CHARLOTTE, NC (FOX 46) - FOX 46 Charlotte is looking into possible OSHA violations in the I-77 construction zone. The story came to us from a viewer who writes, "I worked in environmental, health and safety compliance...(and) I see multiple OSHA violations."
When we showed the OSHA Bureau Chief pictures of the construction area, he said the dust clouds were more than likely a health violation in the work zone which could put workers in danger of developing lung cancer and cost the company thousands of dollars.
"I would send an inspector out to look at this situation," said Robby Jones, the Western Bureau Chief for OSHA compliance.
OSHA stands for Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
"Looking at the dust cloud would be who else is working downstream in this dust cloud."
He says workers would have to wear masks to protect them from silica dust. If not, he says exposure like this could lead to silicosis. Decades later.
"Another photograph here is of the backhoe with an open door at the operator station."
Fox 46 Charlotte captured several other pictures with our go-pros. But what may appear to be a violation says might not be.
"We don't have a standard that relates to open or closed doors so I don't think we would really address that.”
During our drive-by, we counted at least three workers without a hard hat.
In each case, we're told it wasn't required.
"Our standard requires that there be an overhead hazard and if there is anyone working directly overhead where something could fall, hard hats are required."
Even after seeing all these pictures, Jones says an inspector can't just show up at the work site.
They need one of the employees - or a member of the public - to file a formal complaint with OSHA.
"If someone filed a complaint and these are the conditions they are alleging, I’d think an inspection would be conducted."
And if they found a violation.
"We would issue a citation to the employer. The penalties for a serious violation can be from 100 to 7,000 dollars each."
If you see something - and report it - it could be the difference between injury, death, or health.
"Construction is a dangerous business, but it doesn't have to be. It can be a lot safer and we can prevent a lot of injuries and accidents and where people don't get to go home."
You can file a complaint with OSHA here: http://www.nclabor.com/osha/compliance/complaints/complaint.htm
Find free OSHA consultation services here: http://www.nclabor.com/osha/consult/consult.htm
Find free OSHA publications here: http://www.nclabor.com/pubs.htm
Find free OSHA training here: https://www.labor.communications.its.state.nc.us/OSHPublic/ETTA/class_regist/calendar.cfm
We also reached out to the Department of Transportation, I-77 Mobility Partners and Sugar Creek Construction about this story. The NCDOT was the only one to reply saying, "Safety is the Department of Transportation's first priority. We will meet with the contractor and address any and all safety issues accordingly."