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Fall protection and trench safety top priorities for OSHA

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration continues to focus on fall protection and trench safety. These two categories represent important issues for construction workers in North Carolina and elsewhere because falls and trench collapses cause severe injuries that can often be fatal.

The safety agency has identified falls as a primary cause of fatalities on construction sites. In 2015, 350 of the 937 reported deaths at those workplaces occurred because of people falling. Safety inspectors use fines to punish and potentially correct employers with lax attitudes about worker safety. Repeat offenses especially raise the likelihood of fines. The multiple violations of fall-protection rules committed by one roofing contractor resulted in a fine in excess of $1.5 million. OSHA also stepped up its monitoring of the contractor by placing it within the Severe Violator Enforcement Program.

Employers that ignore rules about trench safety risk high fines as well. An incident in which debris covered a worker caused the agency to fine the contractor $95,000. The worker survived the collapse, but the employer had not provided adequate protection systems to prevent such accidents.

Most employers are required to have workers' compensation coverage to provide benefits to employees who are injured on the job or who develop an occupational disease. Employers, however, sometimes discourage workers from filing a claim. In other cases, they or their insurance provider dispute or deny the claim. As a result, it might be advisable for potential claimants to have the assistance of an attorney early on in the process in order to ensure that the claim contains all required information and that it is filed on a timely basis.

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