Staying up-to-date with the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is a top priority for contractors, as this ensures their legal compliance.
This year, OSHA is introducing a number of new rules that construction professionals have to bear in mind. The main OSHA 2017 changes that affect contractors include electronic submission of injury and illness data, update on the Walking-Working Surfaces standards and restrictions on silica exposure. Contractors will need to comply with the new requirements, along with keeping the regular licensing security measures such as worker’s compensation insurance and a valid contractor license bond.
The health and safety measures for 2017 are intended to reduce major risks for workers and to allow them to protect their rights in cases of injury and illness.
Injury and illness data electronic submission
Since the construction industry is one of the most high-risk industries, construction companies with 20+ employees will have to comply with the new requirement for electronic submission of injury and illness data. This does not entail providing a different set of information. Instead, the change affects the method for submission to OSHA.
OSHA aims to raise the level of transparency and motivate employers to adhere to high health and safety standards. The electronic collection of data will also help the Administration better analyze it and enforce compliance across industries.
The requirement has been in force since January 1, 2017. Contractors have to submit their Form 300A for 2016 by July 1, 2017, and all forms for 2017 (300A, 300, and 301) by July 1, 2018.
There are three options for providing the data including manual submission via a web form, uploading of a data file and electronic transmission of data. The new rule includes an anti-retaliation provision to help prevent cases when employees do not report injuries because they fear their employer’s’ actions.
Walking-Working Surfaces standards update
Another important OSHA change in 2017 is the update of the Walking-Working Surfaces standards. The goal of the new rule is to improve protection of employers against slip, trip and fall hazards in the workplace. It has been in force since January 17, 2017.
With the new safety requirement, employers are given flexibility to choose a fall protection system. The options include guardrail, safety net, personal fall arrest, positioning, travel restraint and ladder safety systems.
Construction companies are also allowed to use rope descent for less than 300-feet descents. They need to ensure that workers are trained to use the fall protection equipment. The rule prohibits using body belts in fall protection. Contractors can learn more in the OSHA Fact Sheet.
Silica exposure protection
The Respirable Crystalline Silica protection rule is another OSHA change in 2017 that contractors need to comply with. It is targeted at the construction industry and the general industry and maritime fields. It took effect on June 23, 2016, and contracting companies need to comply by June 23, 2017.
Its goal is to protect workers who operate with silica-containing materials. The rule aims to reduce the health risks of silica exposure, including grave illnesses such as lung cancer, silicosis and pulmonary and kidney diseases.
The respirable crystalline silica permissible exposure limit (PEL) is decreased to 50 micrograms per m2 of air on any eight-hour working shift. Employers are required to use appropriate ventilation and water systems and respirators. They have to prepare an exposure control plan, educate workers about the risks and organize medical exams.