New Training Laws Designed To Make Construction Work Safer

[tweetmeme] Several states have recently enacted new laws designed to make construction work safer.  States in the New England area including New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut enacted training requirements for basic safety awareness for employees working on construction sites over the past years.  In 2008 New York joined them, and in 2009 Missouri also joined in requiring 10-Hr OSHA safety training under certain circumstances on construction sites.  

Starting today (January 1, 2010) Nevada also requires safety training for workers.  Nevada’s new law however goes further than most of the other states in that they are requiring that every worker obtain this training.

Nevada ‘s law (AB148) was in response to a string of construction accidents on the Las Vegas Strip that killed 12 workers over an 18-month period from January 2008 through June 2009.  It requires 10 hours of OSHA-certified safety training for employees and 30 hours for supervisors, with ongoing training required every five years.  Workers and supervisors must provide proof of training within 15 days of being hired or face suspension or firing.

In addition, until January 1, 2011, employers in Nevada may provide their own alternative course to the OSHA-10 or OSHA -30.   The alternative courses must be approved by the safety committee of the employer (established pursuant to NRS 618.383) and meet or exceed the OSHA guidelines including, without limitation, federal safety and health regulatory requirements specific to the employer’s industry.   An employer that provides the “alternative” courses must maintain a record of all employees that completed the alternative course and make the records available to DIR at all times.   Effective January 1, 2011, employees will no longer have the option to complete employer-provided alternative courses instead of the OSHA courses

In New York, the provision which was an addition to the existing prevailing wage rate laws (Labor Law §220, section 220-h) went into effect on July 18, 2008.  It requires that on all public work projects of at least $250,000.00, all laborers, workers and mechanics working on the site, be certified as having successfully completed the OSHA 10-hour construction safety and health course.   It further requires that the advertised bids and contracts for every public work contract of at least $250,000.00, contain a provision of this requirement.

Of course New York’s law brought out the worst in some ‘authorized’ trainers.  The New York Daily News sent undercover reporters into several training sessions and came out with some disturbing stories of fraud and abuse.  They found that in many circumstances the training wasn’t being conducted as required by OSHA, but rather the cards issued at the completion of the training were being bought and sold regardless of attendance at the training class.  In some cases trainers were completing training in as little as 2 1/2 hours, even though OSHA requires it to last 10 hours.

Missouri’s law (HB1549) went into effect August 28, 2009 and requires all employees working for contractors or subcontractors on “Public Works” construction projects in the state of Missouri receive OSHA 10-hour construction safety training within sixty (60) days of beginning work on the project.  If found in violation the employer must pay $2,500 fine plus $100 per day for each employee without training. 

All of these efforts are supposed to make construction work safer by providing awareness level training for safety to all affected workers and supervisors.  Of course with all training, there is a difference between good and bad, and the net effect of the training is found in the retention of knowledge that was supposed to be transferred from instructor to student.   Some trainers, such as those exposed in New York, provide the required training solely for economic gain.  Others see it more of a mission or crusade to impart to the student the ability to recognize dangers in the work place and the means to ensure they remain safe. 

Employers have a responsibility to keep their workers safe and to ensure they leave at the end of the day in the same condition as they arrived.  OSHA rules are designed to help ensure this happens.  Yet many employers still view these rules as costly and burdensome; they fail to recognize the significant cost accidents and injuries have on their ability to be as profitable as possible.  Given the significant costs associated with worker’s compensation, lost time, overtime pay, administration costs,  lost productivity (many times this isn’t even calculated by employers), direct costs, and possible regulatory citations it seem fairly logical to conclude keeping workers safe on the job site would be an economic imperative.  These training requirements will hopefully yield a net positive effect in industry and we will see more states adopt similar laws, if only to help reinforce the moral and economic value of safety in the workplace.

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