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OSHA Focuses on Safety of Small Builders with New Guide on Recommended Practices

Maybe you’ve been building sheds your whole life and know your tools as well as your own hands, but can you say the same for your new employee or the seasonal help you bring on?
Creating a safety-specific program can be a challenge for any contractor, but particularly so for small builders that have so much else on their to-do list. It’s for this reason that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OHSA) has issued Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs in Construction, a new guideline designed with guidance for small- and medium-sized contractors.
While OSHA’s new guide doesn’t add to your legal obligations, it does provide some simple guidance for taking a more proactive approach to workplace safety. It also takes into account new challenges from an evolving construction industry, including:
• Modern construction techniques,
materials, and equipment.
• Increasing workforce diversity, which can lead to very different understandings of safety expectations.
• Higher rates of contract and temporary workforce, a challenge in consistently implementing safety practices.
• An aging workforce that puts more workers at higher risk of musculoskeletal disorders (think carpal tunnel or rotator cuff injuries).
There are several recommended practices presented in the guide, with instructions on how to implement them. Although any safety plan should be customized to meet a workplace’s specific needs, the core elements OSHA suggests focus on the following factors:
• Management leadership: Owners and supervisors need to set the tone by visibly demonstrating their commitment to their and their employees’ safety. This could be as simple as having regulardiscussions about safety topics (for example, safety glasses fit checks) or emphasizing safety practices when promoting your sheds.
• Worker participation: This goes beyond simply following safe practices. Make sure workers feel safe in speaking up when they see a problem and encourage involvement in creating a safety plan.
• Hazard identification and assessment: Any work on a job site should include an inspection for potential hazards, but it’s also important to remain vigilant in the shop. For example, cords or scrap lumber out of place can present trip hazards and should be fixed immediately. And hazards can also present risks to your health. For example, you may be able to adjust tasks to require less repetitive or heavy lifting.
• Hazard prevention and control: By involving your employees and putting a plan in place for how to react to potential dangers, you can effectively remove those risks.
• Education and training: Your employees need effective training on your safety program. But owners and supervisors also should regularly reinforce their knowledge.
• Program evaluation and improvement: Job site safety is an ongoing challenge, and as your job evolves your safety program should as well. Take time on at least an annual basis to look back at any injuries or near misses to see if there are areas that could be improved.
Still have questions on how to put a safety program in place? OSHA’s guide points to additional tools and resources you can use at


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