As we honored the achievements and rights of America’s workers on Labor Day this past Monday, we at the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration continue the agency’s 53-year tradition of protecting the nation’s workers by encouraging employers, large and small, to make safety and health a core value in every workplace in the nation.
Federal law provides every person who works in the United States the fundamental right to safe and healthful working conditions regardless of race, gender, age, nationality, immigration status or the language spoken. To protect these rights, employers must have effective workplace safety programs in place to control hazards associated with that particular industry, such as falls from heights – which continues to be the construction industry’s deadliest hazard.
The risk of fatal or disabling falls exists whenever employers fail to provide legally required safeguards. In our region, there are some employers willing to gamble with their employees’ lives such as The Roof Kings LLC, a Quincy roofing contractor. In September 2022, OSHA cited the company for exposing workers at a Mattapan worksite to potentially fatal falls, which was the 5th time OSHA has cited this employer for fall hazards since 2014.
Just a few months later, OSHA opened an inspection in December 2022 where inspectors observed employees exposed to falls of up to 18 feet as they removed shingles from an unprotected two-story roof. While no injuries occurred during these inspections, the risk was real and present.
Workplace safety is not a game of chance, its outcome depending on whether an employer chooses to protect or risk its employees’ well-being each day. The law requires all employers to train workers to recognize and avoid workplace hazards, including falls from heights. Employers should plan ahead to do the job safely, train employees properly and provide them with required fall protection and other safety equipment.
Incidents such as this remind us why we must demand that workplace culture focus on the importance of employee safety and its positive effects on worker safety and morale. When hazards are ignored, workers should never accept the unsafe conditions as “part of the job.” Workers should feel comfortable sharing safety concerns with their employer. When employers ignore their responsibility or retaliate against employees, OSHA’s recently expanded team of investigators in its Whistleblower Protection Program are available to ensure workers can exercise their rights.
In concert with our enforcement efforts, OSHA offers compliance assistance to employers and workers to improve workplace safety and health. For small businesses concerned about the expense of a review to identify and address safety and health hazards, we offer a no-cost and confidential visit from professionals in OSHA’s On-Site Consultation Program, who can help design and establish or improve safety and health programs.
Every worker in our nation has the right to end each workday safe and healthy. OSHA exists to protect and enforce their rights by preventing employee injuries, illnesses and deaths. As we mark another Labor Day, everyone at OSHA encourages employers and employees alike to commit themselves to making safety and health a bedrock value at work.