- Gilbane Building Co. wants the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to mandate the use of safety harnesses for any construction worker operating above 6 feet, Crain's New York Business reported.
- Gilbane said the policy, which the company instituted on its own and is stricter than OSHA's requirements, has prevented at least 20 potentially fatal falls on Gilbane jobs.
- The company, which timed its announcement to coincide with OSHA's National Safety Stand-Down this week, also requires workers using harnesses to use two attachments, rather than the OSHA-specified one attachment, so that they are always "hooked into something."
In contrast to Gilbane's proposal, federal OSHA does not require the use of harnesses for steelworkers unless they're working 25 feet or higher. Scaffold workers above 10 feet high must connect to a harness but are only required to use one attachment. Contracting giant Lendlease said it has a similar harness policy to Gilbane's.
Gilbane and Lendlease are in line with other leading industry firms that make safety a priority in their companies. This week, Skanska USA CEO told Construction Dive that he considers safety the top challenge in construction, and emphasized his commitment to Safety Week's goals of drawing attention to safety issues.
This week marks OSHA's National Safety Stand-Down To Prevent Falls in Construction as well as Safety Week 2016. According to OSHA, falls are the leading cause of construction deaths, and the agency emphasizes that all of those deaths are preventable. OSHA uses the stand-down week to raise awareness of falls as a major cause of death among construction workers and to inform employers and employees about ways to prevent them.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, private construction fatalities increased 9% to 899 in 2014, the highest number since 2008. In New York City, according to a New York Times report, construction deaths have risen as the city experiences a building boom, and immigrant workers represented a disproportionate number of those killed on the job site.