Construction Firm: What You Need to Know About OSHA Regulations
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) protects workers in the private sector by requiring employers to provide safe and healthy job environments, but what does that mean for the construction industry? Construction work sites are fraught with danger. OSHA reports almost 800 construction worker deaths in 2013 — that’s 20 percent of the worker fatalities for that year.
Image via Flickr via USACE HQ
Recently, OSHA changed some of the safety and reporting rules for the construction industry. This puts construction firms under a microscope with the goal of preventing more accidents.
Who Do OSHA Regulations Apply to?
OSHA regulations apply to anyone who enters the construction site, including:
- Construction workers
- Project stakeholders
Anyone working in or walking through the area is required to follow the OSHA directives.
It starts with the machinery, equipment, and tools used on the site. All of these must meet OSHA standards. Additionally, machine operators must have proper training or experience with the equipment to use it.
Employees must wear personal protective gear provided by the employer. It’s not enough just to give workers the right safety tools: The construction firm is responsible for training employees in proper use of all personal safety equipment, too.
Construction firms must teach each worker to recognize and avoid unsafe conditions. This includes learning to identify hazardous materials such as poisons or caustics. It’s the responsibility of administration to make workers aware of environmental hazards as well, such as harmful plants or animals indigenous to the area.
New Regulations for Fall Protection
Construction firms are not new to the safety game, so standard directives, such as providing workers with personal safety equipment, are commonplace in the industry. It’s the newer regulations that might trip up even veteran firms. Fall protection standards, for example, have changed in the last few years.
All workers working six feet or more above lower levels must wear fall protection equipment. This includes:
- Safety nets
- Personal fall arrest systems or a fall restraint system
In some cases, it’s impossible to incorporate a fall safety system into the site. If so, firms must provide OSHA with an explanation as to why the safety system is not feasible. An acceptable reason might be that installing the fall safety equipment exposes the person doing the installation to hazards for a longer time than the workers it protects.
As with all personal safety equipment, employers take responsibility for providing the proper tools and training workers to use them correctly.
Falls are the number one cause of fatalities in this industry, so OSHA standards are strict for prevention.
The other big change OSHA made in the last few years is in reporting requirements. Prior to 2015, firms only reported fatalities and accidents that required hospitalization for three or more workers, according to Construction Data.
In January of 2015, those guidelines changed. OSHA requires a report within eight hours of a construction-related fatality. In addition, certain injuries require a report filed within 24 hours. These injuries include:
- Inpatient hospitalizations (regardless of the number of workers involved)
- Loss of an eye
Failing to follow reporting guidelines will lead to OSHA sanctions.
How Constructions Firms Remain OSHA Compliant
Developing a strategy to remain OSHA compliant is a practical business decision for construction firms. It’s important to create an actionable plan for keeping up-to-date with OSHA regulations. Staying educated can help employers prevent potentially expensive surprises during an inspection. If necessary, consider hiring an attorney that specializes in construction, such as the Tracey Law Firm, to monitor changes and suggest safety upgrades.
Once you’re aware of new guidelines, follow through by providing workers with the necessary protection equipment and training or by altering the firm’s protocols to meet the new standard.
With proper education, non-compliance citations are avoidable. The same is true for on-site accidents, which are more devastating than anything OSHA could throw your way. The loss of life or the maiming of employees who rely on the construction firm to provide the safest possible environment is a stain that the firm will carry with them from job to job.
Article Submitted By Community Writer