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Do the OSHA Construction standards apply to me?
- The standards apply to:
- All contractors who enter into contracts which are for construction, alteration, and/or repair, including painting and decorating. [29 CFR 1926.10(a)]
- All subcontractors who agree to perform any part of the labor or material requirements of a contract. [29 CFR 1926.13(c)]
- All suppliers who furnish any supplies or materials, if the work involved is performed on or near a construction site, or if the supplier fabricates the goods or materials specifically for the construction project, and the work can be said to be a construction activity. [29 CFR 1926.13(c)]
- The controlling contractor assumes all obligations under the standards, whether or not he subcontracts any of the work. [29 CFR 1926.16(b)]
- To the extent that a subcontractor agrees to perform any part of the contract, he assumes responsibility for complying with the standards with respect to that part. [29 CFR 1926.16(c)]
- With respect to subcontracted work, the controlling contractor and any subcontractors are deemed to have joint responsibility. [29 CFR 1926.16(d)]
Final Rule to Update General Industry Walking-Working Surfaces and Fall Protection Standards
Falls from heights and on the same level (a working surface) are among the leading causes of serious work-related injuries and deaths. OSHA has issued a final rule on Walking-Working Surfaces and Personal Fall Protection Systems to better protect workers in general industry from these hazards by updating and clarifying standards and adding training and inspection requirements.
The rule affects a wide range of workers, from painters to warehouse workers. It does not change construction or agricultural standards.
The rule incorporates advances in technology, industry best practices, and national consensus standards to provide effective and cost-efficient worker protection. Specifically, it updates general industry standards addressing slip, trip, and fall hazards (subpart D), and adds requirements for personal fall protection systems (subpart I).
OSHA estimates that these changes will prevent 29 fatalities and 5,842 lost-workday injuries every year.
Benefits to Employers
The rule benefits employers by providing greater flexibility in choosing a fall protection system. For example, it eliminates the existing mandate to use guardrails as a primary fall protection method and allows employers to choose from accepted fall protection systems they believe will work best in a particular situation – an approach that has been successful in the construction industry since 1994. In addition, employers will be able to use non-conventional fall protection in certain situations, such as designated areas on low-slope roofs.
As much as possible, OSHA aligned fall protection requirements for general industry with those for construction, easing compliance for employers who perform both types of activities. For example, the final rule replaces the outdated general industry scaffold standards with a requirement that employers comply with OSHA’s construction scaffold standards.
Most of the rule will become effective 60 days after publication in the Federal Register, but some provisions have delayed effective dates, including:
- Ensuring exposed workers are trained on fall hazards (6 months),
- Ensuring workers who use equipment covered by the final rule are trained (6 months),
- Inspecting and certifying permanent anchorages for rope descent systems (1 year),
- Installing personal fall arrest or ladder safety systems on new fixed ladders over 24 feet and on replacement ladders/ladder sections, including fixed ladders on outdoor advertising structures (2 years),
- Ensuring existing fixed ladders over 24 feet, including those on outdoor advertising structures, are equipped with a cage, well, personal fall arrest system, or ladder safety system (2 years), and
- Replacing cages and wells (used as fall protection) with ladder safety or personal fall arrest systems on all fixed ladders over 24 feet (20 years).
Every October, the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration releases a preliminary list of the 10 most frequently cited safety and health violations for the fiscal year, compiled from nearly 32,000 inspections of workplaces by federal OSHA staff. One remarkable thing about the list is that it rarely changes. Year after year, our inspectors see thousands of the same on-the-job hazards, any one of which could result in a fatality or severe injury. More than 4,500 workers are killed on the job every year, and approximately 3 million are injured, despite the fact that by law, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their workers. If all employers simply corrected the top 10 hazards, we are confident the number of deaths, amputations and hospitalizations would drastically decline. Consider this list a starting point for workplace safety:
- Fall protection
- Hazard communication
- Respiratory protection
- Powered industrial trucks
- Machine guarding
- Electrical wiring
- Electrical, general requirements
It’s no coincidence that falls are among the leading causes of worker deaths, particularly in construction, and our top 10 list features lack of fall protection as well as ladder and scaffold safety issues. We know how to protect workers from falls, and have an ongoing campaign to inform employers and workers about these measures. Employers must take these issues seriously. We also see far too many workers killed or gruesomely injured when machinery starts up suddenly while being repaired, or hands and fingers are exposed to moving parts. Lockout/tagout and machine guarding violations are often the culprit here. Proper lockout/tagout procedures ensure that machines are powered off and can’t be turned on while someone is working on them. And installing guards to keep hands, feet and other appendages away from moving machinery prevents amputations and worse. Respiratory protection is essential for preventing long term and sometimes fatal health problems associated with breathing in asbestos, silica or a host of other toxic substances. But we can see from our list of violations that not nearly enough employers are providing this needed protection and training. The high number of fatalities associated with forklifts, and high number of violations for powered industrial truck safety, tell us that many workers are not being properly trained to safely drive these kinds of potentially hazardous equipment. Rounding out the top 10 list are violations related to electrical safety, an area where the dangers are well-known. Our list of top violations is far from comprehensive. OSHA regulations cover a wide range of hazards, all of which imperil worker health and safety. And we urge employers to go beyond the minimal requirements to create a culture of safety at work, which has been shown to reduce costs, raise productivity and improve morale. To help them, we have released new recommendations for creating a safety and health program at their workplaces. We have many additional resources, including a wealth of information on our website and our free and confidential On-site Consultation Program. But tackling the most common hazards is a good place to start saving workers’ lives and limbs. Thomas Galassi is the director of enforcement programs for OSHA.
Galassi, Thomas. “Top 10 OSHA Citations of 2016: A Starting Point for Workplace Safety.” N.p., n.d. Web.