(Download McKenzie's presentation)

OSHA Deputy director Dean McKenzie spoke earlier this month at the 2015 Remodeling Leadership Conference, outlining for attendees the agencies efforts to promote workplace safety with inspections and important new regulations.

Chief among OSHA’s recent actions is the publication of a new final ruling regarding confined spaces. Published May 4 and set to take effect on Aug. 3, this new ruling creates protections for workers entering these small spaces.

According to the Mason Contractors Association of America:

Manholes, crawl spaces, tanks and other confined spaces are not intended for continuous occupancy. They are also difficult to exit in an emergency. People working in confined spaces face life-threatening hazards including toxic substances, electrocutions, explosions and asphyxiation ... “In the construction industry, entering confined spaces is often necessary, but fatalities like these don’t have to happen,” said Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. “This new rule will significantly improve the safety of construction workers who enter confined spaces. In fact, we estimate that it will prevent about 780 serious injuries every year.”

At the conference, McKenzie also showcased current statistics for fatal falls at jobsites. Lack of fall protection was the top OSHA violation in construction in 2014. The top four violations were all related to potentially dangerous height situations, including scaffolding requirements, ladders, and just regular fall protection training.

In order to combat the threat of falls, OSHA just launched its 2015 National Safety Stand-Down campaign in an effort to educate workers about the dangers of falls. There are still over 100 events left in this drive to prevent fall accidents, and you can see if there’s an event near you here.

McKenzie also mentioned OSHA’s push to protect temporary workers. All remodelers will have a reason to hire a temporary worker at some point in time, and it’s important to remember that temporary workers should be treated the same as your full time employees.

“You have a joint responsibility with the staffing agency to protect those workers equally to your own,” McKenzie reminded everyone. These temporary workers can be a huge help to any remodeler, but knowing exactly what skills they come equipped with is key.  Workers new to the job have a much higher risk of injury than a regular employee.

Among McKenzie's other insights and recommendations:

  • Workplace fatality rates are decreasing, but as the housing market recovers, the number of actual fatalities per year is increasing. Remain educated about what the best practices are to keep your employees safe
  • Falls can happen from any height and at any location. In 2013, 11% of all fatal falls were from less than 6 feet. These falls are not only traumatic or life-ending for the individuals involved, but they also end up costing everyone money. Workplace injuries and fatalities cost the U,S, economy almost $200 billion a year.
  • Temporary workers are here to stay,with more than 3 million employed by staffing agencies every week. Know the skills of the employee you are getting. These might not be “your guys” like your normal staff, but when they are on your project, you have the same responsibility to them that you have to any other employee.
  • Know the dangers of your current job and communicate them to your team. Don’t let an accident that’s waiting to happen become the accident that was completely preventable.