For the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), it’s impossible to kick off the New Year without reflecting on the one that preceded it. When it comes to health and safety in the workplace, every incident is a story in itself; however, these individual incidents do little to inform OSHA about the needs of employers and employees. Rather, it’s the global perspective achieved from virtually endless data points that helps OSHA determine their priorities for the New Year.
2020 will usher in the 49th year of OSHA, and as you’re probably aware, OSHA has a tendency to ramp up their efforts year after year, so contractors should be prepared for a deluge of policies that emphasize new and existing regulations alike. In this article, our OSHA defense lawyers will take a look at OSHA’s priorities for 2020 and reveal how contractors can prevent costly citations. Remember, for all of your construction-related legal needs, including lien law, bond law, and OSHA defense, rely on an experienced OSHA lawyer from Cotney Construction Law.
Similar to 2019, contractors can expect more OSHA inspections in the coming year. There were 33,401 inspections in 2019, so the construction industry should be prepared for at least this many inspections in 2020. More specifically, inspections related to trenching, falls, chemical exposure, and silica exposure will be on the rise. And this is only the beginning. This number doesn’t account for OSHA’s various state plans (22 in total), which means that the number of inspections in 2019 could be much higher than the statistics currently advertise. Contractors who plan to take on projects that expose their workers to any of these risks should be extra cautious. Of course, an OSHA attorney can perform a third-party site audit prior to an inspection to help you unearth any vulnerabilities on your project site.
OSHA set a new record for workers with training on safety and health requirements in 2019, with 1,392,611 workers reportedly taking part in one of OSHA’s education programs. This figure includes OSHA on the national and state level. Some of OSHA’s most notable training programs include:
- OSHA Training Institute Education Centers
- Outreach Training Program
- Susan Harwood Training Grant Program
Another important facet of expanding education includes OSHA’s free On-Site Consultation Program. In 2019, this program helped identify 137,885 work-related hazards. OSHA estimates that the program was able to prevent 3.2 million workers from potential injury. However, inviting OSHA to your site for an audit could lead to OSHA demanding that you make costly changes to your project site. Rather than open your project site to the feds, an OSHA attorney can perform a thorough third-party audit that addresses any safety or health concerns discreetly and securely. With this method, you can get the vital answers you seek without the stress of an impending inspection.
Fortifying Crystalline Silica Regulations
In June of 2020, OSHA plans to release a new crystalline silica exposure rule that will bring other industries up to speed with the construction industry. They were able to glean some insight into this issue after issuing a request for information which ended in October. Construction professionals are at the highest risk for crystalline silica exposure, so if you haven’t updated your methods for dealing with this dangerous substance, you should get on it as soon as possible. You can expect crystalline silica exposure to be at the forefront of OSHA’s priorities for the next several years, especially with experts linking it to oftentimes fatal illnesses, such as silicosis, lung cancer, tuberculosis (in those with silicosis), and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Utilizing 2019 Requests for Information to Improve Safety in 2020
In addition to the request for information regarding crystalline silica, OSHA also issued requests for information dealing with revisions to lockout/tagout regulations and industrial truck regulations. As technology continues to advance, OSHA’s regulations must also advance; otherwise, workers will not have up-to-date knowledge that can help keep them safe. Hopefully, these new regulations can help decrease work-related injuries and fatalities without impeding workflows and project profitability.
OSHA’s Other Priorities
In addition to the priorities our OSHA defense lawyers mentioned above, OSHA plans to:
- Inaugurate a Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act review panel. The purpose of this panel is to create a standard that can help decrease instances of workplace violence.
- Amend the standard dealing with cranes and derricks in construction. Changes are somewhat minor, including correcting mentions of DC and AC voltages and clarifying exclusions related to forklifts and articulating cranes.
- New rules dealing with welding in confined spaces, beryllium exposure, and hazard communications.
Clearly, OSHA has a lot on the agenda for 2020, and there’s no doubt that contractors will be affected as a result. For all of your construction-related legal needs, including industry leading OSHA defense services, consult an OSHA 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.