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OSHA’s Adding Inequality to Injury – Not What We Thought!

Adding Inequality to Injury

In March, OSHA released a report detailing what they call the true cost of not protecting employees.  This report goes far beyond the usual business case for safety that most of us are taught to make when we first assume a title that includes the word “safety”.  In that business case, we are taught about direct versus indirect costs (remember the iceberg?  Direct costs are the tip that you can see (medical costs and wages), and the indirect costs (like retraining, lost production, counseling, etc.) that amount to four times as much as the direct costs are hiding beneath the surface.  So, when you first see this title, you couldn’t be blamed if you expected a re-hashing of that idea.  I certainly did.

Not Quite What We Expected

Yet, delving into this report, it was clear that that wasn’t the angle OSHA was going for.  They were looking far beyond that.  In fact, they were looking at not what costs the employer bears, but what costs – what burdens – are borne by the injured employee and society as a whole.  Sounds lofty, but the information is compelling.

The report starts where most reports on occupational health and safety begin: with the fact that thousands of workers are killed in the US each year and millions more are injured.  This is not news.  What is news is the fact that in a country whose states have been implementing worker’s compensation systems for decades, the injured employees, their families, and taxpayer-supported programs are still paying most of the costs.  In fact, workers are bearing about 50% of the financial burden straight out of their pockets, while worker’s compensation only covers 21%. 

Getting to the Heart of the Issue

The report goes on to tie this fact to income inequality.

The report goes on to tie this fact to income inequality.  According to OSHA, these injuries occur more often to low-income earners (because they tend to have the more dangerous jobs) whose career advancements are, subsequently, hindered by their physical and/or emotional limitations.  As a result, these same people can’t break free from a lower economic class because the financial burdens they are forced to absorb are too great.  The report points to a study done in New Mexico that shows that injured workers earn 15% less over the ten years following their injuries than they would have if they hadn’t been injured…on average, $31,000.

All of this is attributed to a few things.  First, it has become increasingly difficult to get the full payout due an injured worker due to changes in the states’ worker’s compensation systems (and that’s in instances where the system is actually being used – only 40% of eligible injured workers apply for the benefits).  The reasoning for these changes probably depends on your political point of view with one side of the fence blaming greedy corporations sticking it to the little people while the other side would blame the need for tighter restrictions because of all of the fraud and abuse of the system.  In reality, the truth – as always – is probably somewhere in between.

Also, the misclassification of wage employees as independent contractors as well as the vastly increased use of temporary workers has changed the work landscape so that companies are not responsible for providing worker’s compensation insurance.  Add to this that these companies feel freed from the need to provide safe working conditions and/or training since these are not technically their employees and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

While it may be easy to turn a blind eye to this as something that doesn’t affect you, the reality is that it does.  Those injured employees falling through the cracks of worker’s compensation insurance programs end up enrolling in SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) and Medicare.  The payer of those programs?  You, the taxpayer.

Who is really being injured by workplace injuries?

The conclusion?  More effort needs to be put into injury and illness prevention.   There is no better solution than keeping these tragedies from happening in the first place and, despite 40 years of an obligation to provide a safe work environment, many companies still fail.  The report suggests that worker’s compensation programs need to work to remove the roadblocks to proper pay as well.  In the end, the report shows that the cost is great – not just to the employer as we are traditionally taught, but to the injured and the taxpayer.

Safely Using Safety Equipment - Lessons from NYC’s Massive Subway Project

Subway Guardrail

New York City is in the middle of a huge underground excavation project that has been going on for years. The pictures from the subterranean world are dramatic and have found their way onto websites and news magazines around the world. As a safety professional, you can't help but notice the massive usage of guardrail in the project. That being said, you probably also can't help but notice how unsafe it is!

The picture above is a great example. The railing system pictured is meant to be used on flat surfaces with specific "returns" that keep the system counterbalanced. Certainly they serve as a "warning" that there is an edge there, but beyond that I'm not sure that they would come close to stopping a fall or meeting the OSHA top rail loading requirements.

This is the kind of "lip service" to safety that can become deadly on a job site. Certainly it appears that there is a railing there, but the reality is, it's still probably very unsafe and would not prevent a fall if someone where to back into the system.

Subway Guardrail

Subway Guardrail

Safety equipment that is not used according to manufacture's specifications is no longer safety equipment! Rather it is an accident waiting to happen. Be sure to follow safety equipment instructions or else you may be creating a deceptive hazard instead of providing safety for the worker.

Remember Those Who Gave Their Lives “On the Job”

For memorial day our family is headed to San Francisco to take in the sights. I was doing some research and came across this movie produced by Bethlehem Steel, one of the primary contractors for the Golden Gate Bridge. The movie itself is facinating, but I've embedded it at 20 min. 35 sec. where it starts to talk about the fall protection methods that were used in the construction of the bridge.

Golden Gate Bridge Construction Fall Protection

You'll be amazed at the fall protection methodologies employed, and even in spite of these measures 24 people died during the bridge's construction.

I think you'll agree that fall protection has made a lot of progress over the year. OSHA and other organizations have helped to introduce standards that make work safer. As you celebrate Memorial Day, remember the men and women who gave their lives in their line of work. Remembering their loss may help us to be more proactive about creating safe working environments so that more families can spend next Memorial Day together!

Railing Needed for Rooftop OSHA Violation [Before & After]

OSHA Railing for Rooftop - Spot Protection

It happens to the best of us! Your inspecting the work site and you discover an issue of non-compliance. This is what happened to a recent customer. They had four spots on their roof that were clear OSHA violations. OSHA requires that workers exposed to a fall hazard MUST have fall protection. Industry standard says that protection must be in place for anyone working within 15 feet of the roof edge. The best solution, and the simplest, is to install roof edge guard railing around the trouble spots to eliminate the fall hazard completely.

OSHA Railing for Rooftop - Spot Protection

A member of our staff flew to site an met with the customer to consult about the rooftop railing arrangement. We helped identify the areas of the roof that absolutely required fall protection railing. For budgetary purposes, they could only apply protection where it was absolutely necessary. Our sale engineer identified four key areas that are pictured in this blog post. Each section shows a before and after of the section that was being protected with KeeGuard roof edge railing.

OSHA Railing for Rooftop - Spot Protection

The customer was very pleased with the speed of delivery and the service that was provided. They were able to assemble the railing on site very quickly and advert a problem with OSHA. Here's what he had to say about our service:

We had an OSHA issue that needed a fast response. Dan helped guide me along the way - even flying 1/2 way across the country to first hand review the project. Once on site, in only took 20 minutes for myself and an operator to clearly understand the assembly of the system. We proceeded to install 4 sections of railing totaling 168 feet with 4 men in 2 days.

OSHA Railing for Rooftop - Spot Protection

What's the moral of this cautionary tale? Don't wait till OSHA shows up at your door step to ensure that the proper fall protection measures are in place. Our customer was interested in protecting their workers and took proactive steps to keep people safe! (Way to go Bob!)

We recognize that surprises do happen, so the secondary lesson is this: if you get a surprise from OSHA, Simplified Safety has your back. Call our sales engineers and we will work closely with your team to provide the best fall protection solution that fits your budget and satisfies the fall protection criteria.

Pallet Gates for Work Platforms [Case Study]

Pallet Gates on Work Platform

Pallet Gates are typically found on mezzanines, but they can be used in other industrial applications. This pallet gate was used on a work platform that was built around an industrial mixing platform. The pallet gate allows for items to be lifted onto the platform (e.g. pallets of materials to be put into the mixer) while at the same time providing safe access to the people working on the platform.

Pallet Gates on Work Platform - Side View

These pallet gates were installed onto an existing work platform with the addition of fall protection railing. OSHA requires that general industry employees working at a height greater than four feet have adequate fall protection. Adding safety railing and pallet gates to these work platforms brought the system into compliance and provided a safer working area for employees.

Pallet Gates on Work Platform - Gate View

Pallet gates are special safety gates that open only from the outside. This allows pallets and other items to be pushed into the working area with a fork lift. The gates do not swing in the outward direction. Pallet gates come in two standard sizes, but custom options are available. To find out more about our pallet and mezzanine gates, please visit this page: Pallet Gates

Safety Railing for Sloped Rooftop

Sloped Roof Fall Protection

Unprotected sloped rooftops can allow fall-related worker fatalities to occur on your time clock. As a safety personnel or building maintenance manager, it is your number one priority to protect your employees from bodily harm to the best of your abilities. In fact, the law states that you are required to implement an OSHA-certified safety management program for your employees working at heights. However, many companies refuse to abide by OSHA's guidelines, and the organization lists construction fall protection as the second most frequently cited violation in 2011. Because falls contributed to 34 percent of the total deaths of construction workers in 2010, the absence of a sloped roof railing is something that your company cannot afford to do business without.

Introducing the OSHA Exceeding, Free Standing KeeGuard Safety Rails for Sloped Roof

Railing for Sloped Roof

Unlike other sloped roof guardrails, our KeeGuard safety rails for sloped roofs offers an advanced technological design that does not penetrate the roof's membrane. This patented system features pre-fabricated modular panels that eliminate the need for drilling, welding or threading into the roof. The KeeGuard fall protection system also includes special pads along the bottom of the kickboard fittings that provide an additional layer of protection against roof damaage. Best of all, our KeeGuard system exceeds OSHA standards for roof fall prevention.

KeeGuard Sloped Roof Guardrail Ease of Installation

Sloped Roof Railing

In years past, installing a sloped roof guardrail was a tedious, time-consuming endeavor. However, our KeeGuard roof fall protection system has transformed the process into a simple event that can be performed by two workers without any specialized training. In fact, the workers can install 600 linear feet of the system in one, 8-hour day. The workers simply attach the ready-made pipe railings together with an allen wrench and torque wrench to secure them into place along the edges of the roof. The workers then connect the pipe railings to the rubber-padded bases with the same tools to anchor the system in place for either temporary or permanent use.

Multi-Level Sloped Roof Protection

Multi-Level Sloped Roof Railing

Our KeeGuard sloped roof guardrail system provides multi-level sloped roof protection. Notice how our system easily locks into place over the skylights along the lower level while simultaneously providing the upper deck of the roof with worker fall protection.

The KeeGuard Sloped Roof Railing Protects the Roof's Point of Entry

Sloped Roof Entry Protection

Most worker falls happen at a sloped roof's point of entry. Therefore, our KeeGuard system serves as a visual guide to prepare your workers for safer access on and off of the roof. We also provide optional, self-closing safety gates to ensure that your workers are better protected from falls while working near the roof's entry and exit locations.

KeeGuard Provides All-Encompassing or Pre-Designated Area Sloped Roof Protection

Fall Protection for Sloped Roof

Whether you need all-encompassing or pre-designated sloped roof railings, our roof fall protection system can adapt to fulfill your immediate needs. All of the system's components can be hoisted onto your roof with a crane for installation. Contact us now to learn how easy it is to install a KeeGuard fall protection system to comply with OSHA standards and protect your workers from potentially fatal falls today.

Find out more about KeeGuard Rooftop Railing System


Theatrical Stage Railing - Heidelberg Castle

Heidelberg Castle Stage Railing

Safety is important for every industry, and theatrical work is no exception. This railing installed at Heidelberg Castle on a stage where actors perform. The safety railing is painted black to help it blend in and be unobtrusive. Despite it's color it still fulfills its primary function of helping prevent falls from the back of the stage.

Heidelberg Castle Stage Railing

This particular railing is made from Kee Klamp railing fittings. This makes the railing modular, so sections can be added and removed as needed. Kee Klamp railing fittings connect with the use of a set screw and have other applications in the theater industry besides safety railing.

Heidelberg Castle Stage Railing

See our safety railing section for more information about railing systems that will help protect workers in every industry.

4000 Feet of Safety Railing Installed at PGE Arena in Gdańsk, Poland

Kee Klamp Railing at Polish Soccer Stadium

PGE arena is home to many of the EURO 2012 European football matches that are going on right now (written June, 26, 2012). When building the stadium in 2011 they turned to Kee Lite aluminum pipe railing to build the nearly 4,000 feet of safety railing that surround this modern sports arena.

Kee Klamp Railing at Polish Soccer Stadium

Built to endure the test of time, safety railing constructed with Kee railing fittings offers a high quality alternative to welded railing. Welded railing, and it's tendency to rust, means that costly investments will not last long (see comparison). At PGE arena, not only did they use aluminum (a metal highly resistant to corrosion), they also powder coated the entire railing black, adding aesthetic beauty and additional durability.

Kee Klamp Railing at Polish Soccer Stadium

The picture above, taken during construction of the arena, shows how the railing was mounted using base flanges attached to concrete pads. These pads and flanges were then covered over with brickwork to create a finished look (see below).

Kee Klamp Railing at Polish Soccer Stadium

The end product was an epic installation of safety railing that spanned nearly 4,000 feet. Safety railing built with Kee Lite fittings will provide them with a high quality, long lasting, easy to maintain railing solution that will keep facilities personal and fans happy for many matches to come.

Kee Klamp Railing at Polish Soccer Stadium

To find out more about our safety railing solutions visit our product gallery. Our projects team can help you specify and design a railing that will provide the proper amount of fall protection for your facility.