Drainage Contractor

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LICA’s view: Keeping safety top of mind

New regulations remind us to prioritize safety.


May 9, 2016
By Steven Anderson

On the little finger of my left hand is my favorite scar. If I gave you 10 chances, you wouldn’t come close to guessing where it came from. Accidents happen at the most unlikely times and places: the scar is from a page in my accounting textbook from college, more than 30 years ago.

Safety is a matter of constant vigilance – even the simplest of operations, like turning a page in a textbook, can lead to rather bloody situations. My finger bled for a very long time and nearly needed medical attention. Had this accident occurred in a workplace, it could have been an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reportable injury.

Drainage contractors work in a potentially very dangerous occupation, with the potential for major accidents to occur at any time and place. We run the risk of being caught in a collapsing trench, or being struck by a rock thrown from a digging wheel, or a simple fall from a machine due to the combination of muddy boots and heavy clothing. However, we do a good job of working safely, and can credit this to the people we work with and the considerable experience we have in keeping our workplaces safe. If you think safely, you get safety. As the old saying goes, haste makes waste. If there isn’t enough time to do it right the first time, there’s always enough time to do it over. If we’re working too fast and forgetting about safety, is that extra few feet of tile installed in a day really going to be worth someone’s limb – or life?

OSHA has enforced this idea of safety in the workplace over the years, and change is in the works, starting this August. For some time now, travelling OSHA inspectors have been mandated to stop and check any excavation they pass while on their way to somewhere else. This is done to emphasize the goal of reducing the amount of cave-in incidences. However, this coming August, OSHA is introducing an increase in the fine structure of up to 80 percent and adding new inspectors to increase enforcement.

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No one wants an employee to get hurt in the workplace, and an OSHA claim can quickly turn into serious money for the employer. Now is a good time to review your safety manual and make sure you have everything in place in terms of paperwork, safety meeting documentation, material safety data sheets (MSDS) and information posters. Of course, implementing these safety regulations in your workplace is most important. The era of complaint-driven inspections is no longer. No matter the size of your business, safety compliance needs to be a priority.  

If you are not a LICA member, now is a wonderful time to join in your state of operation. One of the benefits of a LICA membership is a safety manual to help bring you into compliance with OSHA regulations. Included in the book are forms that can easily be copied to create all of the necessary documentation an inspector may ask for. A LICA membership will also give you access to our Zywave portal, which is a wealth of information concerning new regulations and existing requirements, as well as instructions to help complete your documentation.

While OSHA likes all this paper, safety really does get down to the souls doing the work and the presence – or absence – of that feeling of invincibility. When we are young, we feel we will live forever and nothing can hurt us. But we all soon learn that dirt is really heavy and steel is very hard, and if we want to live a long life, we need to respect these materials and the workplace conditions that surround us. Let that respect mirror how you work, so that when that OSHA inspector drives by, he will say hello and continue about his day, knowing all is well in your operation. And don’t forget to tell your kids to be wary of accounting textbooks. 


Steven Anderson is chairman of the board of the Land Improvement Contractors of America.


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