Tragically, stuntman John Bernecker died last week in Atlanta after falling 30 feet to a concrete floor while working on a fight scene for AMC's zombie-apocalypse series "The Walking Dead." In response, the show temporarily halted production of its eighth season, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) opened an investigation.
According to OSHA, more than 4,500 workers are killed on the job every year, and approximately 3 million are injured. While all accidents cannot be avoided, under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, every employer is responsible for the safety and health of its employees while on the job.
Last October, OSHA released its annual list of the 10 most frequently cited safety and health violations, based on data compiled from nearly 32,000 workplace inspections:
- Fall protection
- Hazard communication
- Respiratory protection
- Powered industrial trucks
- Machine guarding
- Electrical wiring
- Electrical, general requirements
This list rarely changes from year to year, and OSHA contends that the number of workplace deaths and injuries would dramatically decline if employers focused on correcting these hazards.
The stuntman's death on the set of "The Walking Dead," which resulted from injuries associated with a fall, is believed to be the first stunt-related death reported in the United States in the last 17 years. Injuries from falls, however, especially in the construction industry, remain among the most common workplace hazards and continue to dominate OSHA's list, with fall protection, scaffolds, and ladder issues among the top 10.
Of course, OSHA regulations are the bare-minimum standards employers must meet to be in compliance with the law, but employers should strive to go above and beyond the minimal requirements to ensure a safe workplace for their employees. Not only is it the right thing to do, but studies have shown that providing a safe workplace reduces costs, raises productivity, and improves morale, and that's just good business.
For more information and OSHA's recommendations for creating a safety and health program, go to www.osha.gov/shpguidelines. Finally, if your business is facing an OSHA investigation or needs advice about OSHA compliance, you should consult your employment counsel.
May you rest in peace, Mr. Bernecker.