OSHA calls on employers to combat surge in construction worker suicides
While the hazards most often associated with workplace deaths in the U.S. construction industry – falling, being struck-by or crushed by equipment or other objects, or suffering electrocution are well-known – a recent study finds that another potential killer is taking lives at an alarming rate, according to an OSHA press release.
In 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that men working in construction have one of the highest suicide rates compared to other industries. Their rate of suicide is about four times higher than the general population.
OSHA has formed a task force of industry partners, unions and educators to raise awareness of the types of stress that can push construction workers into depression and toward suicide. In addition to alerting stakeholders, the task force encourages industry employers to share and discuss available resources with their workers. The task force is calling on industry to take part in a weeklong Suicide Prevention Safety Stand-Down, Sept. 6-10, to raise awareness about the unique challenges construction workers face. The stand-down will coincide with National Suicide Prevention Month in September.
“Work-related stress can have severe impacts on mental health and without proper support may lead to substance abuse and even suicide,” stated Acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Jim Frederick. “Workers in construction face many work-related stressors that may increase their risk factors for suicide, such as the uncertainty of seasonal work, demanding schedules and workplace injuries that are sometimes treated with opioids.”
“Like many workplace fatalities, suicides can be prevented,” said OSHA Acting Regional Administrator Billie Kizer in Kansas City, Missouri. “We encourage employers to use all available resources, familiarize themselves with the problem and learn to recognize the warning signs of depression. We also urge workers to seek help if they feel overwhelmed or overcome by a loss of hope.”
Additional information on suicide prevention in the construction industry includes the following:
- The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s National Construction Center: CPWR – The Center for Construction Research and Training.
- A fact sheet for organization and individuals on the issue of suicide and prevention.
- How to talk about suicide with employees and how to get help.
- The Construction Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention.
Oregon OSHA adopts 2 emergency rules protecting workers against wildfire smoke & heat
Oregon OSHA this summer adopted two new and distinct emergency rules. One puts protections in place against the hazards of wildfire smoke. Another establishes safeguards against high heat in employer-provided housing.
The wildfire smoke rule encompasses a variety of exposure controls, training and information, and other measures. The heat rule applies to occupants of housing provided by employers. It requires access to cooling areas and other steps to minimize dangerous heat in housing units.
Both rules took effect Aug. 9 and remain in effect for 180 days.
The two temporary rules follow Oregon OSHA’s July 8 adoption of emergency requirements to prevent heat illness in outdoor and indoor workplaces. In addition to its enforcement tools, Oregon OSHA offers employers free consultations and expert advice to help comply with the requirements. Meanwhile, the division continues to develop a permanent wildfire smoke rule with an eye toward adoption this fall.
OSHA seeks information on updating mechanical power presses standard
OSHA has published a Request for Information seeking information and public input as the agency considers updates to its mechanical power presses standard.
OSHA first issued the mechanical power presses standard in 1971, based on the American National Standards Institute industry consensus standard. ANSI has updated the standard several times since.
The agency is requesting information regarding the need to update the mechanical power presses standard, how closely the standard should follow the current ANSI standard, the types of presses that should be covered, the use and certification of equipment, presence-sensing device initiation systems, and requirements for press modifications, training, and injury reporting.
Comments must be submitted electronically at http://www.regulations.gov, the Federal eRulemaking Portal. Read the Federal Register notice for submission instructions. Submit all comments by Oct. 26, 2021.