There are strong signs that OSHA is increasing its enforcement actions on home building sites throughout the country—in both Federal and state plan jurisdictions. One of the main reasons is that new data shows the number of fatalities in residential construction increased by 37% compared to just a 3% increase in nonresidential construction in 2012, which is the most recent data available. OSHA has also instituted a number of local enforcement emphasis programs aimed at reducing numerous construction hazards, including those in residential.
There are a few simple things that builders and trade contractors should do to improve safety on the jobsite and be prepared for OSHA inspections:
- Conduct an assessment to identify and correct safety hazards on the jobsite;
- Conduct appropriate safety training for employees;
- Update records and make sure they are readily available;
- Understand the OSHA inspection process (see link below to NAHB’s OSHA Inspection Toolkit).
Builders and trade contractors should pay particular attention to the following hazards, which are the top 10 most frequently cited Federal OSHA construction standards in 2013 (click on the link to access the OSHA standard):
- 1926.501 – Duty to have fall protection
- 19260.451 – General scaffold requirements
- 1926.1053 – Ladders
- 1926.503 – Fall protection training requirements
- 1910.1200 – Hazard Communication
- 1926.102 – Eye and face protection
- 1926.100 – Head protection
- 1926.453 – Aerial lifts
- 1926.651 – Specific Excavation Requirements
- 1926.20 – General safety and health provisions
In regards to No. 9 above, there have been some recent questions by builders about OSHA’s requirements for house foundations/basement excavations. For those parts of the country where basements are common, the area between the house foundation and basement excavations becomes a trench (by OSHA’s definition) when constructing formwork, foundations, or walls. In 1995, OSHA issued a memo “Suspension of 29 CFR 1926.652 to House Foundation/Basement Excavations”, whereby the agency altered the trenching/exaction requirements of the regulation as they apply to house construction, which is still in effect at the present time. This memo essentially requires house foundations to be benched 2 feet horizontal for every 5 feet vertical (for a diagram of what this looks like, see page 2 of NAHB’s Trenching Safety Card) and the other conditions outlined in the memo exist. More information for OSHA’s trenching and excavation requirements can also be found in NAHB’s Trenching and Excavation Safety Handbook.
Finally, there are additional resources to assist builders: