The safety record of contractors often comes under scrutiny. General contractors and host employers review the programs, workers' comp records and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) citations of the subcontractors they hire. Have you ever wondered how the electrical construction industry measures up?
Although comp records and company programs are generally unavailable to the public, this is not true of the OSHA records. OSHA inspection results are on the Web site (http://www.osha.gov/oshstats/index.html). This article will compare trades using this Web data, offering insight into those safety areas where electrical contractors seem to have a problem.
This information is presented to stimulate thought on safety and motivate action that will improve the statistics. There are a number of factors to consider for a true evaluation. For example, citations issued for a given standard are related to the work performed. Clearly, the potential exists for an electrical contractor to be cited more frequently for a violation of a standard than a masonry contractor.
Overall, the electrical construction industry did not fair well with OSHA in 2003-2004. Based on the number of citations issued, electrical contractors ranked ninth with 1,691 citations. By comparison, the top two industries were masonry construction and roofing, siding and sheet metal construction. Both are highly visible and frequently work on elevated surfaces; fall hazards are the leading cause of fatalities in the construction industry.
The No. 1 and No. 2 most frequently cited standards for electrical contractors were 1926.405 Electrical Wiring Methods, Components and Equipment, General Use, and 1926.403 Electrical, General Requirements. By comparison, our industry led the way in citations with 376 citations for violation of methods, components and equipment and 216 for the general requirements. This should come as no surprise. However, general contractors came in second for both standards with 218 and 83 citations respectively.
When you begin to look at hazards not directly related to electricity, electrical contractors fare better in the rankings. The No. 4 violation for our industry was 1926.453 Manually Propelled Mobile Ladder Stands and Scaffolds. There were 104 citations issued. This placed the industry at sixth in the ranking. In comparison, roofers were first with 138, general contractors fourth, carpenters fifth, painters seventh and masons ninth. The No. 5 violation for electrical construction was 1926.501 Fall Protection Scope/
Application/Definition. For this standard, electrical contractors were not in the top 10 violator standings. The industry was 12th with only 86 citations falling behind the roofers with 1,494, carpenters 667, general contractors 612, masons 292, plasterers 145, and plumbers 140.
Unfortunately, looking at the next most frequently cited standard, 1926.1053 Ladders, electrical contractors again return to being one of the top 10 violators of that standard. Electrical contractors received 65 citations, a ninth-place ranking. By contrast the top violator-roofers-received 592 citations and the No. 10 violator-structural steel erectors-received 56 citations for ladder offenses.
The seventh standard that electrical contractors violated most frequently was 1926.416 Electrical Safety-Related Work Practices. Again the obvious occurred, electrical contractors led all other industries with the most citations. Scaffolding was next on the electrical contractor list. However, the industry was not one of the top 10 trades that violated this standard. We were No. 14.
The last two standards reviewed were 1926.20 Construction, General Safety and Health Provisions and 1926.1052 Stairways. These are the last of the top 10 standards most frequently cited by the electrical construction industry. They are also standards that raise the greatest concern when the industry is compared with all other trades. Consider that general safety deals with such things as having an accident-prevention program. Stairways need to be traversed equally by almost all trades. Yet, electrical construction was ranked as ninth in the list of the trades that most frequently violated stairway rules and sixth for general safety.
Based on this comparison alone, the thought should be that electrical contractors must do a better job at safety. Before getting defensive and trying to rationalize the figures, remember the purpose of this article. Does it really matter why an effort is made to reduce citations and improve safety? Focus your energy on reviewing the standards identified and what it takes to comply. These standards were developed to reduce accidents and save lives. Any action taken to better comply is well worthwhile. Knowing those standards that are most frequently cited helps to establish a priority to your efforts. Having a goal of reducing citations below the current level or below the other trades offers a target for improvement. EC
O’CONNOR is with Intec, a safety consulting, training and publishing firm that offers on-site assistance and produces manuals, training videos and software for contractors. Based in Waverly, Pa., he can be reached at 607.624.7159 or firstname.lastname@example.org.