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One of the most important responsibilities that you have as a construction business owner is to know your legal safety obligations. Two federal government agencies, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), issue and enforce workplace safety regulations. It is essential to understand what these regulations require of you.

  • OSHA’s construction safety regulations are quite thorough. Its provisions cover every aspect of the construction process, all types of construction equipment and construction materials, and requirements for the use of numerous hazardous chemicals. The agency provides a “Quick Start” resource that can help you determine which provisions are likely to apply to you.
  • The CDC’s construction safety program focuses more specifically on employee well-being. This includes workplace accidents, public health concerns, and issues including mental health and substance abuse, which can also contribute to problems on a construction site. Many construction workers, the CDC notes, feel like they do not have a good work-life balance or job satisfaction. This can lead to high levels of employee stress, sometimes followed by burnout. An overly stressed, burned-out workforce on a construction site can be a safety risk too.

Your local city or county government may have building codes and other regulations that affect your worksites. It is important to keep an eye on any updates or changes to regulations at the local, state, or federal level.

The following safety measures can help you meet OSHA and CDC requirements:

  • Consider how best to promote occupational health, particularly employee stress levels and other concerns that could impact employees’ mental health, when planning work schedules.
  • Highlight the importance of ergonomics whenever possible, both for employees who perform on-site work and those who work at your office. If you employ remote workers, encourage them to use ergonomic devices as well.
  • Promote safe working habits for everyone on your team, such as safe lifting techniques, to reduce the risk of injuries.
  • Provide protective equipment for high-risk jobs. This may include hard hats and eye and ear protection.
  • Post all necessary occupational safety signage for on-site workspaces. OSHA has specifications for safety signs.
  • Put policies in place for reporting accidents and injuries that occur during the workday. Make sure that all employees know how to file an Accident Report or Work Injury Report when necessary.

How can I make sure subcontractors are working safely?

You might not have direct authority over every worker on a construction site. Subcontractors can bring in their own people. You are still responsible for everyone’s safety, though, so you it is crucial to ensure your subcontractors are on board with your safety measures. Consider taking some of the following steps:

  • Make sure that all Subcontractor Agreements outline your safety procedures and include an agreement to follow all safety and legal requirements on the worksite.
  • Meet with each subcontractor when they first arrive on the worksite. Confirm that all safety requirements are in place, and walk each subcontractor through your procedures for specific safety concerns.
  • Visit the worksite on a regular basis to check in on the subcontractors and make sure they are following all of the safety requirements.

What safety requirements are important when clients want to visit a worksite?

Worksite safety regulations apply to anyone present on a site, whether they are employees, subcontractors, vendors, clients, or anyone else. When clients want to visit a construction site, however, additional risks may be present. Experienced construction workers know about the dangers that are present at a worksite, and yet even they can suffer severe injuries in accidents. Clients and others who do not have construction experience may not be aware of many common dangers. As a result, additional safety measures may be necessary to make sure you meet your legal obligations and reduce the risk of an accidental injury:

  • Require clients to sign a waiver or Release of Liability before entering an active worksite, or dangerous areas of an inactive worksite.
  • Provide protective equipment to all non-workers on the site as required by law, such as helmets and eye and ear protection. Make sure everyone knows how to use the equipment properly, and do not allow anyone onto the site until they are wearing it.
  • If the coronavirus is still a concern in your area, ask visitors to complete a COVID-19 Health Screening Form, and have masks available for them to wear.
  • Use tape or chalk lines to mark areas where you do not want clients to walk. Call attention to these markings so that clients and others know to stay away.
  • Use barricades or caution tape to block off areas where clients could be at particularly great risk of injury.
  • Consider asking workers to stop their work while you pass by a particular area. This may be especially important when heavy equipment is in use.
  • Do not allow clients to use or handle dangerous equipment.
  • If the clients want to watch work being performed, make sure they do so from a safe distance.

You can address many of these issues at the beginning of a job by including safety information in a Construction Contract, Remodeling Contract, or other written agreement between you and your client.

What mental health risk factors can I look out for on a construction site?

Mental health is a serious concern for workers in the construction industry. When left unaddressed, mental health issues often lead to additional problems like substance abuse. According to a report from the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, the construction industry has one of the highest risks for suicide in the country. The report identifies several risk factors, including:

  • Physical pain due to the nature of construction work, which can lead to the abuse of alcohol, opioids, and other drugs.
  • A work culture that rewards people for being tough, making them less likely to seek help.
  • Psychological trauma, such as post-traumatic stress, due to life-threatening accidents on worksites.
  • Loneliness and isolation that may come from the inconsistent nature of construction work.

Construction contractors can help alleviate many of these concerns by placing emphasis on employees’ health and well-being. Addressing all safety and health risks properly can go a long way toward making a worksite a better place to work. When workers feel better about their jobs, they work more carefully and perform better. Additionally, mental health initiatives can improve worker retention since a happy workforce is more likely to stick around.

Some proactive steps you can take to prioritize employee well-being include:

  • Offer flexible work schedules to promote better work-life balance by incorporating flexible shift assignments.
  • Allow employees to take time off, and not just if they are sick or injured. Like everyone else, construction workers benefit from time with their family members. If employees are also caregivers for sick or elderly relatives, they may require occasional breaks from work to provide that care.
  • Provide wellness programs that emphasize employee well-being and work-life balance, such as incentives to encourage healthy behaviors. For example, you could offer to subsidize gym memberships.
  • Offer a health plan to your employees that covers primary care and mental health coverage. A lack of access to healthcare is one of the biggest sources of stress in this country. That extends far beyond the construction industry. Employees who do not have to worry about healthcare coverage for themselves or their families are likely to be happier and more productive.
  • Watch for signs of burnout, such as decreased employee engagement, a drop in employee productivity, or a lower quality of work.
  • Keep track of metrics like employee stress and job satisfaction. One way to do this is by asking employees to fill out self-assessments. You may keep all respondents anonymous in order to ensure that you receive accurate data. Employees are more likely to be open and honest about how they are feeling if they know that their responses cannot be traced back to their names.
  • Encourage a healthy work-life balance to help keep employee job satisfaction high.

As a construction business owner, you have many legal obligations to ensure the safety and well-being of employees, subcontractors, and anyone on a worksite. Laws regarding workspace safety, however, can be complicated, and they may vary from one state to another. If you have questions about maintaining a legal and safe worksite, reach out to a Rocket Lawyer network attorney for affordable legal advice.

This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.

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