Last week, we discussed the revelations of a recent AFL-CIO report that warned American construction workers, as well as others working in dangerous industries in our country, that while there were federal regulations and laws on the books designed to protect workers from serious injury and fatal accidents on the job, little is being done in the way of inspecting job sites for violations and punishing employers who put profits before people.
Hopefully, things will get better insofar as inspections and policing of violators. In the meantime, it may be worthwhile for construction workers and their loved ones to know some of the federal regulations that are on the federal books right now, and which their construction employers, as either general contractors or sub-contractors, are supposed to follow even if no one is showing up on a regular basis from the government to make sure.
Construction Safety Law: Code of Federal Regulations
Under federal law, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is mandated to pass regulations which employers of construction workers are legally required to follow. These are agency regulations and a part of the federal law governing employers in Indiana and Illinois.
Construction industry regulations can be found in the Code of Federal Regulations at:
(1) 29 CFR 1926 (construction safety standards) and
(2) 29 CFR 1910 (general requirements for safety and health of workers).
Questions for Indiana and Illinois Construction Workers
Here are some of the federal regulations that construction workers in our part of the country should know and some questions that they should ask themselves:
1. Designated Safety Checker
Construction companies are supposed to have someone they have chosen to act as their safety checker — the person that goes around the work site and makes sure things are safe and workers aren’t in danger. This person has the power to order work to stop. This person has the power to make the fix to get things safe on the work site before everyone goes back to work. He or she doesn’t have to check with the management or those back in the home office before taking action.
Does your work site have someone designated to be checking for dangerous conditions involving the site itself, or hazards involving materials or machinery and equipment?
See 29 CFR 1926.20(b)(1).
2. Training for Hazards on the Construction Site
Federal regulations are on the books that make construction company employers take the time to educate their worker-employees on dangers they might encounter on the job, while working in the construction area. This includes education and safety training not only for their specific expertise or craft, but for other hazards and dangers that might expose them to harm and injury on the work site. Workers are supposed to be trained on what the dangers might be, and what to do if they are exposed to them.
Have you been trained on the dangers that might be present on your work site by your employer — as well as educated on what to do if faced with a serious hazard while working on the job?
See 29 CFR 1926.21(b)(2).
3. Labels on All Hazards and Dangerous Chemicals
Construction company employers are legally required to create and use a communications plan that not only makes sure that dangerous materials and hazardous materials have warning labels on them, but that safety information is also provided. Employees are to be trained to know these hazard warnings and safety protocols, too.
Are the hazardous materials and dangerous chemicals on your construction work site labeled as being dangerous or hazardous?
See 29 CFR 1910.1200(e)(1).
4. Protection from Falling Accidents
Falls on construction work sites kill and seriously injure more construction workers than any other kind of construction work injury (see our prior post for details here). Falling on a construction site can get a worker killed. Construction employers are to have fall protection programs for their construction workers according to federal law. These programs must educate the worker on the very real danger of falling on a construction site, including that specific work site, and workers are to be trained in how to protect themselves and their co-workers from falls and falling hazards.
Have you been trained on how to protect yourself and your co-workers from falling and getting seriously hurt in a fall on a construction site?
See 29 CFR 1926.503(a)(1).
5. Unsanitary, Hazardous, or Dangerous Work Site
Federal law forbids a construction employer (contractor or sub) from forcing their employees to go to work in an area of the work site that is unsanitary, hazardous, or dangerous. Until that problem is fixed, construction workers are protected by federal regulation from having to work there. As long as the health and safety of the construction worker is endangered, then the worker is not required to enter that space.
Have you been ordered to work in a part of a construction site that is unsanitary, hazardous, or dangerous?
See 29 CFR 1926.20(b)(1).
6. Dangers of Machinery on Construction Sites
All sorts of dangerous equipment is used on construction sites here in Indiana and Illinois. Knowing how to operate and use construction equipment and machinery is part of the expertise and skill demonstrated by forklift operators, welders, etc. Construction company employers are legally required to keep their workers safe by making sure that protection is in place to protect both the worker who is using or operating that machinery and equipment, as well as his co-workers who are at work nearby on the work site. Dangers from things like electrical sparks, flying debris, moving parts, etc., must be understood and their dangers minimized by the employer. And, both the worker and other employers are to be trained in the risks of what can happen when these hazards arise. Moreover, the employer must have specific programs in place as needed like electronic safety systems, auto-shutoffs, and more.
Have you been trained in safety measures for the machinery and equipment on your construction work site? Are there programs in place to protect workers from danger (like electronic safety measures)?
See 29 CFR 1926.212(a)(1).
Construction Workers in Indiana and Illinois Are in Danger While Working on the Job
It’s not really subject to debate these days that working construction is dangerous work here in Indiana and Illinois (more here). However, for some construction companies there is a decision made to place profits over people and not protect their construction workers as well as they could be protected while working on the construction site.
Of course, there are laws to help construction workers and their families get justice after a serious accident or wrongful death — even if inspections are not routine by the authorities. The better course is to have construction companies protect their workers so that they are not hurt or killed while working on the job!
Today, the reality is that construction workers need to know that federal protections exist for them, especially if they are working on a dangerous construction site filled with hazards overseen by a negligent contractor. Be careful out there!