 feet from a wall sustaining fatal head injuries.
  • Also on May 20, in San Diego, a worker near the top of a 22-foot rebar column was killed when the column fell on him.
  • And on May 21, a worker at a residential project in San Jose fell to his death from a three-story building.

The incidents are all under investigation.

Cal/OSHA says its inspectors will be looking for compliance with fall protection regulations—from railings on buildings to personal devices like hooks that attach to vests. The agency will also review trench safety, equipment safety, and potential site hazards like power lines.

If inspectors find a lack of protection or a serious hazard, they can stop work at the site until the hazards are abated. Employers who fail to comply with state safety regulations will be cited and ordered to correct the violations, Cal/OSHA notes.

The crackdown in California comes on the heels of last week’s safety stand-down for falls in construction by federal OSHA. The awareness event reached more than a million employees. Falls are among the most common reason for workplace injuries and fatalities in California, as well as elsewhere across the country. Title 8 of the California Code of Regulations specifies requirements for fall protection in construction. It covers safety nets, fire protection, personal fall arrest systems, guardrails, excavation, roofing, and excavation, among other topics.

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