This third article in our series of Jobsite Safety explains which items OSHA will concentrate on if they come to your job site. Sometimes one gets the impression that OSHA is the "bad guy" and a visit by an OSHA inspector is the last thing your company would want. It is true that OSHA visits have put companies out of business where serious violations exist. So OSHA visits need to be taken seriously. But if the emphases of the previous two articles have been taken to heart—i.e. your top leadership buys in to the idea that Safety is the right thing to do and has set up a program that incorporates training and safe practices in the field—you have little to fear (provided your record keeping is good). If you are a company with safety at heart, then you are totally in line with OSHA's objectives and you will be able to see them as an ally.

OSHA's Focus Four

OSHA has developed a special list, the Focus Four, for the construction industry out of a very practical concern. Of all industries in the U.S., Construction ranks at the top in terms of fatal accidents. According to their statistics compiled between 1992 and 2015, Construction had the greatest number of fatal work injuries—937 of them. This exceeded the numbers for the next sector (Transportation and Warehousing) by almost 200 fatalities (over 20%).

In July and August of this year alone, OSHA reported that it had to investigate the following incidents: worker died after falling and striking head, worker fatally crushed by concrete, worker died after being struck by falling tree, worker died after falling and striking head on floor, worker killed in fall from roof, worker died after being struck by falling tree top, and worker died after being struck by falling truss—among others.

Thankfully, accidents like this don't happen to everyone all the time. But that may be a two-edged sword. Because it hasn't happened to you, or someone you know, it is easy to get complacent and not do what is necessary to prevent incidents like this from happening. But when they happen—unexpectedly—the world comes crashing down.

So, how can businesses be helped to keep this possibility—no matter how remote—in their minds and work practices
so that it is prevented from ever happening? OSHA has decided to keep it simple and concentrate on the top four culprits. This is what they refer to as the "Focus Four." Others have called them the "Fatal Four." Both terms are appropriate. Special attention to these four items is given during both the 10- and 30-hour OSHA Construction Outreach Training Program classes.

If the "carrot" of knowing that such an accident is not likely to happen in your company because you are following good safety procedures isn't enough, do know that OSHA also has a "stick." Because of its history, Construction is in their crosshairs. OSHA, in their Focus Four training materials says, "Construction is among the most dangerous industries in the country and construction inspections comprise 60% of OSHA's total inspections." This fact is borne out by this year's statistics. Construction-related incidents are prominent in the top ten violations that OSHA has cited so far in 2017.

This past September at the National Safety Council's Congress & Expo OSHA released its list of the top 10 safety violations cited in 2017. Comparing these items to OSHA's Focus Four is evidence that OSHA is, without doubt, focusing on these items.

1. Fall Protection – General Requirements
(1926.501): 6,072 violations

2. Hazard Communication (1910.1200): 4,176

3. Scaffolding (1926.451): 3,288

4. Respiratory Protection (1910.134): 3,097

5. Lockout/Tagout (1910.147): 2,877

6. Ladders (1926.1053): 2,241

7. Powered Industrial Trucks (1910.178): 2,162

8. Machine Guarding (1910.212): 1,933

9. Fall Protection – Training Requirements: 1,523

10. Electrical – Wiring Methods (1910.305): 1,405

When presenting this list, NSC President and CEO, Deborah A.P. Hersman, put it into perspective, as reported in Safety+Health magazine, “The OSHA Top 10 is more than just a list, it is a blueprint for keeping workers safe. When we all work together to address hazards, we can do the best job possible to ensure employees go home safely each day.”

At the end of the day, that's what the Focus Four is all about. That's what OSHA's inspections and citations are all about. That's what your company's safety programs are all about. We want our employees to go home safely each day.

John Nain, Nain and Associates. Nain provides safety training, safety monitoring, OSHA compliance, and accident mitigation services to business owners, including those involved in residential construction through heavy industry construction, as well as to engineering and architectural firms. Website: nainllc.com