When your company is steadily growing and taking on more and more projects, you can’t afford to have all of your attention trained on your bottom line and backlog of projects. You need to also ensure that you are following the most effective safety practices and complying with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations. Because construction work involves placing workers near potential hazards, one misstep on the jobsite can result in a serious injury or costly citation that bankrupts your business or destroys your reputation.
At Cotney Construction Law, our Orlando construction lawyers are dedicated to providing construction companies with the tools their business needs to succeed. That’s why we now offer subscription plans to safeguard your business and prevent any unexpected delays from occurring. In this editorial, an Orlando construction lawyer will discuss how the comprehensive services within a subscription plan can protect your best interests and improve your safety measures on projects.
Safety Manual Creation and Updates
Regardless of how committed your business is to the best safety practices, you can always do more to ensure your jobsite has mitigated any potential safety issues. The first step in maintaining a safe project site is implementing specific procedures that ensure your company remains protected. OSHA requires construction firms to create a written safety manual that defines the company’s safety and health practices.
Creating and updating a safety manual is an effective way to reduce injuries at the workplace and avoid costly citations. A safety plan can improve employee morale, increase productivity and work quality, reduce the likelihood of injury, and lower the costs of workers’ compensation. A safety manual can include the following items:
- Safety and Health Policies
- Disciplinary Action for Violations
- Orientation Programs
- Reporting Procedures for Hazard Identification
- Reporting Procedures for Accidents/Injuries
- Accident Investigation Procedures
- Risk Assessment Procedures
- Emergency Plan Information
- Drug and Alcohol Free Workplace Policy
- Workplace Violence Policy
- Fire Hazard and Electrical Safety Plans
- Lockout Tagout Procedures
- Trenching and Excavation Safety Plans
- Equipment Safety Plans
- Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) Requirements
- First Aid Plans
- Fall Prevention Safety
- Heat and Climate Safety and Plans
- Job Safety Analysis
- Portable Power Tools and Machinery Plans
- Chemical Exposure Plans
- Hurricane Preparation Safety Plans
Although it’s important to verify that the above issues are all addressed in your safety manual, it’s equally important to regularly update and review your safety manual and programs. By constantly reviewing your safety manual, you can ensure that you are OSHA compliant and that your safety practices are effective. Several of our affordable, monthly subscription plans feature safety manual revision services. Our attorneys are also extremely familiar with jobsite hazards and can anticipate what policies should be added to your safety manual when needed.
Safety Document Retainment
If your jobsite is being audited by an OSHA compliance officer, they will request access to specific documents. Most employers have no idea what documents a compliance officer has a right to review. Another issue is that construction business owners may be unaware of what documents they are legally required to retain or the period of time these documents need to be retained for. If you fail to preserve certain documents and a compliance officer requests access to these records, you could be charged with an OSHA violation.
Our Orlando construction attorneys assist construction firms by ensuring required documents are retained. We can also produce these documents for an OSHA compliance officer during an investigation. An experienced attorney understands what documents a compliance officer has a right to review and what documents can remain confidential. For example, an investigator isn’t supposed to have access to third-party audit reports, internal accident investigations, or insurance audits. However, if you wrongfully produce these documents to the compliance officer, the compliance officer has a right to utilize the documents in a way they deem fit, including using the information to issue citations.
During an investigation, our Orlando construction attorneys can represent your firm on the project site. When document requests are made, we can determine what documents need to be presented to the compliance officer and what documents should remain in storage.
OSHA Inspection Audits
As your business has a legal obligation to adhere to OSHA standards, employers must be proactive about mitigating safety and health issues. One effective way to reduce safety and health risks is to employ an Orlando construction attorney to provide a third-party audit of your jobsite. Our construction attorneys are extremely knowledgeable in safety and health requirements in the workplace and can assess and advise employers on ways they can ensure their site is protected from an OSHA citation.
When you perform third-party audits before an OSHA inspection, safety and health issues can be addressed and mitigated before you receive a citation. You also receive advice from a knowledgeable professional that isn’t personally familiar with your site. This can be extremely helpful during an audit.
Our law firm also provides aggressive defense against OSHA citations. In many cases, a construction company closely follows safety and health regulations and provides a safe workplace for their employees, but they are wrongfully accused of a violation and receive a citation anyway. In some cases, the citation amount doesn’t align with the alleged violation.
Regardless of the circumstances, when you receive an OSHA citation, this can be a challenging task to navigate. Our construction attorneys are experienced representing a wide range of clients and we have had success getting citations removed entirely. Some common reasons why a construction firm is wrongfully accused of an OSHA violation include:
- Misconduct: In some cases, an employee’s willful actions without the knowledge of their employer lead to an OSHA citation. If an employee’s misconduct violated company policy and resulted in an OSHA citation, an attorney can provide the necessary documents to support your case.
- Feasibility: Another common defense is whether or not the OSHA standard was a feasible option for taking on a project. For example, if a roofing company had to perform work on a roof that was domed or dramatically sloped, the contractor will need to consider an alternative approach to safety. When meeting safety regulations is functionally impossible, construction firms need to create a safety plan that outlines the alternative approach they will take to the project; otherwise, they could potentially receive a citation.
- Out of Service: An OSHA compliance officer could issue a citation for a defective piece of equipment or machinery, but was the item in use? It’s OSHA’s responsibility to prove that the violation was an immediate threat to safety or health on the jobsite and warranted a citation. If the equipment wasn’t in use at the time of their inspection, it’s difficult for OSHA to prove that it was a legitimate hazard to the jobsite.
Because OSHA citations can include a broad range of violations, it’s critical that construction firms employ a knowledgeable and responsive advocate to defend their business from OSHA citations. Whether it’s safety manual creation, updates, document retainment, representation during an inspection, a third-party audit, or OSHA defense, Cotney Construction Law provides all of these services and more.
When you sign up for a monthly subscription plan at Cotney Construction Law, we can assist you with all of your safety initiative needs. Our Orlando construction law firm also offers quick, 24-hour email responses to address your concerns. This way, you receive immediate access to dedicated attorneys and customer service representatives to ensure your needs are met promptly. To learn more about our subscription plan packages, please visit our website.
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.