Is Your Project Safe From OSHA?
Federal Agency’s Scrutiny Intensifies on Residential Construction
We all know of OSHA – the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Every working American has at least one (if not more) areas of jurisdiction that OSHA specifically holds sway over in their workplace – chemical storage, job site safety, workers compensation; any time work and injury intersect there will exist protective measures implemented and monitored by these fine folks. Some industries that are extra hazardous get more careful scrutiny or oversight – but the idea is that we protect ourselves and each other with these systems of inspections, checks and balances, and monitoring. To quote them: ‘Before OSHA was created 43 years ago, an estimated 14,000 workers were killed on the job every year. Today, workplaces are much safer and healthier, going from 38 fatal injuries a day to 12’.
When we think of workplace safety, we think of large employers or big, dangerous places – corporations, large construction work sites, retail chains, etc. The truth of the matter is that workplace safety matters everywhere, for everyone. No matter what or where work is for you, there are rules that govern safety, the choices you can make, and your rights as an employee. Even a home-run business has OSHA regulations and oversight that impact it. You may never ever see an OSHA inspector, or submit to an OSHA audit – but those rules still exist, and we should all be following them. In residential construction, the casual consumer considers the industry of smaller scale construction to be less dangerous, with less injuries, and less regulation. The truth of the matter is OSHA considers that niche of work just as worthy of their attention as any other.
As a matter of fact, OSHA has a specific division that addresses different regions of the country, and targets the hazards specific to each one. These programs are called LEPs, or Local Emphasis Programs (as well as REPs or Regional Emphasis Programs) and they are all implemented in answer to the highest incident and death rates reported for each region. While not a huge impact to any industry, these local emphasis programs mean that different industries can come under varying levels of scrutiny – including, but not limited to, residential construction – and not just new construction, but also rehab construction, retrofits, renovations, and demolitions. That is a huge umbrella of ‘residential construction’, and it could mean that your project – or anyone else’s – can be subjected to the microscopic gaze of an OSHA inspector. While an OSHA inspection is not a punishment, nor is it the end of the world, it is an opportunity to show your company’s ethics, documentation procedure, and level of transparency. It can also be an opportunity to learn how to follow procedures and legal precedents established by years of work with this governmental agency. It also means that all employees should always be concerned and focused on following the correct safety procedures every time. This will eliminate the possibility of receiving a citation or being considered for an investigation.
There are ten national regions of OSHA enforcement, and while OSHA’s emphasis in construction is and has been on fall hazards (the number one killer, nationwide, in the construction industry), the LEPs also allow OSHA to focus on the following concerns across the areas that need it most:
- Residential Construction Hazards
- Rehab, Retrofit, and Renovation Hazards
- Carbon Monoxide Hazards (from indoor heating, lamps, and combustion engines)
- Demolition Work
- Private Business Workers Compensation
- Residential Construction after a Severe Weather Event (especially in regards to unpermitted work and immigrant workers)
- Roadway Work Zones (such as residential streets)
- Programmed Inspections (scheduled evaluations of construction worksites)
- Retail Industry (whose biggest offenders are blocking routes of egress and blatant electrical violations)
- Construction Industry (statistically speaking, OSHA’s biggest offender overall)
OSHA conducts not just scheduled inspections but spontaneous ones as well, when injuries or reported violations make it a priority – such as local roofing crews working without fall prevention equipment, when painters on scaffolds aren’t secured correctly, or if there is a risk of electrocution (which causes people to fall or be propelled through space). These kinds of ‘mistakes’ happen frequently at construction jobsites (small or large, residential, commercial, or industrial) – which is why public, outdoor work is more prone for complaint reports to local authorities. Not only that, but if a reporting or responsible party notes this information to OSHA, it could put your company at risk for a citation, fine, or inspection. What this means is that regardless of industry, sector, or level of visibility, it pays to follow OSHA guidelines in all matters. Not only that, but that it pays to know and participate in your regions Local Emphasis Programs to make sure that your employees are well trained, compliant, and aware of safety issues that are the most dangerous – and deadly – in your region. Small project or large, big company or small, we have an obligation to provide safe jobs that minimize the risk of injury and fatality.
If you have a residential construction project and are in need of a licensed and OSHA compliant electrical contractor, don’t hesitate to call Swartz Electric!
Swartz Electric – Your Colorado Springs Electrician performs electrical work throughout Colorado Springs, Monument, Black Forest, Fountain, Falcon, Woodland Park, and everywhere in between. We are the electricians in Colorado Springs to solve your electrical problems and meet your electrical requirements.
Call, e-mail, visit our website, or stop by our office today, and allow Swartz Electric to serve YOU.
This is an original article written by Mai Bjorklund for Swartz Electric. This article may not be copied whole or in part without the express permission of Swartz Electric, LLC.
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