unedited Oct. 08 Tahoe Mt. News story
By Kathryn Reed
When Cal-OSHA sweeps into the Angora burn area, subtlety is not the operatives’ strong suit.
They file out of vans. Disperse. And then they set off a chain of cell phone calls from one contractor to the next as they alert their brethren about the state inspectors.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Industrial Relations, which the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is under, did not have statistics detailing which contractors have been fined, what the infractions were or what the amount was.
Steve Yonker of Yonker Construction in South Lake said his firm was fined $150 for having a blade on a saw pinned back and not having the correct railing on scaffolding.
Yonker has five houses under construction in the burn area.
Erin Wiseman of Mcintyre Enterprises said one of their subcontractors incurred a “token” fine. She said her company has not been fined.
Most of the contractors who were contacted by phone or at the job site said Cal-OSHA protects workers and the companies. Most added that if inspectors look hard enough, infractions can be found on any job.
Some of the routine violations have to do with not wearing proper clothing – long-sleeves, hard hats and steel toed boots are required.
Some workers had hard hats. Some said it’s too cumbersome when working in tight corners. Gloves are required, but contractors say this impedes dexterity.
Safety glasses are required. Masks are mandated when dealing with paint. Cords can’t be frayed. Tools can’t be modified. First aid kits are mandatory. Safety posters must be visible. Fall protection from roof work is required.
Chris Spann of Erickson Carpentry out of Reno keeps a 5-inch thick project safety manual in his truck – a Cal-OSHA requirement for the two houses on Mule Deer Circle he is working on.
“They are out here to keep us from getting hurt,” Spann said of Cal-OSHA. He said safety issues are a priority with his company and that being fired for not following the rules is a real possibility.
Michael Brady owns a painting company under the same name. He had to take off his mask to talk to a reporter. He hasn’t seen any state inspectors, but said he is a stickler for safety and has all of his workers’ comp and liability insurance in order.
Ladder falls are some of the more common mishaps at a construction site. A homeowner on Mule Deer said he witnessed a non-injury fall behind his house on Sept. 30. Owners on Mount Olympia Circle know about a drywall guy falling from a ladder. Drake Niven knows of three ladder falls in early September.
Niven is building four houses in the burn area, with one being complete. He’s all for safety, but believes Cal-OSHA has some ridiculous mandates like regulating when workers take water breaks. He believes his crew can figure out when they are thirsty and hungry without being told.
“Construction is a dangerous job,” Niven said. “No matter how anal you are, OSHA is even more anal.”