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For many, 2017 started off with anticipation from the Presidential election and uncertainty as to how the new administration would affect daily operations.

Although many questions remain, a few highlights from the 2017 calendar are worth noting.
OSHA Regulatory Updates

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration implemented two regulations in 2017 that had significant impacts on the construction industry.

OSHA’s Final Rule on Silica, which was passed into law in 2016, became effective on September 23, 2017. The new rule requires some form of action from nearly all construction employers. Most employers will need to develop a written silica exposure control plan and train employees in silica hazards in accordance with OSHA’s existing hazard communication regulations. Some employers will need more substantial programs, which include specific dust control methods as well as respiratory protection and other measures for exposed employees.

OSHA’s Electronic Recordkeeping Rule became effective January 1, 2017 and created a deadline for reporting of December 15, 2017 for all construction employers with greater than 20 employees. All contractors are required to electronically submit OSHA 300a Logs to OSHA by the December deadline. The law outlines additional requirements for large contractors (greater than 250 employees) to submit all logs in 2018 and provides phased in dates through 2019.

OSHA News Releases, commonly referred to as the “Shame Campaign” were in full force throughout 2017. OSHA could use electronically submitted records to target companies with poor safety records for inspections. The news releases are commonly seen in newspapers and on nightly news reports after a severe incident or fatality.

Drug Use and Opioid Epidemic
In 2017 The President of the United States declared the opioid crisis in the USA as a “Health Emergency.” Annual opioid-related fatalities (64,000) in the U.S. nearly doubled the number of U.S. automobile fatalities (37,000) in 2016. Aligned with this, drug and alcohol abuse in construction doesn’t show any signs of slowing. According to SAMHSA reports drug and alcohol use in construction is among the highest of all industries.

As of the writing of this article, 29 states and the District of Columbia have legalized some form of marijuana use and seven states have legalized recreational marijuana. Contractors will need to evaluate their own stance, as a complete ban on employee use can severely limit the available workforce in many regions. However, use on the job should not be tolerated.

The message to employers in 2017 has been consistent across all industries – develop a drug-free workplace policy that addresses marijuana and incorporates an employee assistance program to help any employees in need.

AIA Construction Contract Documents updated
In 2017, and every 10 years, AIA updates the standard construction contract to ensure the agreements reflect changes and trends in the industry. What’s commonly referred to as the A201 family of documents, the documents that outline design-bid-build process now have updated responsibilities for parties within the contracts. Additional information, including specific major changes, is available at the AIA website.

As for looking to 2018, an increased focus on workplace violence is evident in many regions as are concerns about ergonomics in construction. It’s difficult to predict all the new challenges that will be encountered, but if history teaches us anything, it’s to be prepared for the unexpected.

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