OSHA Actions Impact the Construction Industry

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OSHA’s current agenda affects other employers, too.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) intends to take steps that will have a direct impact on construction businesses. Proposed adjustments to the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) are one of the most visible. They are intended to comply with changes in the United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS). Construction employers may have new compliance duties as a result of some materials now being designated as “hazardous” or managed in a different hazard class, resulting in new programme, training, and communication obligations. According to attorneys Cressinda Schlag and Kelli Morgan Dreger of the Jackson Lewis law firm, the proposed revisions aim to change specific hazard classes, labelling conditions, and language used on safety data sheets (SDS). Furthermore, OSHA’s modifications propose changes to the HCS classification and labelling system to align it with more recent GHS versions.

According to the attorneys, OSHA’s proposed HCS changes have the potential to influence a wide range of items used on construction sites, including aerosolized chemicals and products in small containers, as well as change the labels and SDSs for some chemical products. “Construction workers frequently come into contact with and use items that are or will be defined as ‘hazardous’ under the HCS,” they continue. These materials include, but are not limited to, all sanitation cleaning solutions, paint, and concrete. One important revision recommends revising categorization standards for specific health and physical dangers, such as unstable gases, non-flammable aerosols, skin corrosion or irritation, eye irritation, and aerosols in general. Desensitized explosives would be assigned to a new danger class under the proposed revisions. According to the attorneys, covered businesses in the construction industry will need to ensure correct product classification, update their written procedures, SDSs, and training materials to conform if the proposed revisions become effective.

What Else Is on the Agenda?

Other OSHA processes that would affect construction firms, such as HM regulations addressing blood lead levels and crystalline silica, were recently listed on the agency’s mid-year regulatory agenda. According to Jackson Lewis attorney Courtney M. Malveaux, construction workers are more likely to be exposed to these risks than most other workers, particularly those who work with concrete, stone, and metals. When OSHA investigators find that employee accidents are the consequence of excessive heat at a worksite, the General Duty Clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act has historically been used to cite companies. Malveaux asserts, “That will change.” “If OSHA follows state rules, it might impose break intervals and require employers to track employee acclimation as well as outdoor temperature,” says the article. Employers should also be aware that better tracking of occupational injuries and illnesses is coming. Following a change made during the Trump administration in 2018, OSHA has advocated going back to the 2016 version of the regulation. Anti-retaliation clauses in the proposed law could deter workplace safety and health incentive programmes, as well as post-incident drug testing.

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