If you’re an employee who notices a significant safety hazard that your employer ignores, you can make a formal complaint to the Occupational Safety and Health Commission. The U.S. Department of Labor has a system in place that makes reporting OSHA violations simple and protects you against reprisal from your employer. However, if you’re an employer, don’t worry about inaccurate complaints, because OSHA still investigates every report for accuracy. Read more
A new year means a host of new changes to the OSHA regulatory structure. Some companies may see increasing changes as a burden, but these revisions and new rule adoptions come about for one specific reason: they intend to keep employees safer while avoiding past incidents. Any time you wonder why OSHA is so bothersome when it comes to oversight, documentation and compliance, realize the chances are great that a rule change is a direct response to an injury or egregious violation that occurred in the past. That’s right: someone ruined it for everyone.
The point is that, regardless of your personal feelings on the matter, your business has a vested interest in adhering to changes in OSHA regulations for the following reasons. Read more
In a move that caught many in the construction industry by surprise, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was granted power to increase their fines by the 2016 federal budget bill that recently passed Congress and was signed into law. The included provisions will allow OSHA to adjust fine amounts frozen since 1990 in order to reflect rising inflation that has occurred since then. Read more
New OSHA Construction Standards
In response to concerns over a growing number of fatalities and serious injuries resulting from construction work in confined spaces, OSHA construction standards have been updated with new rules. These rules are predicted to eliminate some of the 780 serious injuries and 92 fatalities that occur every year on average as a result of workers entering confined spaces under unsafe conditions.
As a construction business owner or a site manager, it is your job to become familiar with these new rules and adopt them. Doing so not only helps you avoid fines and legal actions stemming from non-compliance, it could help save your workers’ lives.
The Danger of Confined Spaces
An unfortunate reality of construction is that many project managers or job-site managers are simply unaware of the threat that confined spaces pose. Individuals who would naturally use caution when working near other risky elements like heavy machinery, live electricity or unsafe heights would send a worker into a confined space without a second thought.
What happens next is that the worker can become trapped or asphyxiated in a matter of seconds. These incidents often have the tragic consequence of fearless, selfless rescue workers moving in to retrieve their comrade only to succumb to the same conditions.
OSHA outlines some of the dangers by saying that “Confined spaces — such as manholes, crawl spaces, and tanks — are not designed for continuous occupancy and are difficult to exit in the event of an emergency. People working in confined spaces face life-threatening hazards including toxic substances, electrocutions, explosions, and asphyxiation.”
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) elaborates by saying that confined spaces have “limited openings for entry and exit,” and also “unfavorable natural ventilation which could contain or produce dangerous air contaminants.”
New Rules for OSHA Construction Standards Compliance
As a result of the new rules posed by OSHA regulations, all construction companies are required to retrieve special permits for working in any space that:
- Is large enough for a person to insert their entire body
- Poses restrictions for mobility, especially when entering and exiting
- Was not designed to be occupied for more than a few moments at a time
Any site area that fulfills these criteria will necessitate the following actions:
- Posting of clear, visible warning signs near the confined space to indicate dangers and potential hazards
- Training regarding the safety protocol for entering or working in confined spaces
- Permits for safe entry operations, including atmospheric test results
- Approval from a professional engineer regarding the “provisions and limitations” of utilizing personnel hoisting systems and other confined space devices
- Safety data sheets or records for all workers who have entered the confined space
As you can see, one of the main elements of these new rules is that contractors and construction personnel are expected to attend training sessions before permits will be issued. This mandate includes any rescue workers who may potentially be entering confined spaces to retrieve fallen employees.
Take these regulations and guidelines seriously as you approach your job site and outlay duties. Only by acknowledging these rules and following them can you avoid serious consequences that include the loss of your workers’ lives and criminal charges.
5 Common Hazards in the Workplace
We all know that the construction industry is one of the most dangerous professions there is. Thousands of people every year are injured or even killed in accidents on construction sites. As a contractor there’s nothing you can do to make a job site completely safe and accident free—danger is simply part of the job. However, by being aware of the most common health and safety risks on the job you can mitigate a great deal of your liability and risk in both financial and human costs. Here are five of the most common hazards in the workplace that contractors should try to avoid.
Many construction jobs involve working in high places. This is true of construction and demolitions. To mitigate these risks make sure that all of your platforms are secure and stable, your workers are properly harnessed and tethered, and any tripping risks are removed from the work area. Train your workers on safety awareness policies and procedures.
Slips and Falls
Next to heights, slipping and falling is the most common source of injuries on a construction site. Make sure that your workers are aware of the different risks for tripping, slipping and falling, and that they wear proper footwear and protective gear. Keep the site clear of debris, tools and loose wires in addition to working to avoid spills at all times.
Objects falling from heights form a major hazard for workers passing beneath. Whether from debris from construction, dropped or accidentally kicked tools, or any other object, many workers suffer injury or death every year from falling objects. Keep all tools and debris secured and take great care while lowering trash and waste from heights. Make sure workers wear safety gear such as hardhats and safety boots at all times.
Trucks, cars, construction vehicles and other heavy mobile equipment form a major hazard on construction sites. Make sure that backup alarms are present and working on all equipment. Create hazard zones where pedestrian activity is not permitted, and train those operating heavy equipment on awareness of their surroundings and safety procedures for moving.
Tool and Heavy Equipment Injury
Many workers every year suffer serious incidents involving tools and heavy equipment. Misusing this equipment is a recipe for disaster. Preventative maintenance is the first step in heavy equipment safety. Make sure that no one who isn’t trained and rated on heavy equipment is anywhere near it, whether it’s being used or not. Make sure that all hand and power tools are sharpened and in good repair. Ensure that power tools are unplugged or removed from their power source and properly stored when not in use. Finally, always make sure that all of your workers are trained and educated in safety standards and policies and that proper personal protective equipment (PPE) is worn on the job site at all times.
Ensuring that your employees are well-trained and follow all safety procedures is the best way to make sure you avoid accidents and injury on the job. Of course, accidents will still happen and when they do, make sure you have the right insurance coverage for the job.