Managing Contractor Risks
“The other most-often cited standard following a fatality at metal/non-metal operations is a lack of task training, which ties into another area of concern that is maintenance. “Almost half — 13 out of 31 — of the fatal accidents last year in metal/non-metal operations were maintenance, construction, or repair related. Inadequate procedures, lack of risk assessments, and no task training prior to performing work were the leading causal factors of these accidents. “Personal protective equipment is also an area that requires improvement. Eight of the 31 accidents involved the lack of personal protective equipment that might have saved lives.”
Addressing these concerns provides focus for risk-reduction programs and site implementation. Additionally, reviewing a site’s specific history of enforcement actions (available on the MSHA and OSHA Web sites) provides additional focus, training, and self-inspection topics to help prevent “repeat” violations that carry much larger penalties and enforcement risks. Creating and implementing programs to attack the cause of already issued repeat violations, including aggressive company rule enforcement programs, also provides a response to the potential use of repeat violations by plaintiffs’ lawyers.
Experience defending companies in accident investigations, designing liability risk reduction programs, and training management personnel indicates that now is the time to reinvigorate, audit, improve, and implement contractor risk-reduction programs. Given today’s enforcement atmosphere, combined with the continuous litigation threats faced by industry, an ounce of prevention is worth far more than the pound of cure.
Henry Chajet is a partner at Patton Boggs LLP. He counsels and represents clients in occupational safety and health matters, focusing on crisis management, standard setting, liability prevention, regulatory and congressional proceedings, and design and review of product stewardship programs. Chajet may be reached via phone at 202-457-6511 or via e-mail at email@example.com.