When the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) arrives at your project site without warning, it’s too late to fix any lapses in project site safety that are currently present under your supervision. Suddenly, you’ve been issued a stop-work order and a citation, and your project is no longer on schedule to meet its deadline. You’re in trouble. And you’re probably wondering what you could have done differently.
One of the easiest ways to maintain OSHA compliance is to partner with an OSHA attorney who knows how to think just like an OSHA compliance officer. Our attorneys have spent years dealing with inspectors and area directors and can inspect your site before the opportunity for a citation has the chance to arise. We literally wrote the book on OSHA defense and can help contractors avoid a citation through preventative and defensive measures.
At Cotney Construction Law, our OSHA defense attorneys have represented a broad range of clients, including serious, repeat, and willful violators. As part of our OSHA defense services, we can request an informal conference, ask for proof of a violation, submit a notice to contest, and post violations as required by law on the contractor’s behalf. However, the most effective way to protect your business against OSHA is by preparing in advance with the help of an OSHA lawyer and our OSHA checklist.
Recordkeeping, Written Programs, and Important Postings
Contractors should be able to produce the necessary records and written programs requested by an OSHA compliance officer. Any injuries or illnesses taking place on the project site should be recorded on the OSHA 300 log. Injuries that only required first aid do not need to be recorded. Employee training records should be available for review as well. An OSHA compliance officer may also request to see written programs, including:
- Hazard Communication Program
- Safety Data Sheets (SDS)
- Lockout/Tagout Program
- Written Respiratory Protection Program
- Safety and Health Program
In addition, certain postings are required to be displayed on-site. The OSHA Job Safety and Health Protection Poster and a clear list of emergency phone numbers should both be present. An OSHA defense attorney can help you ensure that your project site has all the necessary documents to maintain compliance.
First Aid, Fire Protection, and Personal Protective Equipment
Before an OSHA compliance officer visits your project site, you will want to ensure that you have stocked first aid kits and eyewash stations for construction sites where corrosive materials are present. An inspector may also request some form of verification that first aid training has been administered to workers as well as your instructions for handling an emergency.
Since the majority of construction work is conducted outside in the open air, fire protection requirements for the construction industry are slightly different from other industries, like manufacturing. Still, it is important that your workers have clear access to fire extinguishers. You should also check to make sure that your extinguishers have been recharged.
One of the most important items on this list is personal protective equipment (PPE). Workers that don’t wear the proper PPE are a huge liability and should be suspended from work until they are trained on the proper use of PPE. An OSHA compliance officer will check to see that your workers are outfitted in the proper PPE for face, head, eye, hand, and foot protection. They will also check your methods for testing, storing, and cleaning PPE. An OSHA defense lawyer can survey your project site to help you identify PPE-related vulnerabilities.
General Work Environment
Another important factor in your OSHA inspection is the general state of your project site. Is your workplace clean and sanitary? Is it organized and free of tripping hazards? Do you have the required number of bathroom facilities? An inspector has a lot to consider when surveying your project site, and an OSHA attorney can help you come to grips with all of it.
You will also want to be cognizant of walkways, means of egress, and ladders. Walkways should be clearly marked and unobstructed. Holes and other walking hazards should be removed. Exits must be labeled as required by law and illuminated so that they are visible at night. You must also furnish the proper number of project site entrances and exits to facilitate safe transportation to and from the project site. Of course, all ladders must be in proper working condition and receive regular maintenance.
Tools, Electrical, and Flammable Materials
All of the tools your workers use must be in good condition and stored in a secure and dry place when not in use to prevent potential injuries. Tools that are left on the project site present a tripping hazard and will be flagged by an OSHA compliance officer. Workers should exhibit knowledge of safe tool use, especially when handling power tools with moving parts. It is also important that you follow the proper lockout/tagout procedures to ensure that heavy equipment is de-energized for maintenance and cleaning.
Electrical equipment must also be installed, utilized, and maintained according to OSHA rules and regulations. Contractors should ensure that the necessary labeling is present on equipment that presents a potential electrical hazard. If your project site features an electrical hazard, any workers performing tasks in close proximity to the hazard should be able to showcase that they have received training. Lastly, remove any temporary wiring that could be a potential tripping hazard.
On project sites that contain flammable and combustible materials, it’s imperative that these materials are stored in approved storage containers. Storing these materials in the wrong type of storage container could result in spontaneous combustion. During construction or demolition, combustible waste, debris, and scrap should be collected and stored in metal containers before being relocated the proper waste management facility.
Consult an OSHA Lawyer
Taking on the challenge of preparing for future OSHA inspections can be a long and arduous process. If you aren’t prepared to take a clipboard down to the project site to perform your own pre-inspection, our OSHA defense lawyers can help. We’ll leave no stone unturned as we search for areas prone to a violation on your project sites. In addition to providing this valuable service, we can also help defend your business against any existing violations. Our other services include:
- Responding to citations on your behalf
- Representing your business at informal conferences
- Spearheading the complaint, hearing, and appeals process
- Managing the inspection process
- Handling workplace injuries and fatalities
- Reducing fines
OSHA is ramping up its efforts to identify and penalize non-compliant contractors. Don’t let your work suffer as a result. Consult an OSHA defense lawyer to avoid costly citations, stop-work orders, and potential breaches of contract.
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.