Section 3 - EMPLOYEE
HEALTH AND SAFETY
General building contractors have some of the highest injury rates in the U.S.
A report produced in Montana showed an incident rate of 23.2 injuries per 100
workers. As a contractor, you have certain obligations to protect the health
and safety of your employees and, in some cases, subcontractors.
On a national level occupational health and safety standards are mandated by
the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Failure to comply
with regulations could result in civil and criminal penalties.
Below are health and safety regulations that may apply to most contractors.
Regulations vary depending on the work being done and the nature of the hazards.
Current information and regulations pertaining to your type of work can be obtained
LOCAL REGULATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Depending on where you operate your business, the following recommendations
could be law. Regardless they are excellent recommendations and are designed
to encourage workers and employers to work together in creating and implementing
a workplace safety philosophy. It is your responsibility to determine
exactly what local and state regulations say, in addition to federal.
- Establish and maintain an education-based training program.
- Provide new employees with a safety orientation before they begin work.
- Provide job- or task-specific safety training for all employees.
- Offer safety refresher training (at least annually).
- Provide a system for employers and employees to discuss safety-related issues.
- Implement a method for periodic workplace inspections and hazard assessments.
- Document safety-related activities. These records must be kept for three
- Develop a safety committee.
- Assign specific safety responsibilities and performance accountability to
- Maintain procedures for investigating, reporting, and taking corrective
action on all work-related illnesses, incidents, accidents, and injuries.
OSHA's general duty clause states that "each employer shall furnish to
each of his employees employment and places of employment free from recognized
hazards that cause or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to
his employees." Federal regulations applicable to construction fall under
two main codes that address specific workplace activities, require employers
to instruct employees to recognize and avoid unsafe conditions in the workplace,
and require employers to train employees in regulations applicable to his/her
work environment as well as how to control or eliminate potential hazards.
- 29 CFR 1910 General industry codes relating to health and safety requirements
and employee training.
- 29 CFR 1926 Construction industry codes that address specific workplace
activities and employee training.
State and federal regulations require employers to develop, implement, and
maintain an accident prevention/safety program. Each company develops a written
safety program to meet the needs of the company. A written description of the
program, along with written program elements, should be kept on file by management,
posted if possible, and made available to all employees.
An effective accident prevention/safety program will:
- Require involvement by both the employer and employee.
- Include provisions for the systematic identification, evaluation, and prevention
or control of workplace hazards, specific job hazards,
- and potential hazards that may arise.
- Look beyond specific regulations and address all hazards in the workplace.
- Allow for frequent and regular inspections of the job site by competent
- Allow for periodic review and updates by employees and management.
Establishing an effective health and safety program is not only required, it
can be an effective method for reducing accidents in the workplace. An effective
safety program will include:
- Employer commitment in the form of a written company policy statement.
- Program goals and responsibilities.
- Company safety rules and responsibilities.
- Safety meeting schedules and committee responsibilities.
- New employee and general training policies.
- Methods for workplace inspections.
- Accident and hazard reporting procedures.
- Documentation and record keeping.
- Applicable ancillary programs that may be required.
OSHA compliance officers frequently inspect job sites to confirm compliance
with health and safety regulations. You can be fined if you fail to meet these
regulations. An effective health and safety program can help secure a substantial
reduction in penalties, especially if the program contains proper documentation.
Specific Work Procedures
Research conducted by the Montana Department of Labor and Industry Safety
Bureau has identified activities that contribute to the majority of accidents
and injuries in the building industry. Five leading sources of injuries are:
- Backs and back-related injuries
- Walking and working surfaces (slips-trips-falls, housekeeping, ladders,
- Hand and power tools
- Lack or nonuse of personal protective equipment (PPE)
Your safety program should address these high loss areas. OSHA also requires
that employers develop individual written programs or provide training for specific
jobs and procedures related to the building industry. These ancillary programs
- Ladders and stairways
- Fall protection
- Hazard communication
- Fire prevention and emergency response
- Personal protective equipment
- Safe operating procedures for equipment and tools
- Record keeping
Specific regulations will vary between jobs and situations. For example, there
are regulations outlining everything from scaffold use to asbestos to lead-based
Because of the variety of required training, regulations, and work procedures,
it is important to contact OSHA, local builders association, or state department
of labor to find out about any regulations that may apply to your specific trade
On-Site Health and Safety Consultation Programs
OSHA, and other agencies/organizations offer free and confidential on-site safety
consultations that include:
- Safety program evaluation
- On-site identification and evaluation
- Recommendations for exposure controls
- Training programs
- Accident analysis
Under Title III of the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act of 1986
(SARA), and pursuant to state law, all employers must give employees information
on hazardous materials used or stored in the workplace. This is known as the
Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) or "Employee Right-To-Know Law."
The standard requires:
- Appropriate labeling of hazardous materials.
- Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for hazardous substances located on-site.
Each MSDS contains information on health effects, environmental concerns,
toxicity, chemical compounds, emergency and first aid procedures, safety precautions,
fire hazards, and other pertinent information.
- Adoption of a written hazard communication program, which includes employer
policies on labeling, Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS), an inventory of
all hazardous materials located on-site, and an employee training program.
Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS)
Manufacturers and distributors of hazardous chemicals are required by OSHA
to provide a Materials Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for each product. The MSDS can
help you learn about the products you use and the wastes you generate.
Regulations require that employers provide training for employees handling
materials capable of causing a health or physical hazard. Proper training
minimizes the risk of mishandling, improper storage, or improper disposal of
hazardous materials. Training must include:
- A summary of the HCS and written program
- Name and location of hazardous substances in the workplace
- Chemical and physical properties of the hazardous substances
- Methods used to detect exposure to substances in the workplace
- Physical and health hazards of the substances
- Proper personal protective equipment to be used
- How to locate, read, and interpret information found on a MSDS
- Proper procedures for handling cleanup and disposal of hazardous substances
- First aid and emergency procedures
- How to properly handle, mix, and store hazardous substances
(Fact Sheet 3 of 12)