Fall Protection in Construction Industry
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Throughout the twentieth century, the construction industry has achieved unfortunate notoriety as one of the most potentially hazardous in terms of occupational risk for workers employed in the field. In the early 1900s, it was the rapid proliferation of injuries and fatalities in this field that played a significant role in galvanizing the movement for federal regulations ensuring worker’s compensation and protection.
Occupational Health and Safety Act
The next major milestone in worker safety in the United States occurred in 1970 with the passage of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, which established a government agency to regulate workplace safety, namely, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA). Congress developed the legislation creating and empowering OSHA in response to statistics that reported that in the 1960s, workers were becoming injured, disabled, and afflicted with occupation-related diseases at an alarming rate.
Although the rates of occupational illness had diminished radically in the years since workman’s compensation was implemented, the federal government held that the annual averages of 300,000 cases of occupational diseases, 2.5 million instances of worker disability, and 14,000 work-related deaths were far too excessive for a nation with the economic resources of America.
Although studies have shown that OSHA has been effective in reducing occupational injuries since its inception in 1970, the agency has also been criticized for its shortcomings. Critics of OSHA assert that the agency is too focused on administering the punitive function of its duties, instead of maintaining an equal balance between developing new occupational safety and health standards and techniques, monitoring industry safety practices, and correcting those companies who fail to adhere to OSHA standards.
In many instances, OSHA regulations have become so labyrinthine and complex that many firms employ multiple persons whose sole responsibility involves ensuring compliance with OSHA regulations. Public observers have also noted that the broad scope of OSHA’s prescribed duties often prevents them from providing the proper degree of follow-up in some cases, allowing potentially hazardous conditions to flourish for years between site visits. Although worker health and safety has undoubtedly improved in the post-OSHA era, the agency has not yet achieved a level of balance in the administration of their duties that is equally satisfactory to both workers and employers.