Like essentially every other organization across the country, OSHA has faced some unique challenges, thanks to the coronavirus. With social distancing in place and many sites operating at partial capacity, not to mention the frequent changing of procedural mandates and safety regulations, it has been difficult to inspect job sites for any violations. There are also no federal standards when it comes to the novel coronavirus, which can contribute to the confusion.
Out of all of the construction site violations from the past year, OSHA has found that respiratory violations have been the most common. Specifically, employees not performing the required medical evaluation and personal health tests before without a ventilator, and then again with one in place.
In these situations, OSHA determined that this tends to be the direct fault of the construction company, as opposed to nonadherence from the workers. Oftentimes, employees have cited that they never received information about the respirators, letting them know when and where usage is required. Beyond that, in many situations, it appears that there has not been an administrator assigned to ensure that employees are being compliant and that the company’s program is effective.
One of the best ways to combat frequent violations is to determine why they might be happening in the first place and then addressing that issue directly. It is possible that many construction companies are simply falling behind on the requirements and may not always be aware of new ordinances, which can change frequently and without much notice.
There may also be a misunderstanding about the quality and type of respirators required; while some are designed to capture fumes or dust, they should not be confused with a face covering that is loose fitting and may be sufficient to protect against the virus. It is important that you combat against any misunderstanding (and potential violation and fine) by having a party dedicated to staying up to date with this information, communicating the requirements to the full team, and then ensuring that the rules are being followed.
With rumors of another potential nation-wide shutdown and the general uncertainty of the future, it is also possible that many companies are trying to wrap up projects as quickly as possible, to lessen the likelihood of being held (expensively) in limbo. And while cutting corners may save time, it greatly threatens the safety of those on the job. Bottom line? It is not worth it.