OSHA New Initiatives for the Construction Industry – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has announced new enforcement initiatives for 2023 which will have a direct impact on the construction industry. These new initiatives are primarily directed at preventing trenching and excavation fatalities, and heat-related injuries and illnesses. State Plan states, including North Carolina, are required to adopt the federal policies and procedures to enforce the new initiatives or provide written confirmation of different, but equally effective, policies and enforcement procedures.
OSHA reported that during the first half of 2022, at least 22 workers perished while performing excavation and trenching activities. This number is greater than the trench-related fatalities reported during the entirety of 2021. The new National Emphasis Program on Trenching and Excavation envisions more than 1,000 additional trench inspections by OSHA compliance officers across the U.S. during 2023.
OSHA has also begun a new National Emphasis Program on Heat Illnesses and Injuries occurring both indoors and outside. The plan is to increase heat-related inspections by at least 100 percent during 2023. These inspections will typically take place on “heat priority days” when the daytime temperature exceeds 80 degrees, a low threshold for construction companies working in the South.
A key goal of this program is to impress on employers the importance of developing a written prevention plan for heat illnesses. According to OSHA, an acceptable written plan should include provisions for:
- Water and rest breaks;
- Shade and cool rest areas; and
- Employee training on the signs and symptoms of heat illness.
OSHA has made one change which will somewhat reduce the regulatory burden on construction employers. Companies with 250 or more employees have been required to electronically submit information from OSHA Forms 300 and 301. This electronic submission of injury and illness data will no longer be required. Companies will, however, still have to maintain these records on-site, and to submit Form 300A (annual summary).
Tom Davis, Partner with Poyner Spruill, regularly represents owners, design professionals, and contractors on construction related issues and workplace safety. Based in the Raleigh office, Davis has more than 35 years of experience in the litigation and arbitration of complex cases. He advises clients on legal matters including construction contract negotiation, claims analysis and presentation, and, labor and OSHA disputes. Prior to joining Poyner Spruill, Tom served as Assistant Attorney General of the North Carolina Department of Justice, Highway Division.