Being the Bearer of Bad News (Sounding the Alarm on construction issues early and often) (law note)

Our recent look into termination brings up another issue important to architects and engineers–  how to sound the alarm about construction or building code violations.  Sometimes, a project owner may be so focused on project completion that they want to overlook the sub-par work that may be occurring in an effort to get project open “on time”.  In such cases, only if a life safety violation is reported to the authority having jurisdiction will the owner finally terminate a faulty contractor from a construction project.

Bad News

They kill the bearer of bad news sometimes, don’t they?

Even if the work is not a life/safety issue, it is important that when delivering bad news about the quality of work that your notice be early, loud, and frequent.  Basically, everyone involved should be aware, through written communications, that there is an issue that needs to be addressed on site, the contractor is messing up the construction, and what needs to be done to fix the issue(s).  If the owner is willing to live with the faulty work (and it is not a life/safety matter), then at least you’ve provided notice and warned them of the issue.

Even then, you could get dragged into litigation later on.  That’s right– even if you state, in writing, that something is happening which you do not approve of, and you limit your own further involvement in the project, you can be sued.  So if the issue is significant enough– you may have to walk off the job yourself.  

Think of the recent Titan tragedy.  One OceanGate employee has claimed that he was  fired after he raised safety concerns.  Despite warnings some several other experts that the submersible was not properly designed and safe for the underwater exploration, the company went ahead with the ill-fated trip.

As a design professional, you cannot always help owners help themselves, but you must try to do so.  You must document the issues, multiple times, multiple ways, to multiple individuals.  Even if that means losing out on a job.  As you watch others (but not your own Firm) get dragged into litigation over construction issues that you previously warned the owner about, your future self will thank you.

Your turn:  have you ever had to deliver very bad news about a project to the owner?  How did you do it? Did the owner take action?  Share below in the comments, or drop me an email.  

Photo (c) Bad by Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0 Alpha Stock Images


Sobering Facts for Construction Safety Day

construction site fatalitiesHappy “Construction Safety Day” everyone!  James White of Maxwell Systems, has shared with me an infographic showing all sorts of data about construction fatalities.

As you might expect,  falls are the #1 source of construction-site fatalities, followed by being struck by falling objects, electrocution, and being caught between objects, in that order.  Together, these “fatal four” make up 57% of all construction worker deaths.

To view the complete infographic, click here.

Thanks, James, for the sobering reminder.

New Safety Standards Issued by ASSE and ANSI (News Note)





The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE)  have recently announced their approval of two new safety standards to enhance construction site safety.

The two new standards, which are set to take effect during June 2012, are the ANSI/ASSE A10.1-2011 Pre-Project and Pre-Task Safety and Health Planning for Construction and Demolition Operations, and the ANSI/ASSE A10.26-2011 Emergency Procedures for Construction and Demolition Sites.

The new A10.1-2011 standard was designed to assist construction owners, contractors, and designers by ensuring that safety and health planning were standard parts of their pre-construction planning. It is also intended to help owners of construction sites to establish a process for evaluating constructor candidates with regard to their safety and health performance planning.

The A10.26 standard applies to emergency situations, including fires, collapses, and hazardous spills. The standard deals with emergency rescue, evacuation, and transportation of injured workers, and also plans for coordinating with emergency medical facilities ahead of potential disasters.

In addition, the ANSI/ASSE A10.33-2011 standard, Safety and Health Program Requirements for Multi-Employer Projects, received an update, which will become effective May 7, 2012. The standard delivers minimum requirements for programs where multiple employers are engaged in a common undertaking, and is intended to address cost-efficient and coordinated safety on the construction site.

These new standards are part of a larger rollout designed by the A10 Accredited Standards Committee on Safety Requirements for Construction and Demolition operations.

Comments or questions? Drop me a line in the comments section, below.


Top 10 OSHA Violations– don’t let it be you! (Tue Tip)

dancing woman in safety vest
Photo: Dancing for Workplace Safety

by Washington State DOT via Flickr/Creative Commons license

OSHA has published the top safety violations for 2010.  There are two categories:  (1) the top 10 standards for which OSHA most frequently gave Citations in fiscal year 2010; and (2)the top 10 standards for which OSHA assessed the highest penalties in fiscal year 2010.  

The most frequent violations are:

  1. Scaffolding
  2. Fall protection
  3. Hazard communication
  4. Ladders
  5. Respiratory protection
  6. Control of hazardous energy (lockout/tagout)
  7. Electrical, wiring methods, components and equipment
  8. Powered industrial trucks
  9. Electrical systems design
  10. Machine guarding


The most expensive violations are:

  1. Fall protection
  2. Electrical
  3. Safety training and education
  4. Control of hazardous energy (lockout/tagout)
  5. Machines
  6. General duty clause 
  7. Excavations
  8. Lead
  9. Grain handling facilities
  10. Ladders


Detail about the specific regulations which were violated, the OSHA requirements in these areas, and related materials can be found here on the OSHA website.  (Hat tip to NC Construction News for alerting me to OSHA’s list). 

OSHA violations can be costly– both in money, and in safety.  Don’t gamble with either!

Now it’s your turn:  Do you have an experience with OSHA violations that you think others should learn from?  Let me know in the comments below or email me at [email protected].