Heat Illness, Fall Data, PPE for Women, and Fraudulent Safety Training Challenge Contractors – Duncan Financial Group
HR Tip: Law and Guidance Updates
June 11, 2024
OSHA Watch
June 11, 2024
HR Tip: Law and Guidance Updates
June 11, 2024
OSHA Watch
June 11, 2024
Heat Illness, Fall Data, PPE for Women, and Fraudulent Safety Training Challenge Contractors

Two young man architect on a building construction site

Heat Illness, Fall Data, PPE for Women, and Fraudulent Safety Training Challenge Contractors

Heat illness – new voluntary consensus

According to a recent study led by a University of New Mexico researcher, construction workers are 13 times more likely to suffer fatalities related to heat-related illness than those in the general population. Even moderate outdoor temperatures may put construction workers at increased risk of heat-related illness as other factors such as the intensity of the work, the clothing and equipment worn, the level of hydration, and environmental factors affect body temperature.

Although some state plans have heat stress standards, there’s no federal OSHA standard. To bridge the regulatory gap, The American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP) recently published the first national voluntary consensus standard addressing heat stress for workers in construction and demolition operations. More than 30 safety experts developed the standard over three years.

ANSI/ASSP A10.50-2024, Heat Stress Management in Construction and Demolition Operations, contains checklists and flowcharts designed to help companies develop clear and effective heat stress management programs and identify engineering and administrative controls. It offers best practices such as:

    Hydration: The standard calls for one quart per employee for drinking each hour over the entire shift. The standard also calls for “electrolyte replenishment beverages…when employees are involved with heavy work activities for greater than 2 hours…”

    Clothing: “Quick-dry moisture-wicking clothing may be considered since it absorbs sweat. Clothing with open-up vents or mesh panels can help allow for sweat evaporation.”

    PPE: “Personal protective equipment (PPE) that facilitates cooling can be used to supplement engineering and administrative controls when they are insufficient to reduce heat exposure to a safe level as long as the PPE does not create a greater hazard.”

A comprehensive look at fatal and nonfatal fall data

The number of fatal falls to a lower level among construction workers jumped more than 50 percent over a recent 12-year period according to a Data Bulletin from CPWR – The Center for Construction Research and Training. The Data Bulletin examines fatal and nonfatal falls in construction by major and detailed subsector and primary source. It also looks at fatal falls from 2011 to 2022 by fall height, time of day, state, whether the decedent was a contracted worker, and establishment size, providing important insights into areas that are most at risk.
Key findings are:

    1. In 2022, there were 397 fatal falls to a lower level, a 52.7 percent increase from 2011
    2. 70 percent of the fatal falls occurred within companies with 10 or fewer employees.
    3. Most of the fatal falls happened between 10 a.m. and 12:59 p.m.
    4. Based on North American Industry Classification System codes, roofing contractors (23816) experienced the most fatal falls in 2022, with 100. Residential building construction (23611) was the next with 63.
    5. Almost two-thirds of fatal falls from 2011 to 2022 occurred among contracted workers. Contracted worker is defined as someone employed by one firm but working under the direction of another firm that exercises overall responsibility for operations at the site of the fatal injury. When looking at all injuries, contracted workers accounted for 52 percent of all fatal injuries in construction
    6. There have also been changes in the frequency of sources common to falls, with ladders accounting for fewer fatal and nonfatal injuries while the number associated with roofs has risen. From 2021 to 2022, the number of fatal injuries primarily involving roofs rose 14.6 percent.

These findings highlight the fact that small companies and contracted workers accounted for most fatal falls. Small companies have limited resources for training programs and management oversight and many lag on technology adoption, leading to gaps in safety protocols and a higher risk of accidents. Inadequate training, poor site orientation, and language barriers are common issues for contracted workers. Addressing these challenges requires improving safety practices and strengthening the safety culture. Some cost-efficient practices include involving job site workers in the safety process, open door policy for workers to report hazards, incidents, and concerns, safety audits, near miss and incident investigations, and equipment inspections. A job hazards analysis before a project starts is critically important; ineffective planning is the primary cause of falls from heights.

Fostering safety awareness in the workforce and risk management is imperative. The National Campaign to Prevent Falls in Construction, a joint effort between CPWR, OSHA, NIOSH, and the NORA Construction Sector Council provides resources to support contractors’ participation in the National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction, May 6 – 10, 2024.

Women still lack PPE that fits

Women in construction still lack PPE that fits according to a recent survey by Lumber, a construction workforce management organization. Sixty-seven percent of respondents said PPE such as safety harnesses and hard hats weren’t readily available in women’s sizes, while 85 percent couldn’t access maternity-friendly safety equipment.

While it’s less expensive to buy in bulk and women represent a small percentage of the construction workforce, inadequate and ill-fitting PPE poses safety risks and sends the wrong message to employees. According to the report, some small companies find it more practical to provide the workforce or subcontractor’s team with an allowance to purchase PPE.

Inadequate PPE is just one barrier that discourages women from working in construction. Wage disparities, recruitment bias, inadequate training, and unwelcoming company cultures are others. Yet, attracting women can help industries deal with an acute labor shortage and several studies have shown gender diversity has economic benefits.

Fraudulent safety training

While crackdowns have made it harder to get fake training credentials the recent case in New York City illustrates the problem still exists. In March 2021, a New York City law went into effect requiring construction workers at major jobsites to complete 40 hours of safety training and Valor Security and Investigations was among the many firms approved by the Buildings Dept. to provide courses and safety certification for workers.

Valor, which was the third-largest training provider in the city, now faces charges for falsely certifying 20,000 workers as having completed 40 hours of safety training between December 2019 and April 2023. The firm and 25 individuals were indicted Feb. 28 for allegedly operating a bogus safety training school.

One million dollars was deposited into a personal banking account of the company’s founder allegedly from fees he charged for training certificates. Video surveillance revealed empty classrooms and the firm filed safety certificates for students using the abbreviation “LNU” meaning “last name unknown.” A worker who was certified as having completed eight hours of fall protection, but never took the courses, fell off scaffolding to his death from the 15th floor of a residential building undergoing facade repairs.

According to the NYC Buildings website, “The Department of Buildings strongly recommends that anyone holding a Site Safety Training Card issued by Valor be retrained by a different course provider immediately. Our investigation into the course provider is ongoing and may result in additional enforcement action against Valor, which may include revoking their status as a course provider. In the event their status as a course provider is revoked, Site Safety Training Cards they have issued will no longer be valid.”

To learn more about how this data applies to you, schedule an appointment with one of our financial professionals.