Getting up to speed on hazard communication

The residential remodeling and building industry has become a target of the Occupational Safety & Health Administration. Mark Paskell, president of Eastern Massachusetts National Association of the Remodeling Industry and president of The Contractor Coaching Partnership, explains, “There are a lot of great guys in this industry, but a lot of them aren’t prepared for what is now coming their way. OSHA hadn’t really been focusing on the residential sector until the amount of injuries, deaths, falls, electrocutions and all that mounted. Now, OSHA pools its resources to focus on industries that have the greatest likelihood of injury or death, which is why we are a target industry.”

OSHA made changes to the training requirements for its revised Hazard Communication Standard, and remodelers and builders were required to retrain their workforces on it by December 2013. Changes to the Globally Harmonized System of HazCom include the labels on chemicals and substances, specifically making the pictograms (above) globally uniform, and Safety Data Sheets, formerly Material Safety Data Sheets, now have a standardized 16-section format. Unchanged is that every employer is required, at minimum, to have a Hazardous Communication Program in place, on which their employees must be trained.

“The long and short of it is if I hired you, I would have to take you through basic orientation training for hazardous communication and identification of the potential chemicals and substances on the jobsite you might be exposed to. Then, I have to document this training and certify you are knowledgeable enough to work in this situation,” Paskell says.

OSHA considers anyone who works on a jobsite to be a worker, including any subcontractors. Every company represented on the jobsite could be cited for noncompliance. Paskell explains the No. 1 item residential contractors tend to be cited for is failure to follow Fall Protection Standards, which often is easy for an OSHA Compliance Safety & Health Officer to spot and opens the door for further questions.

“The residential sector has not had the opportunity to get up to speed with OSHA standards because the industry just hasn’t focused on training its workforce,” Paskell says. “So right now if OSHA wants to make money, all they have to do is keep focusing on residential jobsites.”

Training is available for employers and employees alike through the OSHA Outreach Training Program for the Construction Industry. The 10-hour class is designed to provide training for entry-level workers on HazCom, safety protocols for electrical and fall protection, and first aid; a 30-hour class, designed for employers and supervisors, takes a more in-depth approach. Paskell also recommends groups like NARI, where remodelers and builders can interact to learn and share experiences.

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