OSHA Targets North Dakota Homebuilders Regarding Falls
Spurred by its significant population growth in the past decade, North Dakota experienced the nation's largest increase in housing units – nearly 20 percent – over the same period. As the demand for new homes brings more jobs and construction projects to the state, employers must be vigilant in protecting workers from hazards on construction work sites.
As residential construction projects continue to escalate, the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration reminds employers and workers about preventing falls from elevation – the industry's most dangerous hazard. OSHA's Bismarck office has conducted 23 fall protection inspections so far this year.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2020 that 1,061 construction workers died on the job, 401 of which died after falling from elevation in 2019. In fiscal year 2020, the lack of fall protection in construction was the most frequently cited standard by OSHA inspectors, a violation also found at some North Dakota residential construction sites.
“We count on the men and women who work in the residential construction industry to build safe homes in our communities, yet too many employers expose these workers to potentially deadly hazards,” said OSHA Area Director Scott Overson in Bismarck, North Dakota. “Construction employers have a responsibility to follow the law, train workers on job site hazards and provide them with protective equipment to make sure they end their work day safely.”
During the 2020 construction season, OSHA's Bismarck office conducted 91 fall hazard inspections and proposed $745,813 in penalties for violations of fall protection standards. The agency has cited two Bismarck contractors repeatedly for fall safety violations, accounting for 79 percent of those penalties. Between March and June of 2020, OSHA inspected Mario Construction's job sites four times resulting in penalties of $271,092. From December 2019 to July of 2020, the agency inspected Cunyas Roofing LLC five times and assessed $298,193 in proposed penalties.
“OSHA observed these two companies repeatedly allowing employees to work at heights greater than 6 feet above a lower level,” Overson said. “Employers who willfully ignore safety regulations are failing in their responsibility to protect workers on the job and putting them at risk of serious injury or worse.”
OSHA's On-Site Consultation Program provides no-cost and confidential occupational safety and health compliance assistance to small- and medium-sized businesses on all safety and health regulations. Consultation services are separate from enforcement and do not result in penalties or citations. The OSHA Training Institute Education Centers offer courses for workers, employers, and managers on hazard recognition and abatement at convenient locations nationwide.