COVID-19 and the Construction Industry

Here's How You Can Protect Your Business

Monthly Archives: April, 2020

  1. Tips for Complying With OSHA’s Fire Safety Protection and Prevention Regulations

    In recent years, fire safety has remained a top priority for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), as fires and explosions frequently result in fatal occupational injuries. In this brief article, a Michigan OSHA lawyer with Cotney Construction Law covers tips for complying with OSHA’s fire safety protection and prevention regulations found under Subpart F- Fire Protection and Prevention of Safety and Health Regulations for Construction.  

    Maintain an Updated Fire Prevention Plan (FPP)

    OSHA requires employers to maintain an updated, written fire prevention plan posted within the workplace that can be made readily available for employees to review. At minimum, your fire prevention plan should include the following elements:

    • A list of any and all major fire hazards, proper storage and handling procedures for hazardous materials, potential ignition sources, and type of fire protection equipment necessary to control each of these hazards. 
    • Procedures necessary to control accumulations of combustible waste or flammable materials.
    • Procedures necessary to regularly maintain safeguards installed on heat-producing equipment in prevention of accidental ignition.
    • The name or job title of employees responsible for the control of these hazards.

    Additionally, OSHA requires the employer to inform employees upon assignment of potential fire hazards. The employer is then required to review with the employee which parts of the prevention plan are necessary for their self-protection. Whenever the fire prevention plan is updated, the plan must be reviewed with all employees. 

    Train Workers About Fire Hazards

    In order to protect yourself and your employees from fire hazards, all employees should be trained about fire hazards in the workplace and what to do in the event of a fire emergency. If you want your employees to evacuate or use firefighting equipment, you must provide the appropriate equipment and train them accordingly. For example, although employers are not required to provide portable fire extinguishers, if you do provide them, an educational program must be established to provide hands-on training with the portable fire extinguishers. 

    The same applies for emergency action plans. Only employers who are required by specific OSHA standards must develop emergency action plans; however, if emergency action plans are developed, then you must ensure that you provide the appropriate training to your workers on the routes and procedures to follow and the employee alarm system which will be used. 

    Ensure Your Fixed Extinguishing Systems Are in Compliance With OSHA Standards

    Unlike other aspects of fire protection previously mentioned, OSHA’s fixed extinguishing systems general standard applies to all employees who have a fixed extinguishing system installed, with the exception of automatic sprinkler systems. A great way to stay in compliance with OSHA is to ensure that you are following your responsibilities for operating, testing, and maintaining these fixed extinguishing systems. 

    For starters, when the fire suppression system is out of service, you must be able to temporarily substitute a fire watch of trained employees. This watch must be included in both the fire prevention plan and emergency action plan, if applicable. If the extinguishing agent used in the system poses a potential health hazard, such as carbon dioxide, then signs must be posted accordingly. For more information on how you can bring your jobsite up to date with OSHA standards, contact a Michigan OSHA lawyer today. 

    If you would like to speak with a Michigan OSHA attorney, please contact us today.

    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.

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  2. OSHA’s New COVID-19 Guidance for the Construction Workforce

    The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently published COVID-19 Guidance for the Construction Workforce. In this article, our Florida OSHA defense lawyers will cover the new requirements provided by the federal agency. Now more than ever before, construction companies need to comply with federal safety regulations. If you were recently cited for a safety violation, an OSHA attorney with Cotney Construction Law can help you contest this citation. For more information on our legal services, including access to our COVID-19 Protection Kit for a flat fee of $300, consult our Florida OSHA defense attorneys.  

    Reviewing the 12 COVID-19-Related Tips From OSHA 

    OSHA is currently undergoing the process of releasing industry-specific tips to help protect the health and safety of American workers during this unique time. For construction professionals, the national safety organization provided the following tips to help reduce exposure to COVID-19. Our OSHA lawyers will provide a little more insight on each of these tips:  

    1) Encourage workers to stay home if they are sick.  

    We have previously discussed this tip in several articles, including COVID-19 Preventing Workplace Exposure in Construction. Furthermore, if an employee is exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, separate them from their co-workers and send them home immediately to self-isolate.  

    2) Allow workers to wear masks over their nose and mouth to prevent them from spreading the virus.  

    To prevent the transmission of COVID-19 on your jobsite, it’s best for employers to provide their workforce with masks and gloves. It’s critical that professionals in all industries optimize their PPE supply during this time

    3) Continue to use other normal control measures, including personal protective equipment (PPE), necessary to protect workers from other job hazards associated with construction activities.  

    Regardless of if a project is going on during a pandemic or not, employers remain responsible for the health and safety of their workforce for non-COVID-19-related safety reasons. Contractors and site managers need to monitor PPE use and provide as safe a work environment as possible.  

    4) Advise workers to avoid physical contact with others and direct employees/contractors/visitors to increase personal space to at least six feet, where possible. Where work trailers are used, all workers should maintain social distancing while inside the trailers.  

    Although it may be difficult to overcome social distancing challenges on a jobsite, our attorneys encourage construction companies to implement the measures recommended by OSHA to stop the spread of COVID-19. You can learn more about social distancing requirements in this article.  

    5) Train workers how to properly put on, use/wear, and take off protective clothing and equipment.  

    Employers will need to ramp up their safety training courses for a variety of initiatives, including safety tips related to properly wearing and removing new forms of PPE. For safety manual drafting services, consult our OSHA lawyers

    6) Encourage respiratory etiquette, including covering coughs and sneezes.  

    This is another topic we covered in previous articles that remains as relevant today as it did over a month ago. Contractors must abide by all safety rules or they risk being shut down. This includes both public health regulations and the newest legislation from local or state stay-at-home orders. 

    7) Promote personal hygiene. If workers do not have immediate access to soap and water for handwashing, provide alcohol-based hand rubs containing at least 60 percent alcohol.  

    On top of providing alcohol-based hand rubs and hand sanitizer in accessible areas all over the jobsite, construction site managers should make sure that any areas that see heavy foot traffic are thoroughly sanitized throughout the day. 

    8) Use Environmental Protection Agency-approved cleaning chemicals from List N or that have label claims against the coronavirus.  

    For a full list of products that meet the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) criteria for use against the COVID-19 virus, you can read more here. Furthermore, always make sure to follow the label directions when using any EPA-registered disinfectant.    

    9) To the extent tools or equipment must be shared, provide and instruct workers to use alcohol-based wipes to clean tools before and after use. When cleaning tools and equipment, workers should consult manufacturer recommendations for proper cleaning techniques and restrictions.  

    Along with providing soap, disinfectants, and thoroughly cleaning all common areas, contractors need to also monitor the use of tools and equipment and ensure that these resources are being thoroughly cleaned. Read more tips in our article focused on Creating a Crisis Management Plan for COVID-19

    10) Keep in-person meetings (including toolbox talks and safety meetings) as short as possible, limit the number of workers in attendance, and use social distancing practices.  

    Although some in-person meetings for essential workers on the jobsite are necessary (so long as they comply with social distancing guidelines), it’s best to conduct any meetings that aren’t related to critical operations through a video conferencing system like Zoom. Even construction companies can transition some aspects of their operations to telework

    11) Clean and disinfect portable jobsite toilets regularly. Hand sanitizer dispensers should be filled regularly. Frequently-touched items (i.e., door pulls and toilet seats) should be disinfected.  

    Along with performing these important tasks, contractors should keep up to date on the latest health and safety standards updates and review the OSHA standards that apply to COVID-19

    12) Encourage workers to report any safety and health concerns.

    With increased concerns of the health and safety of workers, reporting systems are crucial right now. Along with having a reliable onsite reporting process, construction companies need to have a point of contact for any workers that fear they were infected away from the jobsite. Click here to read more about OSHA’s record keeping requirements with regards to COVID-19 cases on the jobsite. 

    If you would like to speak with an OSHA attorney, please contact us today.

    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.

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  3. OSHA’s Revised National Emphasis Program for Exposure to Respirable Crystalline Silica

    In February of this year, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) revised a National Emphasis Program (NEP) to identify and reduce or eliminate worker exposure to respirable crystalline silica. The purpose of this NEP is to ensure compliance with the 2016 silica standards by way of educational outreach programs and enforcement requirements. In this brief article, a Texas OSHA lawyer explains what revisions were made to the NEP and how you can prevent worker exposure to silica on your jobsite. 

    Related: Does Your Construction Site Have a Safety or Health Hazard Present?

    Overview of Respirable Crystalline Silica

    Respirable crystalline silica consists of very small silica particles generated by the sawing, grinding, drilling, cutting, or crushing of materials, such as concrete, rock, brick, mortar, stone, and block. Industrial sand, such as that found in fracking, is also a source of silica. Workers who inhale airborne silica particles are at increased risk for a number of health concerns, including lung cancer, kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and silicosis. It is estimated that approximately 2.3 million workers in the U.S. are exposed to respirable silica each year. 

    OSHA’s Respirable Crystalline Silica Standard for Construction

    To better understand the changes to the NEP, it’s important to review OSHA’s guidelines for respirable crystalline silica exposure in the construction industry under 29 CFR § 1926.1153. The standard for the construction industry covers the steps employers are required to take in order to limit workplace exposure to crystalline silica and protect workers from the hazards associated with exposure. The standard is flexible in terms of which dust control methods are used; however all constructions employers are required to: 

    • Establish and implement a written exposure plan
    • Offer medical exams for workers required to wear a respirator for 30 or more days per year
    • Keep records of medical exams and exposure measurements
    • Train workers on operations that may result in silica exposure and methods for limiting exposure
    • Provide respiratory protection, when necessary

    Related: Why Construction Firms Need an OSHA Defense Lawyer for their Job Site

    Changes to the NEP

    The revisions to the NEP are designed to target the industries expected to have the highest number of workers exposed to respirable crystalline silica and aid in compliance with the new silica standards. As such, the application revised the lower permissible exposure limit to 50 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3) as an 8-hour time-weighted average. This includes general industry, maritime, and construction. 

    In addition to compliance from all OSHA regional and area offices, local officials will conduct targeted inspections of sites within six months of the announcement. Ninety days prior to planned inspections, local offices are to initiate outreach programs to educate and aid local industries. For more information on how to limit occupational exposure to respirable crystalline silica or comply with the revisions to the NEP, contact one of our Texas OSHA defense lawyers today. 

    If you would like to speak with a Texas OSHA lawyer, please contact us today.

    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.

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