Federal Safety Enforcement may Lessen Number of Injured Workers

When the California Division of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s inspectors are out and about, they keep their eyes open for unsafe workplace environments. If they come across sites at which it is evident that workers are in danger of being injured, they have the authority to issue stop-work orders. In their efforts to lessen the numbers of injured workers, Cal/OSHA will only allow work to continue when potential safety hazards have been addressed.

In April, Cal/OSHA inspectors found an 11-foot trench that was not shored and that exposed workers to the dangers of cave-ins. The two companies that were involved in the construction project were instructed to cease all operations until the severe hazard of potential trench collapse was adequately addressed. However, both companies willfully disregarded the stop-work order and restarted construction activities within three weeks — without addressing the life-threatening hazard.

Cal/OSHA did not leave it there, but cited both companies for willful violations and proposed hefty fines. In addition to exposing workers to cave-in hazards, inspectors also found unguarded wall openings and floor openings along with rebar ends that were exposed but also unguarded. Enforcement of federal safety regulations on this worksite may have saved some lives.

The manner in which these companies clearly disregarded worker safety is unacceptable, and their employees will likely continue to face safety hazards. If accidents occur, injured workers in California may pursue workers’ compensation benefits that will provide some level of financial relief. In addition to compensation for lost wages and medical expenses, the program also offers additional compensation for workers who may have suffered injuries that caused disabilities.

Source: safetynewsalert.com, “Companies ignore stop-work order; now they face $305K in fines“, Fred Hosier, Oct. 21, 2015

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