taking undue risks

The Mount Vernon library board and staff should be concerned about the safety of the workers building the library’s new addition.

The photo accompanying the Jan. 23 article “Mount Vernon library addition gets main beam” shows that safety rules and guidelines are being broken.

The most obvious hazard is a worker standing on top of a stepladder. He should either be at least two rungs down or be using an extension ladder leaning squarely against the top of the new wall. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s fact sheet on stepladder safety states: “Workers who use ladders in construction risk permanent injury or death …” and advises: “DO NOT … use the top step or cap as a step.” (The cap is the top of the ladder, above the top step.)

The other problem is the absence of hard hats on the workers in the photo. OSHA regulations state: “Employees working in areas where there is a possible danger of head injury from impact, or from falling or flying objects, or from electrical shock and burns, shall be protected by protective helmets.”

That’s a good idea at any worksite where there’s a ladder and more than one worker. But the photo shows a roof beam being lowered from overhead, close to the worker on the stepladder. There’s no question of a need for hard hats when big objects are being swung through the air.

Workplace deaths and serious injuries are tragic and costly and, thanks to OSHA, rare. Mount Vernon library management should insist that the building contractor abide by OSHA’s standards.

Charlie Bernstein


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