• Information Date
  • Presented To
    The Association of Union Contractors (TAUC)/North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU)/Employer Associations Safety and Health Committee Meeting
  • Speaker(s)
    Loren Sweatt

Remarks As Prepared For Delivery by
Loren Sweatt
Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor
for Occupational Safety and Health

The Association of Union Contractors (TAUC)/North America’s Building
Trades Unions (NABTU)/Employer Associations Safety and Health
Committee Meeting

December 11, 2018
Washington, D.C.

Good morning.  Thank you for inviting me to join you today.  I know that many of you in attendance are current or former alliance partners.  Thanks to all of you for working with OSHA and to your commitment to workplace safety.

Everyone in this room is dedicated to reaching our shared goal of a safe workplace, where every worker goes home safe and sound at the end of each shift. 

As you know, over ninety percent of construction employers (90%) have 20 or fewer employees, the industry typically has very high employment turnover rates, and most construction sites are multi-employer worksites. 

This creates a unique set of challenges, and is why OSHA dedicates a great deal of effort and resources to working with stakeholders to address safety and health in the construction industry. 

These challenges are also why the importance of worker training cannot be overstated.  OSHA encourages all employers to make sure any worker or subcontractor they hire or contract with is properly trained in the skilled trade that they will be performing. However, having an understanding of a trade is only part of the training; it is also essential that workers clearly know how to perform that skill safely.

OSHA, the construction industry, labor unions, and other stakeholders, have made great progress together toward improving safety on construction worksites in this country.  Nevertheless, this is not the time to take a break, not until the number of work-related injuries and illnesses is zero

Today, I would like to discuss how to continue to grow and expand the opportunities for collaboration to achieve this goal.

Balanced Approach

OSHA takes a balanced approach to address workplace safety and health.  Enforcement and compliance assistance are not mutually exclusive; in fact, they are complimentary. The overriding principle is to protect workers from illness and injury.

The employers, unions, and trade associations you work with understand their responsibilities and make every effort to comply with the law.  OSHA is working to improve compliance assistance materials to make them more user friendly.  This includes plain English or translating the documents into a language the worker speaks.

Employers who do not comply with the law will continue to see full and fair enforcement.  The expectation is for everyone in OSHA to carry out their duties professionally, respectfully, and by the book.

About half of OSHA’s federal inspections are in the construction industry.  For FY18, OSHA conducted more than 16,000 construction worksite inspections.  Nearly two-thirds of those inspections were programmed and more than half were conducted as part of two agency emphasis programs for fall hazards and trenching.

Trenching

When I spoke here last year, I noted the dramatic increase in trenching deaths between 2015 and 2016.  OSHA is focused on reducing the number of trenching-related injuries and fatalities.  Recently, the agency updated the trenching national emphasis program.  And the number of trenching hazards abated is being closely tracked.

OSHA is promoting stronger industry awareness about the seriousness of trenching hazards and the means available to address them.  OSHA has updated the trenching QuickCard, printed new trenching posters for your worksites and offices, and designed a hard hat sticker to mirror OSHA’s regulation:  Slope it, Shore it, Shield it.  Secretary Acosta recorded a public service announcement and there are trenching videos available for training and education purposes. 

In June, OSHA, the National Utility Contractors Association (NUCA), and the North American Excavation Shoring Association (NAXSA) hosted a Trenching Safety Stand-Down.  Stand-Downs were held at over 750 jobsites, reaching more than 20,000 workers, both in the U.S. and abroad.

Building on this year's widespread participation, the agency expects to hold another Trenching Stand-Down in June 2019.  OSHA encourages everyone here whose operations involve trenches to participate. 

I also want to ask you to help us share these resources across the country.  Please spread the word that the agency will be emphasizing trenching projects in its enforcement targeting, and encourage those who hire contractors and anyone who sees trenching hazards to report unsafe conditions to OSHA. 

Silica Enforcement

OSHA began enforcing the silica construction standard in September 2017 and the general industry and maritime standards this past June. 

FY 2018 was the first year of inspections of the new standard for all industry sectors.  During this time, the agency conducted more than 370 inspections addressing silica hazards; 60% of these were construction-related.  Most of the violations related to four areas: exposure assessments, exposure controls (related to Table-1), lack of written exposure control plans, and failures in communication of hazards.

Since issuing the rule, OSHA has worked hard to develop and provide compliance assistance to help impacted employers comply.  For example, there are over seventy frequently asked questions available on OSHA.gov addressing construction industry issues.  A similar set for general industry and maritime is also being developed.  Small Entity Guides for construction and general industry are available, along with training slides in PowerPoint format. You can also find on OSHA’s Silica webpage multiple safety videos describing silica hazards and suggested control methods. These assistance efforts continue, even as enforcement has begun.

CPWR should be recognized for the work they’ve done to create tools and materials to assist employers and workers in understanding how to comply with the rule.

OSHA has heard from many stakeholders who would like to see additional dust control options, or additional tasks, added to Table-1.  As a result, the agency will publish a Request for Information (RFI) to solicit comments on possible Table 1 revisions.  The regulatory agenda states that the RFI is to be published this month (December 2018), and it will include questions on specific dust control methods and tasks.

OSHA will evaluate the information received in response to the request, and determine how to proceed. 

I encourage you to provide robust comments related to this RFI.  I also welcome your ideas on how OSHA can assist employers with compliance of the silica rule.

Initiatives: Fall Prevention Campaign

One of OSHA’s major initiatives is the fall prevention campaign.  Falls continue to be the leading cause of worker fatalities in the construction industry.  Fall protection and education also continues to be in OSHA’s top ten cited regulations.  To help raise awareness and encourage the prevention of falls, each year the agency, in coordination with NIOSH, CPWR, and the National Occupational Research Agenda council hosts a National Fall Safety Stand-Down.  Over the past 5 years, these events have reached 7.5 million workers.

Next year’s event will take place May 6-10, 2019, to coincide with National Construction Safety Executives Safety Week.  I look forward to working with everyone here during next year's Stand-Down. 

Safe + Sound Campaign

OSHA has a basic requirement to implement safety and health programs for the construction industry.  Employers should consider best practices to establish safety and health programs that include management leadership, worker, and union participation as well as a systematic and proactive approach to finding and fixing hazards that go above and beyond the minimum statutory requirements.  These programs are proven to protect workers and strengthen businesses.  

The Safe + Sound campaign reinforces this approach.  In August 2018, Safe + Sound week encouraged employers and workers to host activities and events across the country to promote proactive safety and health programs.  For those of you who participated—thank you--and I hope you will join us in next year’s event.  We expect to announce 2019 dates soon.

Most importantly, please make sure you have an effective program in place.  You can find an excellent example of recommended practices for implementing on OSHA’s website.

Cooperative Programs

OSHA’s Cooperative Programs are excellent ways for employers, employees, and associations to work with OSHA on meaningful safety and health initiatives. 

I know that this group is very familiar with our alliance program. 

OSHA has many other compliance assistance resources available as well.  Employers who want help to meet their obligations can take advantage of OSHA’s no-cost and confidential On-Site Consultation Program. This is designed to help small employers who may not have the same resources as their larger counterparts.  It is important to note that we have established a firewall between the consultation service and the enforcement-side of the agency.

Through this program, OSHA works with the employer to find and fix hazards, achieve compliance, and improve safety and health programs. 

The Voluntary Protection Program or VPP is another valuable asset for employers.  VPP sites undergo intensive audits of the company’s safety and health program.  It is a collaboration between management, workers, and unions (where there is representation). 

Companies participating in VPP have exceptional safety and health programs, and are exempt from programmed inspections.  There are basic requirements for participation in VPP.  One primary requirement is for all active sites to maintain injury and illness rates below the national industry average. 

I encourage any of your members who are interested in VPP or On-site Consultations, to reach out to us.

Rulemaking

You may have some interest in recent or ongoing rulemakings, so allow me to provide some updates.

Crane Operator Certification

Last month, OSHA issued a final rule on crane operator certification that requires employers to ensure crane operators are trained, certified/licensed, and evaluated to operate equipment.

The final rule, except for the evaluation and documentation requirements, went into effect yesterday (December 10).  The evaluation and documentation provisions will go into effect on February 7, 2019.

The agency is developing outreach materials to help employers comply with the requirements. FAQs are currently available on the website and others will be forthcoming. 

The certification section of the Small Entity Compliance Guide is also being updated to help small businesses comply with the final rule.  A revised directive will include compliance inspection guidance and recommended citation policies for crane operator training, certification, and evaluation.

Of course, if any of you have specific concerns, please let us know and we will be happy to offer assistance in complying with the rule.

Advisory Committees

OSHA recently published requests for nominations for several advisory committees, including our advisory committee on construction (ACCSH) and national advisory committee (NACOSH).  The ACCSH nominations closed on Nov 16th and we are currently reviewing them to compile a list of candidates and proceed with appointing members.  NACOSH nominations are still open – those close on December 24, 2018.  If you are interested in serving, or know someone who is, I encourage you to go to the Federal Register and submit a nomination.

Outreach

Examining ways to improve the accessibility of information about available resources is a key project for OSHA.  As new products are developed or updates of existing resources occur, a primary consideration is to carefully consider the varied audiences, and how they can best access and use our materials. 

This approach applies to all the materials that the agency is creating for including in the web portal.  Please let me know if there are materials you would like to see from us.  Your input is welcome and appreciated; after all, these resources are created to help you – both employers and workers.

If you are not on the QuickTakes mailing list, you should consider it.  This free newsletter provides the latest information about agency actions, events, new resources, training, and enforcement activities.  Our newsletter has more than 230,000 subscribers and the number continues to rise steadily. You can sign-up on the OSHA website.

OSHA is active on social media with more than 13,000 Twitter followers.  If you don’t already follow us, our Twitter handle is @OSHA_DOL. You are also welcome to follow the Department of Labor’s postings on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Conclusion

All our efforts – rulemaking, enforcement, compliance assistance, cooperative programs – are not an end unto themselves; they are tools to accomplish our mission:  worker safety and health.  

OSHA shares this mission with everyone in this room, and we hope to strengthen our efforts through our continued collaboration.  Worker lives and livelihoods depend on our ability to jointly prevent injuries and illnesses. 

Thank you again for inviting me here today.  I’ll now open it up for any questions you may have.