The article below was written by Miami Construction Lawyer Alex Barthet and appeared first on TheLienZone. It was re-posted with permission. For more information about Alex and his firm, please visit www.TheLienZone.com and www.Barthet.com.
Earlier this year, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Zika a public health emergency – an extraordinary development as this was only the 4th time in WHO’s entire history that it issued such a declaration. Anticipated to exceed 4 million cases this year, the virus has spread rapidly, infecting people in more than 20 countries.
Zika, as we have all heard, is a mosquito borne virus which can make people ill but more critically may cause a birth defect resulting in serious developmental problems in newborns and possible temporary paralysis in adults. This is a small bug with a big bite. Therefore, both the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) as well as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have now issued guidelines related to the Zika virus.
With so many construction jobs involving outside work, it is important for contractors to initiate a number of actions to alert and protect their workers:
- Advise: Inform employees of the dangers they face and train them on how they might protect themselves.
- Protect: Encourage workers to wear appropriate clothing that covers their arms, legs and other exposed areas and provide insect repellents.
- Avoid: Get rid of all sources of standing water at the jobsite and reduce mosquito breeding areas.
While southern states are expected to be hardest hit by the Zika virus, contractors everywhere need to raise their level of concern and treat this as they do other serious workplace hazards. Over 800 people in the U.S. have already contracted the virus, and with summer already upon us, this number is only expected to rise.
Jobsite pressures, such as time crunches and monetary issues can quickly tempt otherwise good people into making some pretty poor decisions. There are also others who use their construction business as a front for other illegal activities. Many people were arrested for a variety of reasons in 2016 and the list below should serve as both a reminder and a warning for those considering making bad decisions.
Last year, a devastating crane collapse killed more than 100 people and injured more than 200 others in Mecca, located in Saudi Arabia. Reports indicated that, at the time of the collapse, the boom was erected approximately 620 feet (190m).
There’s a small, but growing, fear in the construction industry that robots will soon make construction jobs obsolete, but, in all reality, the next logical step is for technology and robotics to first enhance the jobs of human construction workers. There is a lot of money being poured into the industry every day, looking for the next big piece of technology to take over jobsites by storm. A few recent examples are a bionic suit aimed at construction workers and an augmented reality smart hard hat. The next idea may make scaling walls at construction sites extremely easy.
One thing almost everyone agrees on: America’s infrastructure needs fixing.
Another thing most people agree on: No one enjoys the traffic congestion that results from bridge, road, and utility construction work.
As the construction labor shortage rages on throughout the industry, there have been concerns of how overworked employees or undertrained staff may affect job site safety. Although there’s no definitive proof that this problem is causing an increase in construction deaths and injuries, recently released Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data shows trends pointing in the wrong direction.
Trenches are a construction jobsite hazard that happen on nearly every construction site involving dirt work, but, all too often their dangers are underestimated. In fact, trench related deaths in 2016 have more than doubled as compared to 2015. There’s no excuse for allowing a trench related death to happen, but it’s rare that job site supervision suffers criminal charges after one occurs. After the death of a 22 year old New York construction worker, the Manhattan District Attorney’s office took a hard stance against those responsible and announced formally sentenced the on-site foreman last week.
A large focus of the construction industry, especially in recent years, is jobsite safety. Many large companies have significant resources set aside specifically for safety, but, unfortunately, that may be impossible for many small and medium sized construction companies to handle. As of the first quarter of 2016, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that there are over 768,000 construction companies currently operating in the private industry and over 6.7 million construction workers between them. That’s a lot of companies and workers to keep safe throughout the year.
Trench collapse deaths are easily preventable. I’ll say it again: trench collapse deaths are easily preventable. So if they’re preventable, how do they continue to happen every year? Ignorance to safety rules, lack of supervision, pressures of time and money, and sometimes, outright laziness are all factors in trench related deaths and injuries. I’ve been on too many jobsites in my relatively young construction career that have extremely poor procedures for working in trenches and I’ve gotten every excuse in the book. The vast majority don’t even understand the basic requirements. At 4 feet deep, you need to provide a means of egress, at 5 feet deep you need proper protective systems, and keep soil and other materials 2 feet away from the edge of the trench. Those are the basics, everyone should know them.
One of the challenges with construction is determining how your work can and will affect the existing conditions surrounding your job site. That’s why it’s increasingly important to not only perform proper due diligence procedures, but also react to the findings. That, unfortunately, doesn’t always happen and could potentially be what caused a massive sinkhole in Fukuoka, Japan, last week.
Every year, an average of 35 construction workers are killed by trench collapses, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. With proper shoring, benching, or sloping, each of these deaths is easily preventable. Generally, any trench that exceeds 5 feet in height needs to be properly protected, as the weight of soil can reach up to 3,000 pounds per cubic yard. For more on OSHA's trench safety guidelines, click here.