Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. Building owners are not immune to these policies – they can be cited as the “Controlling Contractor”.
It can be argued that OSHA is currently shifting their focus from a compliance operation to more of an enforcement agency which might be bad news for building owners, property management firms, and the small contractors they employ. What building owners especially may not realize is they can be fined along with the contractors they hire if they are found to be in noncompliance. In this case, the building owner would be considered the “Controlling Contractor”. What building owners, or the “Controlling Contractor” also may not know is how to mitigate the risk of getting fined.
- Protecting Workers is the Right Thing to do
First of all, if all workers are doing their job safely, and in compliance, than there’s nothing to worry about! So protection comes in the forms of knowledge – train workers to recognize hazards, have a plan in place detailing the right way to manage a risk, and most of all, walk the talk! Make sure all the workers know that you want them to work safe and return to their families in one piece at the end of their shift.
- The Workplace is a Community
Making sure a project is completed in a timely manner along with a profit can be accomplished when everyone works together to maintain a healthful and safe workplace.
- Saves money/Adds Value
Who wants to be known as the owner/building manager/property manager who doesn’t care? It will show when fines, lawsuits and other complaints start racking up.
Recent Fines from OSHA during Renovations
The only way a company can get a reduction in fines is to show OSHA your safety manual, documentation stating safety consciousness and training documentation for all workers.
It isn’t just OSHA that building owners need to be aware of. Recently the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been handing out fines to building owners and their contractors for not protecting the public against lead paint poisoning and asbestos contamination. The fine for lead paint violations through the new Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) program alone are $32,500 per violation, per day!
In terms of asbestos, OSHA fined a building owner $1.5 million dollars for using untrained workers to remove the asbestos.
Now, one of the hottest topics for building owners is the newly approved Window Cleaning Safety Standard. The property professional and window cleaners are immediately affected by the new standard. As a building owner, you can no longer assume your window washing contractor is safety conscious of his staff. Now, the property owner and the window cleaning contractor are required to exchange written assurances to ensure worker safety and public protection. The new standard applies to all buildings three stories and taller.
Even though this new standard is an ANSI standard and doesn’t have the “force” of a law, OSHA can cite building owners under the “General Duty Clause”. And if OSHA doesn’t automatically visit your site for noncompliant issues? OSHA has teamed up with building inspectors and asked them to call in a complaint when they witness something that might be a safety violation.
Remember, happy, healthy workers are more productive and this can happen when building owners and contractors realize safety isn’t an option; it’s an investment.