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Construction Employers: What to Expect from OSHA in 2021

April 22, 2021 - minute read

For employers managing construction in 2021, the inherent risks of conducting safe operations have never been higher. Even at the safest worksites, it takes constant vigilance and the efforts of all members of a workforce to ensure new hazards are identified and mitigated properly.

The Occupational Health and Safety Association (OSHA), which holds employers accountable for upholding safe work environments, recently raised its maximum civil penalties amount, as well as its federal penalties for violations. To put it in perspective, Risk & Insurance reported that employers are already spending $1 billion dollars each week on workplace injuries and its related costs.

Let’s take a look at some of the recent OSHA changes, as well as the top construction concerns to avoid this year.

OSHA Penalties Increased With Changes to Violation Collection

OSHA prepped employers to expect more inspections this year, with Seyfarth Shaw adding that construction sites would make up more 50% of the added investigations. The Congressional 2021 budget allocated $12.7 million in additional funding towards hiring more Compliance Safety and Health Officers.

As previously stated, OSHA has also raised the maximum civil penalty amounts to be consistent with the rate of inflation. According to its update, employers can expect the following changes:

  • The maximum federal penalty for serious and other-than-serious violations has been increased to $13,653 per violation. The maximum penalty for willful or repeated violations has increased to $136,532 per violation.
  • Citation penalties will be collected differently. Moving forward, OSHA will send a series of three penalty payments if you fail to make timely payment at the following interval: after seven days, the second at 30 days, and the third at 60 days. OSHA will also contact those who fail to pay their fines on time by phone 14 days after the payment is due.
  • If you fail to fulfill your required payment and do not have a realistic payment plan in place, OSHA will add your business to their priority list for more inspections. In addition, OSHA compliance safety and health officers will collect employer identification numbers before the inspection process.

What to Expect This Year

With these OSHA compliance changes in mind, employers should also consider ways to prevent and pass potential inspections. An excellent safety record is usually the result of a combination of strategies, so you will need to embrace strategic planning, a commitment to safety, and good workforce habits in order to surpass OSHA’s requirements.

Here are some of the main construction safety trends to watch out for in 2021:

  • Improved Operational Safety Standards: OSHA is proposing a handful of new rules to various standards relating to voltages, machinery like forklifts and cranes, and definitions for items like ‘confined space’ or personal fall arrest systems. They also plan to add new rules related to labor law posters. A full breakdown can be found here.
  • Employee Monitoring: From wearable smart devices to dynamic punch questions, safeguarding your employees’ health is getting a lot more sophisticated. Technology such as mobile tracking devices, on-body sensors and worksite monitors can help you send data to your health and safety teams and gain timely insight on worker health or harmful conditions in the workplace.
  • Adaptable PPE: In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, new lines of personal protective equipment (PPE) for construction and industrial workers have sprung up. Many of these necessary items reflect personal preferences and should be embraced as pandemic circumstances evolve. (Ex. respirators for employees with facial hair)

Hazards can arise on any jobsite, so you need to work to make sure that they are prepared for a range of threats, from OSHA’s Fatal Four to unprecedented hazards.

Workforce Management Tools That Support Safety

Because new safety hazards can occur unexpectedly, it’s good to check in with your workers each day. However, daily appraisals are easier said than done when you have an hourly, distributed workforce.

Automated time clock questions, also known as safe workday attestation questions, are part of EPAY’s innovative time and labor solution. These electronic check-ins help alert your operation of incidents and hazards workers might not otherwise report.

Each time your employees punch out with our time clocks (or our mobile time-tracking app), they can be prompted to answer customizable questions.

Using technology can help challenge and lower the overall number of Workers’ Compensation claims, track worksite accidents long-term to spot trends, and prevent known hazards from turning into full-blown OSHA violations. Want to see this tool in action? Request a demo today!

Filed Under: Compliance Construction OSHA