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Why OSHA must regulate scaffolding work more strictly

New York is known as the most difficult place to conduct high-rise construction in America. Not only are many of New York’s buildings extraordinarily tall, the cramped nature of the city’s construction makes it difficult to build, tear down and repair these buildings safely and efficiently. Sometimes workers can speed their tasks by utilizing mast-climbing work platforms and other forms of modern scaffolding. While these innovations aid in high-rise construction projects, they require detailed training to operate safely.

For better and for worse, many construction workers in New York and throughout the nation are non-native English speakers. Although many individuals who did not grow up speaking English now speak it fluently, others are not as proficient in English. This impacts the safe operation of the construction industry when trainings and instructions are communicated only in English. When non-native English speakers who are not proficient in English are trained in English alone, they risk missing important safety-related details.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulates workplace safety nationwide. However, the agency lacks important regulations regarding motorized scaffolding. A recent report related to the safety challenges with these tools insists that, “When installed and used correctly, they are as safe as other scaffold types. But when they fall, the results are usually catastrophic, often involving multiple deaths and serious injuries.”

It is therefore vitally important that OSHA drafts more detailed motorized scaffolding regulations and ensures that anyone who operates these tools is given safety instructions in a language they are fluent in. Sincere safeguards and effective communication will almost certainly improve safety for high-rise construction workers.

Source: Winston-Salem Journal, “Scaffolding collapse highlights risks, lack of OSHA rules,” March 29, 2015

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