Upcoming OSHA regulation changes set to directly impact the construction industry

Construction worker inspecting machinery operation
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This summer, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has over 26 regulations in motion from the spring agenda that will directly impact the construction industry. These changes will maintain the attention of the Department of Labor (DOL) in order to reach a final rule stage and allow for implementation by employers in construction.

Construction is a high-hazard industry, with a wide range of risks for employees. Approximately 20% of workplace injuries occur in construction, and according to OSHA, 1 in 5 employee deaths were documented in the construction industry in 2019.

Hazard Communication Standard

The proposed changes to the Hazard Communication Standard (HSC) would impact labeling and transfer of hazardous chemicals and materials. These regulation changes are meant to reflect the United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS). The revisions are meant to protect employees and lessen illnesses and injuries caused by chemicals and hazardous materials. 

Some of the regulation alterations will include:

  • New protocols for labeling chemical shipments allowing the use of container placement, electronic means and shipping papers.
  • Different labeling options beyond traditional pull-out labels, fold-back labels, or tags, specifically for small containers.
  • Label updating requirements that will allow for all parties involved in the shipping and distribution of hazardous materials to become more informed on details regarding the chemicals being handled.

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Enhanced Workplace Illness and Injury Tracking 

Regulation changes for Enhanced Workplace Illness and Injury Tracking have undergone several shifts within the past 4 years based on U.S. administrative decisions. The newly proposed updates will cause the tracking regulation to return to its 2016 form. The information and data collected in order to maintain this regulation allows OSHA to better analyze injury and illness in the workplace and pinpoint high-risk industries and organizations.

Construction worker capturing workplace injuries

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the proposed changes include:

  • Establishments with at least 250 employees to provide electronic submissions of injury and illness records with the OSHA 300 and 301 forms along with the 300A form
  • Prohibiting employers from discouraging injury and illness reporting in the workplace.
  • Requiring employers to inform their employees of their rights to report injuries in the workplace without retaliation.

Heat Illness Prevention

As many construction workers endure strenuous jobs outside in the sun, heat-related illness is a very prominent hazard in the industry. The hot summer months can cause heat exhaustion, heat stroke, heat rashes and even death. With global temperatures rising every year, heat-related illness is on the rise and has significant prominence in construction as the number one weather-related illness recorded.

The proposed regulations will make an impact on the industry with mandated breaks as well as the monitoring of employee response to high temperatures and humidity. Another element of the regulation is that it will apply to indoor and outdoor work settings, stretching the regulation further than just outdoor work. 

Personal Protective Equipment

The changes that are being made in regards to PPE remain unclear. Whether or not they are involving COVID-19 or are simply a general change in requirement, the plans are still in conversation. Either way, the changes could significantly impact construction in the field and the current PPE used by construction workers.

Communication Tower Safety

Communication tower employee working

With technology advancing, the frequency of communication towers is growing and will likely create higher risk to those that climb them. The fatality rate of those working on communication towers is one of the highest in the construction industry as employees climb towers all year, no matter the weather conditions. The height of these climbs can range from 100 feet to 1,000 or 2,000 feet. The proposed changes to regulation are expected to lower injury rates in the field with a focus on fall prevention amongst other training. 

Welding and Cutting

The overall point of this regulation change is to redefine and better define “confined spaces.” With a new definition, specific jobs and tasks could be approached differently to avoid confusion and injury.

Some of the additional proposed regulation changes will involve:

  • Cranes and Derricks
  • Welding and Cutting
  • Shipyard Fall Protection—Scaffolds, Ladders and Other Working Surfaces, a Mechanical Power Presses update, and Walking-Working Surfaces.

With summer in full swing, this new agenda is in motion with new shifts in regulation happening frequently. Many of these agenda items are in the process of approval and are becoming a reality, which will significantly impact the construction industry, workplace protocols and safety training goals.

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