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OSHA basics for residential contractors: Pathway to Job Safety

Posted by Mark Paskell on Sun, Apr 14, 2013 @ 03:06 PM

OSHA basics are not usually part of the residential contractor's daily operating procedures, vocabulary or practices. Many residential contractors think they work safe and learn their ways of doing things from former bosses and the lumberyard school of hard knocks. To most contractors OSHA is an organization that focuses on other industries not residential construction.                     

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 Today OSHA is paying more attention to residential contractors than other industries due to the percentage of injuries and deaths in the sector. Residential construction is a targeted industry for education, outreach and enforcement.



A Pathway To OSHA Job Safety and Compliance

OSHA 10: One of the first steps to take to learn about OSHA and the standards employers and employees are required to follow is to take an OSHA 10 certification course. You will learn the OSHA requirements related to leading hazards at construction sites. This 10 hour course covers the basics of OSHA and exposes workers and employers to the standards and responsibilities of each party. You will also learn other requirements that may apply to your job site and employer responsibilities. In this training contractors and workers learn that there are other training steps and requirements to take in the creation of a safety program.

Assess Hazards To Prepare For The Creation Of A Safety Program: the next step is to take the knowledge from your OSHA 10 training and begin to create a safety program for your company. This takes some effort and requires that you do an analysis of the hazards on your job sites.

The term JHA (job hazard assessment or analysis) is used to describe the process of the employer assessing project hazards prior to exposing workers to them. In this step the hazards are written down and described. Then the employer needs to develop strategies and find ways to eliminate or reduce the hazards. (Engineered controls and administrative practices) If hazard elimination or reduction is not possible or only marginally effective then the employer would identify and specify the use of protective equipment to protect workers.

Contractors who have prior OSHA experience from the commercial construction or manufacturing sector tend to have quicker success developing a safety program. Those who do not often work with a safety person to help them navigate the unfamiliar territory. It is very important that the company get off on the right foot creating a safety program so that procrastination does not set in. 

Create a Jobsite Safety and Health Program (Safety Manual): the next step is to create your safety manual for your company. Your manual will include your written plans for fall protection, respiratory, scaffolding, stairs and ladders, hazcom, fire prevention and emergency repsonse, lock out tag out and more. Here is what OSHA writes on their website:

OSHA's construction standards require construction employers to have accident prevention programs that provide for frequent and regular inspection of the jobsites, materials, and equipment by competent persons designated by the employers. See 29 CFR 1926.20(b).

  • Creating and writing a Safety Manual takes time, effort and a knowing the OSHA Standards that apply to your work and company practices. Many contractors opt for hiring someone to guide them in this process or write the manual for them.
  • Another option is you can go to the OSHA website and figure out for yourself. We find most residential contractors do not have the time, do not feel comfortable with something they are unfamiliar with or do not want to risk doing it wrong.
  • Or you can buy a generic template and try to modify the template to your own reality. (Buyer beware: templates must be customized to your hazards, equipment and methods for construction work and comply with the OSHA Standards.

Create a safety training program: after you have determined the hazards and your manual on how you will protect your workers you will need to set up a program to train them. The training program needs to include the OSHA Standards that are applicable to the work you do and the hazards presented. OSHA requires all employers to have training programs that line up with the standards that cover the work the employer does.  You will need to train them how to recognize hazards, eliminate or reduce them by using work practices or other strategies described in your JHA. Training programs: Fall Protection, Hazcom, Respiratory, Fire Prevention, Lockout/Tagout, Tools, Personal Protective Equipment, Scaffolding, Stairs and Ladders, Electrical Safety and more.

Recordkeeping, Reporting and Posting; employers must keep records of training certifications and documents, medical records, injuries, deaths as well as post required OSHA posters.

For assistance or questions regarding developing an Safety Program or Manual contact Mark.


Tags: safety programs