Employers in the construction industry throughout California must prepare for an increase in the number of California Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“Cal/OSHA”) inspectors who will check employers’ fall protection safety systems. The increase in inspections is a response to the events that occurred between May 18 and May 21, 2014, when four construction workers tragically died at separate California worksites as a result of accidental falls. According to the DIR’s News Release dated May 27, 2014, the inspections are expected to occur mostly at construction sites in the San Francisco Bay Area. However, additional inspections will likely occur throughout the entire country, as the federal Occupational Safety & Health Administration (“OSHA”) designated June 2-6, 2014 as “National Safety Stand-Down” week to encourage employers to talk with workers about fall hazards and prevention.
Unfortunately, fall safety is not a new problem in the construction industry. Indeed, the California Department of Industrial Relation’s (“DIR”) website states that fatalities caused by falls from elevation continue to be a leading cause of death for construction workers, accounting for 269 of the 775 construction fatalities nationwide recorded in 2012. However, fall protection is not the only safety concern on Cal/OSHA’s radar. The DIR also announced that government investigators will examine other safety issues at construction sites, including trench safety, equipment safety and potential site hazards such as power lines.
Employers must be cautioned that if Cal/OSHA finds that a construction site does not comply with all applicable safety regulations, the employer will face significant consequences. Among other things, construction sites may be cited and shut down until all safety problems are fixed. As a result, construction employers should proactively check their worksites to determine whether adequate measures have been taken to identify safety hazards and prevent injuries.