Not following the rules often has consequences. Sometimes, in the case of construction, those consequences can be devastating.
In addition to severe injury or death, failure to properly follow rules laid out by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration can lead to hefty fines that can put a company out of business.
That’s where Occupational Safety Consultants and Safety Innovations LLC come in. Run by the father-and-son team of Rodney and Don Dunn (Rodney owns Occupational Safety Consultants, Don owns Safety Innovations), the companies keep businesses running safely.
Colorado homebuilders are some of the team’s primary customers, though the Dunns also provide safety consultations for most types of industrial businesses.
Rodney (the father) started Occupational Safety Consultants in 1988. In 1994, he was certified to become a representative for OSHA. Though no longer with OSHA, he works with clients to help them satisfy regulations and remain compliant.
For the most part, Rodney, 79, now serves as consultant for his son and handles technical documentation, while Don is in charge of most of the field work.
Primarily hired based on referrals, the Dunns help ensure businesses don’t get cited. If they do, the Dunns work with them to remedy the problem and then head to OSHA’s Denver office to deliver proof of the resolution and to negotiate to reduce or eliminate fines. As one citation can affect multiple entities, big money can be at stake.
“If the subcontractor is cited by OSHA, the subcontractor is looking at a fine,” Don said. “… The general contractor will also receive a fine because he’s responsible for that subcontractor.”
In addition, sometimes one situation can lead to several citations.
“I know in one case, several years ago, we had five citations on one ladder in Larkspur,” said Rodney. “It was basically because the ladder was incorrectly installed on the roof — it wasn’t tied off, they were carrying heavy equipment up the ladder without having a three-point contact on the ladder. They got them for … multiple violations.”
These aren’t your average speeding ticket fines either. A citation for not wearing safety glasses can cost $12,600 — and it can go up from there. Sometimes one inspection will result in multiple citations and fines, and a citation for a willful violation can cost $126,000.
“I’ve seen multiple companies go under,” said Don, who added, if approached by OSHA, it’s best to play nice.
Typically, he said, the more dangerous a violation, the higher the fine. And nobody is safe from inspection.
“[Some] think that OSHA does not work on the weekends,” Rodney said. “Now OSHA has a special team … working on the weekends … [that will] drive through a construction site. … We’ve had some cases where OSHA has been there at 7 or 8 on a Saturday morning.”
And come hail season, OSHA will drive through neighborhoods listening for nail guns, said Don. OSHA will take video to make sure contractors are doing what they should be doing.
How do businesses avoid injuries and citations? Proper safety inspections and proper training, the Dunns said. Sometimes the Dunns will train, and sometimes they’ll recommend other “qualified persons,” who basically have the OSHA book memorized, Don said.
“Everybody that has a trade has certain rules that they have to follow,” he said.
Besides avoiding injury and issues with OSHA, another benefit of working with the duo is a 5-10 percent discount on workers’ compensation insurance.
“We may be a necessary evil, … but if you don’t have a safety program, you’re going to be in way worse trouble if something happens,” Don said.
Workers should also be aware that if an employer can prove an employee received proper training and was injured because they ignored the training, the employee can be docked 75 percent of their workers’ compensation.
The Dunns cited five regional construction-related deaths in 2017.
“That’s way too high a rate,” Don said, adding compliance shouldn’t be about avoiding fines — it should be about safety.
“You need to worry about keeping the workers safe,” Don said. “It just so happens that OSHA is how you do it.”
Safety Innovations LLC