Recent NC Construction Tragedy Highlights Risks Posed by Decline in Workplace Safety Inspections

On January 2nd, three construction workers were killed in a scaffolding collapse in Charlotte, North Carolina. This tragedy has left three families grieving the loss of their loved ones due to the state’s lax workplace safety protocols.

Prior to the fatal accident, North Carolina safety inspectors knew little about the construction site and never inspected the scaffolding. This highlights the sharp decline in North Carolina occupational safety inspections in recent years and the significant rise in workplace accidents and fatalities – specifically impacting Latino males.

With the state struggling to hire and retain inspectors, the number of occupational safety and health inspections fell 54% from fiscal 2013 to fiscal year 2022. Over a quarter of the department’s 109 workplace safety officer positions are currently vacant. As a result, some employers overlook safety hazards and fail to provide proper training, with workers paying the devastating toll.

This could particularly impact those who use mast climber scaffolds, which can easily become overloaded and result in serious injuries.

How Often Should a Scaffold be Inspected?

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), scaffolding structures should be rigorously inspected before each work shift and after any occurrence that could impact its structural integrity. The inspection should only be conducted by someone qualified to do so.

Who is Authorized to Inspect a Scaffold?

An employer may assign the task of inspecting a scaffold to a “user-trained worker” as long as they qualify as a “competent person,” which is defined as one who is “capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards in the surroundings or working conditions which are unsanitary, hazardous, or dangerous to employees, and who has the authorization to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them” under §1926.450(b).

What are the Most Commonly Cited OSHA Violations?

According to OSHA, the top 10 most cited violations of 2022 are the following:

  1. Fall protection
  2. Hazard communication
  3. Ladders
  4. Respiratory protection
  5. Scaffolding
  6. Lockout/Tagout
  7. Powered industrial trucks
  8. Fall protection – training requirements
  9. Personal protective and lifesaving equipment – eye and face protection
  10. Machine Guarding

A complete list of 2023 OSHA violations is available to employers and employees on its website.

Protecting the Hardworking People of the North and South

Construction workers should not put their lives on the line to do their jobs. With the proper inspection, training, and safety protocols, North Carolina can eliminate workplace hazards and save lives. Unfortunately, North Carolina has neglected to make this happen, putting workers at risk of severe injury and death.

The compassionate workers’ compensation and wrongful death attorneys at Grimes Teich Anderson are ready to step up and protect the rights of construction workers and their families statewide. In these uncertain times, you need an attorney and an advocate.

Contact us today by submitting a form below or calling our office at 800-533-6845 for a free legal consultation.

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