Awareness of new OSHA construction standards important

Changes in the 2005 Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Standards for Construction aren’t significant for most contractors. But that’s no excuse for not being aware of regulation updates or existing standards – ignorance won’t relieve a hefty fine.

OSHA updates its construction regulation standards every year, despite a multi-year time frame for most major revisions. Because changes occur annually, many contractors and subcontractors could misinterpret the importance of minor adjustments, or simply disregard them.

Edward Pachico, associate director of safety and health services for AGC, said most of the changes made to 2005 OSHA construction standards aren’t going to affect contractors directly.

However, Pachico said contractors could be fined Contractors can be fined if they do not use the consensus standard referenced in the OSHA standard/regulation. A contractor that used the most up-to-date standard could be fined if the OSHA regulation states that they must comply with the 1968 version of the consensus standard, even if the old version was no longer used and was not available for purchase.

“It can become extremely confusing when an OSHA regulation refers to compliance with only some sections of a consensus standard but not others,” he said.

Pachico said most were simply deletions of outdated references, such as the elimination of two references to a non-existing table in Section 1926.307.

Chip Murray, safety director with the Carolina chapter of AGC, said OSHA doesn’t promote standards as much as it needs to. He said AGC and other contractor organizations are the liaisons between their members and OSHA.

“Some [contractors] may have a vague idea of what the standards are, but not the specifics,” he said. “If they [members] don’t catch it on OSHA’s Web site, maybe they’ll catch it on ours.”

Much of the confusion with OSHA standards result from how they’re worded. “All the standards are written by a bunch of attorneys,” Murray said.

To combat this confusion, both AGC state chapters and the national chapter offer training sessions and videos for members. There are also a number of other safety training organizations that cater to the construction industry.

Steve Reynolds, safety director with Charlotte, N.C.-based Crowder Construction Company, said in some instances, some divisions of the company might choose to use an older version of the standards because the updates in newer editions may not apply to them. But when updates do apply, he said changes shouldn’t be hard to find.

“All they have to do is get a [standards] book, and they’ll see it,” he said. “Word-of-mouth should be enough.”

Many of the larger changes made in OSHA construction standards, such as the current reform debate on cranes, are already known throughout the industry. Contractions are invited to comment on those revisions, and thus shouldn’t be unaware when they take place, Reynolds said.

“It’s not like it’s coming tomorrow and you didn’t know about it,” he said.

Reynolds said some OSHA language could be overwhelming to contractors without the proper knowledge. He said it’s always easier to ask questions than face fines, which can be more than $200,000 for federal projects.

You can purchase the 2005 OSHA Standards for Construction in book or CD format.

Pricing is as follows:
1 copy — $34.95 each
2-4 copies — $33.95 each
5-10 copies — $31.95 each
11-20 copies — $29.95 each
21-50 copies — $26.95 each
51-100 copies — $24.95 each
101-200 copies — $22.95 each

Some of the regulation changes in OSHA’s 2005 Construction Standards are:

  • Revised regulatory text of the Methylenedlanlline standard for construction (1926.60) to correct a cross reference to OSHA’s standards on emergency action plans and fire prevention plans, effective Jan. 5, 2005.
  • Section 1904.12 in the recording and reporting occupational injuries and illness regulations was removed and 1904.29(b)(7)(vi) was revised to remove references to musculoskeletal disorders, effective Jan. 1, 2004.
  • Forms 300, 300A and 301 were revised.

(Source: National Safety Compliance)

Patrick Beeson can be contacted at pbeeson@randallpub.com.