The Importance of OSHA Compliance in the Construction Industry

As someone who owns a construction company, you don’t likely need any reminding of how dangerous that line of work can be. All it takes is looking at the most recent Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) Top 10 Most Frequently Cited Standards list. All of the concerns listed there are construction-related. OSHA, the federal agency, was created around the same time the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (“the Act”) went into effect. Below, we’ll share more about the importance of OSHA compliance in the construction industry from an employer perspective.

What Purpose Does OSHA Serve?

When the Act was passed, Congress lauded it as being critical to assuring safe and healthful working conditions and key to preserving human resources. OSHA believes that doing the following makes the construction industry and others safer:

  • Informing workers of their rights and responsibilities
  • Providing safety education
  • Ensuring employers equip their workers with adequate, appropriate, and well-functioning safety gear
  • Ensuring potential dangers that pose a risk to life and limb are clearly marked

Safety and Health Regulations for Construction Set by OSHA

One way in which OSHA aims to protect those who run companies and also who work in the construction industry is by setting standards for ensuring safety and preserving health. 29 CFR 1926 is the specific set of standards applicable to the construction industry. That lengthy list of standards addresses a wide range of topics, including: 

  • Reporting requirements
  • Fire protection and prevention
  • Medical services, including first aid
  • Personal protective equipment that can protect hearing, eyes, the respiratory system, and the head
  • Ventilation to minimize exposure to gasses, vapors, and fumes
  • Fall protection systems
  • Motor vehicle use
  • Demolition work and the use of explosives

The above list is not exhaustive, but merely a brief list of some of the different concerns on which OSHA provides guidance or regulates that are described in the aforementioned standards. These standards are regularly updated as new information becomes available that can be used to enhance safety in the construction industry.  Therefore, compliance with these standards and staying up to date on any revisions thereto is a must in order to minimize the potential of your workers facing harm on worksites  as well as minimizing your legal exposure as an employer within the construciton industry.

OSHA Rules Employers Must Comply With That Affect General Contractors

OSHA, and the Act which the federal agency enforces, have rules, regulations, and protections in place that aim to protect construction workers from harm. Two of the most notable ones include recordkeeping and protection from retaliation for reporting violations of an employer. 

Enhancing Building Site Safety Through OSHA Recordkeeping Requirements

Employers operating in so-called “higher-hazard industries” who have over ten employees must keep thorough and accurate records of all their workers’ employment-related illnesses and injuries per the OSHA Recordkeeping Rule. When recording these instances, they must document the following: 

  • If certain tasks or equipment were involved in causing the adverse outcome
  • How much time they missed from work because of the onset of the illness or injury
  • Whether similar incidents have happened before, along with their frequency

One of the most critical responsibilities employers in high-hazard professions like construction must do is submit an OSHA Form 300A at the end of the year. This form requires you to summarize the number and specifics surrounding the injuries and illnesses that occurred that previous year. You and your workers should also take time to review this in case there are safety measures you can employ to minimize the chances of someone getting sick or injured. 

As an employer, you may face penalties, including the imposition of fines, for failing to comply with applicable reporting requirements.

Protection for Whistleblowers When Construction Companies Violate the Law

Another rule that employers in the construction field must comply with is detailed in Section 11(c) of the Act. OSHA enforces compliance with this law, which states that employers are prohibited from taking any form of retaliatory action, such as the following, when workers report unsafe conditions or an unhealthy environment in their workplace:

  • A transfer or demotion
  • Loss of employment (termination)
  • Denying sick or annual leave
  • Taking away employer-provided housing
  • Reducing pay or amount of hours scheduled to work

As you likely are aware, situations where workers report safety hazards and violations of the law can potentially eliminate illness or injury-causing dangers before someone gets sick or hurt. Thus, this section of the Act allows workers to file an OSHA whistleblowing complaint if retaliation stemmed from a worker performing an activity protected by the Act, such as reporting violations of law they may have witnessed. 

When To Get an Attorney Involved

The above is merely a brief overview of the Occupational and Safety Health Act and OSHA’s origins and standards applicable to the construction industry.  Hopefully, this overview serves as examples of the importance of OSHA compliance in the construction industry particularly focusing on OSHA’s aim to:

  • Equip parties subject to OSHA compliance with the necessary insight to be safe when operating or working in the construction industry
  • Regulate how well workers are informed about their rights
  • Establish measures employers must take to protect worker safety
  • Encourage construction companies to be transparent about accidents that occur
  • Clarify what forepersons and construction company owners can and cannot lawfully do if an employee reports violations of law occurring on their job site

However, there are countless other OSHA rules, policies, standards, regulations, and associated laws to which employers in the construction industry are subject that aim to protect you from legal liability by also protecting your workers. Whether you need assistance in understanding your obligations per OSHA or you’re dealing with a building-related dispute with which you need help, our construction law attorneys can provide assistance and guidance. 
We have a long track record of handling OSHA-related issues on behalf of our clients and would like to help you similarly. Call or email our law firm to request your consultation today.