Sometimes, OSHA seems about as popular as the IRS. For agencies and businesses that are doing their best to keep the workplace safe, it might seem like safety inspectors are just looking for a reason to issue citations and levy hefty penalties. But the Occupational Safety and Health Administration really is on a mission to reduce the number of workplace accidents and fatalities. They can accomplish this in a number of ways:
- Education (this is the best method and the whole reason our consulting company exists)
- Prevention (through penalizing employers for safety violations discovered before an injury occurs)
- Punishment (with substantial fines when an employee experiences illness or injury due to unsafe working conditions)
Recently, a Cal/OSHA engineer showed that the agency also has the ability to act in real-time to prevent an emergency from turning into a calamity.
The Orange County Fire Department and Tractel (a scaffolding company) called on Cal/OSHA for assistance when a crew of window washers got stuck on a platform. The wire rope that should have allowed the platform to be raised and lowered had begun to deteriorate. The frayed area made the rope too thick to pass through the platform’s motorized pulley system. The OSHA safety engineer on the scene was able to assist with evaluating the system including rescue ropes, brakes, and pulleys to determine the safest method to proceed with rescue. In the end, the workers were fitted with safety harnesses so that the platform could be manually moved to the rooftop and the workers could exit.
OSHA Still Has a Job to Do
Fortunately for the employees at Newport Window Cleaning, the rescue went well and no one was injured. But that doesn’t mean the story ends. OSHA will go on to investigate how the wire rope problems developed. If they find that the equipment was not appropriately inspected and maintained, the window cleaning company will likely face stiff fines.
What You Can Learn
From a safety perspective, a near miss can still lead to investigation and consequences for employers. All tools, equipment, PPE, and other safety gear must be regularly inspected and properly maintained to prevent this type of emergency situation from occurring. Never rely on luck to prevent an accident!