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.
Multi-employer worksites are extremely common in the construction industry, but they can still make work extremely complicated. One of those complications results when a subcontractor receives a governmental violation, such as an OSHA violation. As a controlling employer on the site, can a general contractor be held responsible for safety hazards of a subcontractor? One court says yes.
After an abundance of delays on rule that would require crane operators to be formally qualified to operate, OSHA finally landed on an effective date of February 7, 2019. After receiving feedback from industry partners, OSHA has decided to delay enforcement for 60 days for contractors who make a “good faith effort” to comply.
As has been expected for a few months now, OSHA has officially removed the requirement for large companies with 250 or more employees to submit OSHA Forms 300 and 301. The administration cited privacy concerns as the reason for the change.
Be careful - owners and contractors are now being held criminally liable for their carelessness and disregard of safety protocols.
Since the 2016 Federal budget was passed, OSHA has increased their maximum citation penalty amount to adjust for inflation on a yearly basis. The 2019 increase has recently been announced.
Last November, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. announced felonious assault charges against a contractor’s superintendent and a manufacturer’s branch manager after two men suffered horrific injuries on a New York jobsite. Last week, OSHA formally announced citations against the St. Louis, Missouri based contractor.
After an uptick in construction industry fatalities in 2016, a recent Bureau of Labor Statistics report shows that both the amount of construction worker deaths and the rate of fatality dropped in 2017.
At the National Safety Council Congress & Expo on October 23, 2018, OSHA’s deputy director of Directorate of Enforcement Programs, Patrick Kapust, announced their 10 most frequesntly cited safety violations for their fiscal year 2018.
On March 15, 2018, 6 people were killed and 8 others were injured when an under construction pedestrian bridge collapsed in Florida. Several months later, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released their preliminary report while conducting an official investigation. The NTSB later issued an “Investigative Update” to their preliminary report in August. In Mid-November, the NTSB released a 2nd investigative update, narrowing their root cause theories.