Sparks May Fly Over Provisions in Electrical Safety Standards Proposed by OSHA
On June 15, OSHA proposed new and revised electrical safety standards. How do these standards impact you as a mason contractor? They don't - at least not directly. But you could very well be affected by the next OSHA standard which incorporates some of the provisions of this proposal. It should be of concern to every employer governed by OSHA standards.
To be more specific, under the proposed rule, OSHA would be able to cite a contract employer for failing to enforce any "safety-related work rule required by the host employer." While some host employers may welcome this initiative, in my view it is very troubling and probably violates the principles of due process under the Constitution.
I'm told that many general contractors already fine subcontractors for failure to comply with their specific safety rules; however, this is substantially different from getting an OSHA citation for violation of a private contract obligation - obligations which have simply been incorporated by reference into existing OSHA standards.
Under this rule, OSHA would require (1) the host employer to report (apparently in writing) any observed contract-employer related violations of the standards to the contract employer, and require the contract employer to advise the host employer (apparently in writing) of measures the contractor took to correct and prevent recurrences of violations reported by the host employer and (2) require the contract employer to advise the host employer (again, in writing) of any unanticipated hazards found during the contract employer's work that the host employer did not mention.
Talk about opening a huge can of worms!!!
If you were cited under this new standard and a dispute arose (no surprise there) about the citation, OSHA would need to review the contracts, change orders, etc. in order to settle the dispute. Just what you don't want or need. Many contracts are likely to contain ambiguous or conflicting provisions that OSHA would not be qualified to interpret. OSHA compliance officers can hardly interpret existing standards; they'd be completely baffled if they had to review construction contracts!
Comments on this proposed rule are due by October 13, 2005. You can be certain that MCAA will be filing comments in strenuous opposition to this absurd initiative and fight it every step of the way. We have enough controversy with OSHA as it is on multi-employer worksite liability issues. We've got to stop this type of approach dead in its tracks.
About the Author
Marian J. Marshall was the Director of Government Affairs for the Mason Contractors Association of America.