General Contractor Shares Strategies for OSHA’s New Regulation
Current Builders based in Pompano Beach has been offering a continuous training program for its employees, contractors and vendors to comply with the new ruling to protect workers from exposure to respirable crystalline silica. The guidelines from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration(OSHA) took place on September 23rd and have been issued to help curb a variety of illnesses including lung cancer, silicosis, COPD and more.
“Our training goes beyond our employees,” said Alan Stocker,Vice President, Safety and Quality Control. “At Current Builders, we feel it is imperative that we offer education about these new protocols to all contractors, vendors and other construction industry personnel who will be working on any of our job sites.”
All trainees will learn the dangers of respirable crystalline silica, the steps to reduce its production on the job site, protection protocols and the newest advancements for cleaning.
“There are many facets to this training,” continued Stocker. “All personnel on site must understand what silica is, how to identify it and what precautions they must undertake when they are on a construction site. We are also going to be providing special training with our supervisors on the various methods to control silica and what to look for to make sure controls are in place per the OSHA guidelines.”
Many common construction materials contain silica including brick, cement, drywall, grout, stone, and tile. These materials are not hazardous unless they are disturbed (cut, drilled, blasted, etc) thereby generating small sized particles that can get into the lungs. About 2.3 million workers are exposed to crystalline silica in their workplaces. OSHA estimates that this new rule will save over 600 lives and prevent more than 900 new cases of silicosis each year.
Beyond investing in training, Current Builders has purchased new equipment to better protect their workers. While the company has always incorporated the use of respirators for workers in areas where engineering controls cannot adequately limit exposure, they have now invested in new high-powered, high-priced vacuums that will reduce dust before it spreads into the air. These $600-a-piece vacuums are one of the best solutions when workers need to operate without water, such as when grinding concrete in surface preparation applications. Along with the vacuums, the company is purchasing special attachments that will be used on the tools to allow the connection to the vacuums.
“We are having classes on how to use this new equipment and on the administrative controls that are now in place for the medical surveillance portion of the new requirements,” he continued. “Like any safety practice we put into place, this will become part of our safety culture, protecting our employees and our work force for years to come.”
About Current Builder’s Safety Protocols:
Current Builder’s Safety program starts before day one of any project. All subcontractors are required to provide a Site Specific Safety plan, which is reviewed by Current Builders Safety director, to insure specific safety elements of the project are included with-in their safety plans. All project management teams are OSHA 30 hour certified. Current Builders’ Safety Director will visit the project site weekly to walk with a team member to observe the status of the projects safety elements and provide feedback and recommendations as needed.
Current Builders does an Activity Hazard Analysis for each project, focusing on job tasks as a way to identify hazards before they occur, identifying the relationship between the worker, the task, the tools, and the work environment.A site orientation is done with all sub-contractors prior to starting work on the project site, reviewing general safety items, fall protection, PPE, and specific activity hazards that have been identified.
Training is always available to both employees of Current Builders, as well as the sub-contractors. Current Builders has a training room that mirrors many of the typical activities that you will see at a construction site, including jobsite built ladders, scaffolding, various guardrails and warning systems used on site. This room is used for employee orientation as well as classes on Rigging, traffic control, and proper use of fall protection equipment. Fall protection, forklift and high-lift training classes are provided on site, at the start of each project and during the project as required.
As the project progresses, CB identifies specific milestones of the project and requires a Stand Down from the work activity, where all site personal meet at one specific location to discuss topics of fall protection, OSHA’S focus four, as well as site specific topics that may need to be addressed. This Stand Down protocol has been very useful in getting workers to refocus and be safe.