What OSHA Has in Store for the Construction Industry

construction.gifThe Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has been focused on enforcement, as have other federal workplace agencies. OSHA forecasts that it will inspect almost 38,000 workplaces in 2014. OSHA's plans for the construction industry include these compliance initiatives. 

“Improved” Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses. A proposed OSHA rule would require certain employers to submit records of workplace injuries and illnesses electronically on a quarterly and annual basis. Under the proposal, employers required to keep injury and illness records under OSHA's recordkeeping regulations (Part 1904) and employing at least 250 employees (including full-time, part-time, temporary, and seasonal workers) in the previous year would have to submit all of the information from these records (OSHA Forms 300 and 301) electronically on a quarterly basis to OSHA or its designee. The proposal also provides that employers required to keep Part 1904 injury and illness records, who had at least 20 employees (including full-time, part-time, temporary, and seasonal workers) in the previous year and are in certain designated industries, would have to submit annual summary information from their OSHA Forms 300A electronically to OSHA or its designee. The designated industries would include those with a 2009 Days Away From Work, Job Restriction, or Job Transfer (DART) rate of 2.0 greater and will be published as Appendix A to Part 1904 Subpart E.

Temporary Workers to Get More Scrutiny. OSHA is zeroing in on businesses’ use of temporary employees to ensure that OSHA obligations are being met. Employers using temporary workers should ensure they meet OSHA requirements, especially when it comes to training these workers. 

Silica Rule Change Pending. Despite significant opposition, OSHA continues to push its proposal on crystalline silica exposure in the construction industry. The proposed rule would drastically lower the silica exposure allowed on the jobsite and place other requirements on contractors, even those working safely, including extra recordkeeping and even medical surveillance of construction industry employees. Contractors seeking to make their opinions heard on the proposed silica rule change should contact IEC, lobbying groups, and legislators. 

Cell Towers Signaled to Expect Tough Inspections. Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels told the National Association of Towers Erectors that the cell tower industry, including subcontractors, will face increased scrutiny. Inspectors at jobsites will be looking at contracts and subcontracts to ensure everyone on the site is OSHA-compliant. Michaels warned that the Agency will hold accountable contractors involved in cell tower construction if they fail to follow OSHA standards. Thus, in the event of an injury or death, willful citations likely will be issued.  

OSHA’s agenda has other items that likely will affect the construction industry, as well. A safe, OSHA-compliant, and injury-free workplace is in everyone’s best interest, but legislators should listen to businesses' views on OSHA's increasingly aggressive program.

Joseph Dreesen is a Shareholder in the Omaha, Nebraska, office of Jackson Lewis PC. Dreesen works with employers throughout the country on numerous employment and labor law issues. He has successfully negotiated numerous collective bargaining agreements and also has an extensive OSHA and wage and hour practice.