There is a lot of discussion about safety regulations and what construction companies should do to improve safety on the worksite. This also has many companies rightfully confused about what the role of the employee and the employer have in improving safety. Both the employee and the employer have a responsibility to take safety into account to comply with safety regulations like those created by OSHA. However, the line between who is responsible for what aspect of safety can be confusing. In this article, a Greensboro construction law firm discusses employer responsibilities for construction site safety.
Perhaps the most significant area of responsibility that a construction company has is to maintain compliance with OSHA regulations. Companies are legally mandated to understand, apply, and enforce OSHA regulations on every worksite. Failing to do so can result in fines or other penalties, including losing your contractor’s license.
To maintain compliance, construction companies have to plan their worksites and ensure that every aspect of the work area complies with appropriate OSHA guidelines. This includes providing safety equipment, making sure specific procedures are followed, and coordinating operations to keep the worksite safe at all times. This can be a difficult task on a busy worksite, but the amount of effort put into it is well worth the expense. Companies that focus on maintaining OSHA compliance are far less likely to have serious injuries or fatalities.
OSHA compliance is mandatory, which is why OSHA conducts periodic site inspections to make sure that regulations are being enforced. Ultimately, the construction company is liable for any violations that happen on the worksite, even if the employees are responsible. This could result in an OSHA violation that the company has to address, which may be expensive depending on the violation. As a result, companies also focus on enforcing guidelines down to the employee level so that they will not have to deal with a lot of violations.
One area that construction companies are almost exclusively responsible for is worksite management. Construction sites have to be planned out so that operations can run smoothly. Materials need to be delivered, stored properly, and easy to access to avoid problems. Likewise, there needs to be pathways for vehicles and pedestrians to travel separately and safely alongside a large number of other organizational concerns.
This cannot be managed at the employee level since the employee has a full understanding of everything that goes on at the worksite at a given time. Therefore, it falls to the management team and the administrative team to coordinate operations so that accidents can be avoided in the worksite. It is designed in a way that avoids as many hazards as possible.
The construction company is responsible for the safety equipment of all types. This includes PPE (personal protective equipment) for staff members and various types of safety gear for machines and other operations. The company is not responsible for providing general PPE, like hardhats, protective eyewear, and safety vests. Those are the responsibility of the individual staff members. However, the company is responsible for making sure that anybody on the worksite uses the appropriate equipment to stay safe.
Where many companies get into trouble with OSHA is with other types of safety gear. For example, certain work machines require safety harnesses to operate. Many times these safety harnesses are not provided or go missing making it unsafe for construction workers to use them. It is the responsibility of the company to make sure that that safety equipment is available at all times and is used whenever it is appropriate.
Safety Policy Enforcement
There is one area where the company is entirely liable for safety: safety policy enforcement. Above all else, the company is responsible for making sure that all safety guidelines, both internal and external, are followed at all times. This means enforcing OSHA regulations as well as the company’s internal safety policies.
Failing to enforce policies is where a lot of construction companies get into trouble. With OSHA, it usually results in an OSHA violation that incurs a fine and can cause further legal issues for the company. Many companies also do not have internal policies since they rely entirely on OSHA regulations. While this can provide a level of protection for construction workers, it can also leave out areas where the company does specific or specialized work where there are no safety procedures in place.
Furthermore, many companies get into legal trouble when they fail to enforce generally known and accepted safety procedures. Being seen as a company that will not enforce these policies can hurt its reputation and can lead to further legal trouble when construction workers are injured on the site. The best defense against this is to enforce safety policies at all times and at all costs. The resulting lack of injuries can be worth any potential problems that enforcing safety policies could create. The single on-site injury that cost the company millions of dollars under the right circumstances.
The amount of responsibility placed on construction companies for maintaining sanity is high. One thing companies can do to help themselves is to ensure that construction workers get the best training possible. There is a minimum level of safety training that is required by OSHA and other regulatory agencies. No construction worker should be allowed on site without completing this training first. However, there are a lot more training options available to make sure that construction workers can be as safe as possible. Taking advantage of these other options is a great way to lower the company’s safety risk and enable construction workers to be their own greatest advocates for their safety.
Understanding the complexities of safety regulations and guidelines on construction sites can be difficult. Fortunately, you can get help from legal professionals to help your company develop a better understanding of its responsibility in terms of workplace safety. If you have any questions about your company’s responsibility when it comes to making worksites safe, contact a Greensboro construction lawyer from Cotney Construction Law.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.