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Fall protection tops OSHA violations list

Employers in California and around the country are more likely to be cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for fall protection violations than any other workplace safety issue according to a report from the National Safety Council. The nonprofit advocacy group brings attention to safety matters in the United States and focuses much of its efforts on workplace accident prevention. The completed report is scheduled to be released in December, but experts do not expect the final draft to differ substantially from the preliminary version that was issued in September.

Fall protection is taken seriously by OSHA because falls remain a leading cause of workplace deaths. Data from the federal safety agency reveals that 350 of the 937 construction site deaths in 2015 were caused by falls, and four of OSHA's most commonly cited violations are specific to the agency's construction sector regulations. Construction companies are commonly cited for failing to provide adequate fall protection, not installing proper guardrails or scaffolding, using ladders improperly and failing to provide their workers with adequate fall protection training.

Ignoring workplace safety violations can lead to stiff penalties for employers, and a Florida roofing company was fined in excess of $1.5 million for repeated fall protection violations. The company will also be subjected to more severe scrutiny in the future under OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program. The agency may also make examples of persistent violators by issuing press releases detailing their safety lapses and the penalties they could face.

Employers may face lawsuits as well as workers' compensation claims when injuries have been caused by unsafe working conditions. While the workers' compensation program was designed in part to protect employers from such litigation, lawsuits may instead be filed by personal injury attorneys with experience in this area when employers have recklessly disregarded their duty of care.

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