Federal worksite safety officials this week announced plans to ramp up enforcement efforts in certain southern states to combat a recent rise in construction-related falling deaths.
Beginning August 20, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration will increase the number of unannounced inspections it performs at worksites in Region 4, which encompasses eight southern states east of the Mississippi River. In particular, the agency said it planned to target worksites in Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi.
"OSHA's goal is to raise awareness about fall hazards and eliminate those conditions that lead to employee deaths," said Cindy Coe, the agency's regional administrator in Atlanta, in a statement released August 16. "Our compliance officers will conduct immediate inspections when they observe employees working from elevation without fall protection."
An OSHA spokesman said Friday that the agency has received 19 reports of fatal falls at Region 4 construction sites so far this year, two more than it received in all of 2011 and eight more than in 2010. The spokesman said those totals do not include incidents investigated by state occupational safety agencies.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Region 4 routinely leads the nation in workplace fatalities and has grown statistically more dangerous for workers in the past two years. Through the first six months of 2012, the region has accounted for 23.8% of all job-related deaths reported, compared with 22.6% in 2011 and 19% in 2010.
OSHA said its regional enforcement was being increased as part of a national campaign announced in April to address fatal construction-related falls. In addition to the targeted enforcement efforts, the campaign—developed in conjunction with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health—includes fall safety education and training programs, as well as newly introduced printed and online resources to increase worker awareness of "common-sense fall prevention equipment and strategies," according to the agency.