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OSHA to propose safety guidelines for construction sector alone

OSHA to propose safety guidelines for construction sector alone

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration will craft a separate set of safety and health program management guidelines for the construction industry, based on feedback on a proposed update to its voluntary guidelines.

The agency is in the process of revising its proposed update to its voluntary guidelines, first published in 1989, to help employers establish health and safety management plans at their workplaces. A final version is scheduled for release in June.

“One of the issues that was identified as a result of the public comments was that both employers and workers in the construction industry said to us that what we're planning on doing is not going to work for them,” Andy Levinson, deputy director of OSHA's Directorate of Standards & Guidance, said at a public comment meeting in Washington on Thursday.

Those parties asked that the issue be referred to the Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health to develop a separate set of guidelines for the construction sector — a request accepted by OSHA, Mr. Levinson said.

“The inclusion of construction in the guidelines was new in this iteration,” he said. “We had contemplated it in 1989 and received similar comments that what we had done in '89 wasn't going to work. We are very, very serious and very committed to getting out a parallel set of construction safety and health guidelines on something very close to the timeline for this document as well.”

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recommended adding construction-relevant language to the draft guidelines or developing an alternate document focusing on issues specific to the construction sector because the industry has complex characteristics, including high employee turnover, many short-term or temporary jobs, and multiemployer worksites with many small businesses, according to public comments filed by Washington-based NIOSH on Feb. 18.

Most small builders do not have the staff or resources to dedicate one employee to developing and implementing a safety program along the lines of OSHA's guidelines so, as written, they are “not useful to this key segment of the construction industry,” the Washington-based National Association of Home Builders said in its public comments on Feb. 22.

In 2014, about 9.8 million workers were employed in the construction sector, which accounted for nearly 20% of the country's 4,679 work-related deaths that year, according to data from Silver Spring, Maryland-based Center for Protection of Workers Rights.

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