Vicki Speed 2016-05-07 04:19:17
An inside look at new and proposed 2015 OSHA regulations focused on construction safety as well as trends in alternative project delivery contracts and top-notch dispute resolution methods OSHA Increasesjobsite Oversight A recent Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) survey, conducted as part of Ready to Hire Again: The 2015 Construction Industry Hiring and Business Outlook, noted that contractors are generally optimistic about the year ahead and ready to expand, though they'll have to deal with challenges that include workforce shortages and regulatory burdens. AGC Chief Executive Officer Stephen E. Sandherr reported that a large number of contractors are worried about the potential impact of recently enacted and proposed federal regulations. For instance, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) initiated the new recordkeeping rules (effective Jan. 1,2015), the updated confined spaces standard (effective August 3, 2015) and the proposed silica rules currently in work. More Reports and Tighter Restrictions Over one-third (36%) of AGC's survey respondents are concerned that the new OSHA regulations that require contractors to keep detailed records of all job applicants will have a negative impact. The revised OSHA Recordkeeping regulation (29 CFR1904) that went into effect on January 1, 2015 expands the list of severe work-related injuries that all covered employers must report to OSHA. Regardless of size or industry, employers must report all work-related fatalities within 8 hours and all workrelated inpatient hospitalizations, all amputations and all losses of an eye within 24 hours. Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, Dr. David Michaels, believes that the new data "will enable the agency to identify the workplaces where workers are at the greatest risk and target our compliance assistance and enforcement resources accordingly." As well, OSHA recently issued a new construction-specific standard for work in confined spaces (e.g., manholes, crawl spaces and tanks) that goes into effect August 3, 2015. Work in confined spaces is defined as those that can present physical or atmospheric hazards. According to OSHA, the new Subpart AA of 29 CFR 1926 will help prevent construction workers from being hurt or killed by eliminating and isolating hazards in confined spaces at construction sites similar to the way workers in other industries are already protected. The exceptions to this standard are those specialized construction activities (excavations, underground construction, caissons, cofferdams, compressed air and diving) which are separately regulated. The new standard places a greater emphasis on training, monitoring/evaluating and communications requirements. Yet, it's the proposed rule to drastically reduce the permissible exposure limit (PEL) of crystalline silica for the construction industry, that has many concerned. Silica and Safety In 2013, OSHA proposed a rule to protect workers exposed to respirable crystalline silica. The premise of the rule is that workers can be exposed to harmful levels of respirable crystalline silica that can cause silicosis, lung cancer and other lung and kidney diseases. OSHA believes that employees exposed to respirable crystalline silica face a significant risk to their health at the current permissible exposure limits and that promulgating these proposed standards will substantially reduce that risk. Initially, OSHA noted that the cost to the industry would be a little over $500 million a year. A recent report from the Construction Industry Safety Coalition (CISC) estimates that the proposed silica standard will cost the industry more than $4.9 billion per year. The CISC report says that OSHA made "major errors in its cost and impact analysis," and that the new rule is potentially the most expensive OSHA standard ever for the construction industry. About 80% of the cost will be direct compliance expenditures for additional equipment, labor, O&M expenses, productivity losses, monitoring, respirators, etc. Another 20% will be from indirect costs such as an increase in construction materials and building products when manufacturers pass on the cost of compliance. OSHA is currently analyzing comments and expects to release the new rule later this year. To help construction lawyers and the construction community carefully navigate the OSHA-regulated construction environment, the American Bar Association Forum on Construction Law is working on updating its Construction Lawyer's Guide to Labor and Employment Law, which will include a chapter on current OSHA requirements. The OSHA chapter will address the multi-employer worksite doctrine including the responsibilities of all parties on a construction site from owner/architect to general contractor and subcontractors. ABA anticipates the release of the guide by winter 2015.
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