Every construction contractor is responsible for following the necessary regulations.
When it comes to construction, every contractor should be exceedingly familiar with the requirements laid out by the U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA. There is strict training required - and it varies from state to state.
So how can contractors ensure they're following the proper guidelines and protecting their employees? Read on for helpful tips on navigating the variety of federal and state safety requirements.
What is OSHA?
OSHA is a part of the U.S. Department of Labor and was created by Congress with the passage of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. It exists to protect workers by creating and enforcing workplace standards and providing training. OSHA oversees the majority of private sector workers, and many public sector employees as well.
From agriculture to the maritime sector to the construction industry, OSHA has a wide list of requirements that an employer must follow when it comes to training and protecting its workers. OSHA also allows individual states to develop and enforce their own regulations, as long as they are up to par with the federal requirements - so it's important that any general contractor follows state-specific training during a job.
What Categories Fall Under Construction Training?
Construction is a major subset of OSHA regulations. Just on a federal level, OSHA requires employees in the construction sector to receive periodic or annual training in tasks such as aerial lifts, cranes, hand and power tools, ladder safety, medical first aid, scaffold safety, and toxic and hazardous substances. Those are just a few of the many items that an employer is not only responsible for giving the training but also ensuring that an employee has understood the training.
Requirements can become more specific on a state level. Certain states have even stricter regulations in place than OSHA, with additional standards in place on various industries. Washington, for example, has almost 50 additional standards for hazards pertaining to the construction industry alone.
The Responsibilities of a General Contractor
Under OSHA laws, general contractors are responsible for following federal and state safety regulations, and training subcontractors. On a federal level, there are clear requirements that must be followed when it pertains to construction. Certain tasks only require initial training, while others must be assessed on an annual or periodic basis.
There are a number of requirements beyond training that a general contractor must follow. Numerous documents must be kept visible on construction worksites, for example. Records must be kept for trainings, employee exposures, injuries, and more. Permits and licenses for project-specific equipment, like cranes, or large tasks, like excavations, must be filed. There must be access to proper sanitation.
These are just a few of the things in the long list of requirements a general contractor must follow on a job site. OSHA will make unrequested workplace inspections, which are conducted by compliance officers; employees can also request an inspection. OSHA rarely gives advance notice of an inspection, which is why strict adherence to federal and state regulations is of the utmost importance.
What Does OSHA Provide?
If the vast amount of OSHA requirements feels overwhelming, the department also exists to provide training and resources. From offsite consultations to partnership programs to webinars, there's an abundance of assistance available for both employers and employees. The enforcement branch of OSHA will also not be informed if an employer works with consultation, so there's no fear of retribution.
Almost every employer in the U.S. needs to adhere to a set of OSHA standards and can face massive fines if you're found to have violated regulations. The construction industry has some of the most stringent regulations, and general contractors are responsible for upholding them. There are free, accessible resources available to help meet OSHA requirements, so there's no reason for any employer to fall behind.