The agency is in the process of revising its proposed update to its voluntary guidelines, first published in 1989, to help employers establish health and safety management plans at their workplaces. A final version is scheduled for release in June.
“One of the issues, identified as a result of the public comments, was that both employers and workers in the construction industry said to us that what we’re planning on doing is not going to work for them,” according to Andy Levinson, deputy director of OSHA’s Directorate of Standards & Guidance.
“The inclusion of construction in the guidelines was new in this iteration,” he said. “We had contemplated it in 1989 and received similar comments that what we had done in 1989 was not going to work. We are very serious and very committed to getting out a parallel set of construction safety and health guidelines on something very close to the timeline for this document as well.”
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recommended adding construction-relevant language to the draft guidelines or developing an alternate document focusing on issues specific to the construction sector because the industry has complex characteristics, including high employee turnover, many short-term or temporary jobs, and multiemployer worksites with many small businesses.
Most small builders do not have the staff or resources to dedicate one employee to developing and implementing a safety programme along the lines of OSHA’s guidelines so, as written, they are “not useful to this key segment of the construction industry,” the Washington-based National Association of Home Builders has noted.
In 2014, about 9.8 million workers were employed in the construction sector, which accounted for nearly 20 per cent of the country’s 4,679 work-related deaths that year, according to data from a Maryland-based Center for Protection of Workers Rights.