When I read the other day that OSHA penalties for serious, repeated and willful violations will increase by 78 percent on Aug. 1, my jaw dropped. Serious violations will rise from $7,000 to $12,471. The maximum penalty for willful or repeated violations will increase from $70,000 to $124,709. I can’t help but wonder about this huge penalty increase when fatalities have fallen from 69 per 100,000 workers in 1970 to just more than 12 per 100,000 construction workers in 2015. This increase was a congressional mandate, which may be all the explanation we need.
Reading about the increase only reinforces my commitment to NUCA membership. Members like me have access to one of the best safety programs in the entire industry. Employee safety has been a top NUCA benefit and priority since William H. Feather formed the first Safety Committee in the mid-1970s. NUCA members know with certainty that NUCA will inform them of any changes to regulations and what they must do to comply. NUCA provides an abundance of information and NUCA’s Safety VP, George Kennedy, is just a phone call away if you are unsure of how to deal with a hazard or need to confirm you are in compliance with an OSHA rule. George has been at NUCA since 1991 and can field just about any safety question you throw at him.
This issue of the magazine is our annual safety issue. I will read with pride the article that features our 2015 William H. Feather Safety Award winners and the safety programs that keep their employees safe.
This issue will also reveal the results of our first annual Trench Safety Stand Down, held June 20-24. We asked members to take 15 minutes out of the week to hold a trench hazard and safety training session or other program for their employees and send us their information. I have to say that as I finish up this column on July 1, information from companies that participated in this effort is still coming in. It feels great to be chairman of an organization whose members make safety a priority in their own companies. While we expect paperwork to continue coming in over the next few weeks, preliminary information indicates that NUCA members and nonmembers held Stand Downs at more than 200 jobsites and discussed trench hazards and how to avoid them with nearly 2,000 workers. That is excellent. Companies that held a Stand Down will soon receive certificates and small hard hat stickers for all employees who participated. Great job everyone. We will hold another Trench Safety Stand Down next year in June. If you didn’t participate this year, make the commitment for 2017.
Lastly, NUCA’s Safety Directors Forum has been scheduled for Oct. 26-27 in New Orleans. If you have a safety director or person in your company who manages your safety program, I highly recommend you send him or her to this two-day forum. This event is dedicated to safety and gives your safety people the chance to talk to other safety employees, learn from each other and share information. Safety experts will present open-forum discussions on the most important and relevant safety information members need. The fresh ideas and information your employees will bring home will breathe new life into your safety program, which, as OSHA continues to ratchet up its regulatory requirements and penalties, is something we can all benefit from. Besides, you definitely can’t beat the location: Four Points by Sheraton French Quarter is located in the heart and soul of New Orleans at the crossroads of Bourbon and Toulouse Streets. Visit www.nuca.com/sdf for more details.
Work hard, stay safe and try to enjoy some time off this summer!
NUCA Chairman of the Board
Underground Infrastructure Technologies