OSHA Proposes Rule to Clarify PPE Standards to Protect Smaller-Stature Workers


The U.S. Dept. of Labor is working to clarify standards for personal protective equipment – PPE – to make sure smaller construction workers are adequately protected.

The current standard, according to Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Doug Parker, doesn’t clearly state that PPE must fit each affected employee properly. The proposed change, he says would clarify that PPE must fit each employee properly to protect them from occupational hazards.

“For some time now, the failure of standard-sized personal protective equipment to protect smaller construction workers properly has been a concern,” Parker said. “Access to properly fitting PPE has also been a concern in the construction industry, particularly for many women. If personal protective equipment does not fit properly, a worker may be unprotected or dangerously exposed to hazards and face tragic consequences.”

Individuals are encouraged to submit comments and hearing requests online by Sept. 18 by using the Federal eRulemaking Portal and reference Docket No. OSHA-2019-0003.

Guarantee Electrical Company Receives OSHA VPP Star Designation

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has awarded Guarantee Electrical Company its Star Worksite designation as part of the agency’s Voluntary Protection Program (VPP). The three-year designation covers the company’s mobile workforce at its Colorado worksites, including its office in Colorado Springs, where Guarantee does business as Berwick Electric Company.

The VPP Star, OSHA’s highest level of recognition, recognizes employers and workers in private industry and federal agencies who implemented and maintained safety and health management systems, reporting injury and illness rates below industry averages held by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The VPP program brings company management, site employees and OSHA together to work cooperatively and proactively to prevent fatalities, injuries and illnesses by focusing on hazard prevention and control, worksite analysis, training, management commitment and worker involvement.

The certification is awarded after an application is vetted and rigorous evaluation by OSHA safety experts is done onsite.

“The path to OSHA’s VPP Mobile Workforce Star in Colorado has been both challenging and inspiring,” said Todd Cook, Director of Safety, Guarantee Electrical Company. “Guarantee’s safety and health systems fit perfectly into the VPP model and enhances our mission of continuous improvement. We are so proud of our entire Western Region team for achieving this impressive recognition.” 

“It takes real commitment to workplace safety by an employer to earn Star designation in OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Program,” said OSHA Regional Administrator Jennifer Rous. “Guarantee Electrical shows how company culture, management commitment, employee engagement, and close working relationships with unions can create and maintain a safer and healthier workplace.”

OSHA Representatives Steve Biasi presented Rachel Watson, Guarantee’s Western Region Field Safety Director, the award on behalf of Guarantee. “Ultimately, it’s our partners in the field that deserves the kudos. They are the ones out there every day on job sites working in potentially hazardous situations. Without them committing to safety and committing to being proactive, this process becomes impossible.” said Rachel after accepting the award. Senior Vice President Jeremy Wilson, Field Safety Director Rachel Watson, Safety Specialist Dave Barry from the Colorado Springs office, and Project Safety Coordinator Jorge Gutierrez accepted the VPP Flag from OSHA.

“At Guarantee, we believe a positive well-being is our foundation,” said Rich Ledbetter, Chief Executive Officer, Guarantee Electrical Company. “Our entire Western Region lived those words on the way to VPP Star Status. Our team demonstrated commitment and resiliency – the very qualities needed to operate a safe organization. They earned this designation, and their ongoing commitment serves as a shining example of the confluence of safety, quality, and productivity in the industry. I’m so grateful for the entire team and their commitment toward creating an environment where safety is a top priority.”

OSHA Virtual Memorial Wall Honors Fallen Workers


OSHA encourages individuals to share photographs of loved ones lost due to a work-related incident on the agency’s virtual Workers Memorial Wall.

The page, located at https://www.osha.gov/workers-memorial, was developed in partnership with the United Support & Memorial for Workplace Fatalities.

Close-up photos of the faces of individuals who lost their lives while working in construction activities can be accessed via the virtual memorial. Tonya Ford, U.S. Dept. of Labor and OSHA family liaison, says she, too, lost someone dear to her due to a work incident in 2009.

Also at https://www.osha.gov/workers-memorial, OSHA offers a PDF version of its 2023 resource, “Losing A Loved One on the Job,” in English and Spanish.

In OSHA Region 7 (Missouri), the agency’s regional office, 816,283,8745, offers additional support to families grieving such a loss. In OSHA Region 5 (Illinois), that number is 312.353.2220.

More resources and information can be found at www.usmwf.org.

Contractors Continue Safety Transition from Hard Hats to Helmets

Contractors Continue Safety Transition from Hard Hats to Helmets

By KERRY SMITH, St. Louis Construction News and Review Magazine

Although OSHA regulations do not yet mandate it, a growing number of commercial contractors are making the transition from hard hats to helmets as an investment in heightened jobsite safety.

McCarthyHoldings,Inc. is preparing to complete the transition from standard hard hats to helmets for all trade partners on the firm’s construction sites. This comes as an extension to McCarthy’s 2022 transition to helmets for its more than 6,000 salaried and craft employees. The contractor’s proactive decision is expected to significantly reduce the impact and lessen the frequency of future injuries and accidents. On July 1, McCarthy will begin requiring all trade partners to wear helmets.

Clayco’s subsidiary, Concrete Strategies, is continuing a pilot effort it began in the spring of 2021 is doing a pilot to replace hard hats with helmets in the field. 

Trade associations are also following suit. The American Society of Concrete Contractors – the nation’s nonprofit association for cast-in-place concrete contractors – says momentum is gaining nationally to replace traditional hard hats with helmets.

From a cost standpoint, the expenditure is approximately 10 times more. Contractor helmets range from $100 to $125 apiece, compared with hard hats which cost $10 to $15 each. But the long-term safety benefits are clear, according to OSHA’s Scott Ketcham, who oversees the agency’s Directorate of Construction.

“Helmets attach more closely to the head with built-in chin straps and have little to no brim around the edge,” Ketcham said. “There is protective padding inside the helmet as well. Hard hats protect against injury from falling objects, but helmets also protect against blows from the side. They are more likely to remain in place during falls, trips and slips.”

Over time, the hard hat’s polyethylene shells are subject to weakening from substances such as paints, paint thinners and some cleaning agents, he added. While hard hats are tested to withstand a force of 1,000 pounds – equivalent to an eight-pound ball dropped from a height of five feet onto the top of the hard hat – construction safety helmets protect against greater impact from above and from the side, according to OSHA.

Helmets also offer workers increased protection from electrocution and noise.

In 2017, Clark Construction became one of the first contractors to require employees to wear helmets instead of hard hats. An increase in falls and traumatic brain injuries prompted the company to make the switch.

OSHA Tightening Trenching Standards Amidst Fatality Increases in 2022


The U.S. Dept. of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration announces enhanced enforcement amidst a dramatic increase in U.S. trench-related fatalities during 2022.

During the first half of 2022, according to OSHA, more workers have died in trenching and excavation work than during all of 2021.

A total of 22 workers lost their lives in trenching and excavation work from January through June of this year, surpassing a total of 15 deaths during all 12 months of last year.

In keeping with its National Emphasis Program for excavations, OSHA compliance officers will perform more than 1,000 trench inspections on jobsites across the country before 2022 has concluded, according to Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Doug Parker.

“OSHA is calling on all employers engaged in trenching and excavation activities to act immediately to ensure that required protections are fully in place every single time their employees step down into or work near a trench,” Parker said. “In a matter of seconds, workers can be crushed and buried under thousands of pounds of soil and rocks in an unsafe trench. The alarming increase in the number of workers needlessly dying and suffering serious injuries in trenching accidents must be stopped.”

Parker cited a recent double tragedy in Central Texas in late June wherein two workers aged 20 and 39 were killed when the unprotected trench more than 20 feet deep collapsed upon them as they worked. Trench shields, which could have saved their lives, Parker said, sat unused beside the excavation site.

“By some estimates, one cubic yard of soil can weigh as much as 3,000 pounds,” he said, “which is equal to the weight of a compact car.”

A Blue Springs, MO contractor is facing nearly $800,000 in OSHA fines for repeated trenching and other safety violations. OSHA’s trenching standards require protective systems on trenches deeper than five feet. Soil and other materials must be kept at least two feet from the edge of a trench.

In addition to increased site inspections, OSHA is offering employers its On-Site Consultation Program, a free and confidential resource to assist them in developing strategic approaches for addressing trench-related illnesses and injuries in workplaces.

For more information, call 800-321-OSHA or go to https://www.osha.gov/Consultation.