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Published: Summer, 2007; Vol 9, Num 2

 

OSHA : Still Trying to Get It Right

OSHA Alliance Programs Pursue 
Educational Goals

Alternate description

LIUNA General Secretary-Treasurer and LHSFNA Labor Co-Chairman
Armand E. Sabitoni

“Since the Bush Administration took office, the balance in OSHA’s budget and activity has shifted away from standards-setting towards education and cooperative programs,” says Armand E. Sabitoni, LIUNA General Secretary-Treasurer and the LHSFNA Labor Co-Chairman. “We think OSHA needs to restore its focus on standards, but we nevertheless welcome its Alliance initiatives.”

Under the Alliance Program, OSHA works with businesses, unions, educational institutions and trade or professional associations to leverage resources and expertise in the development of tools to assist employers and employees in preventing occupational injuries and illness. Currently, the LHSFNA participates in four Alliances.

Fall Protection Workgroup

Falls are a serious problem in construction, causing about a third of all industry fatalities. Initiating work last summer, the Fall Protection Workgroup first developed two sets of tip sheets, one for employers and one for employees. Next, the workgroup identified various venues for presenting, promoting and distributing OSHA’s “Fall Hazard Awareness for the Construction Industry” training course. Currently, the workgroup is developing a set of toolbox talks for ladder safety. LHSFNA Senior Safety & Health Specialist Travis Parsons serves on this workgroup.

Design for Safety Workgroup

Created last fall, the Design for Safety (DFS) Workgroup’s primary purpose is advancing the DFS case in building projects. The idea is that architects, engineers and other designers should plan ahead for safety as they develop their building plans. Such plans would facilitate safe work during construction and ongoing building maintenance.

“We have a long-term perspective on this effort,” says LHSFNA Occupational Safety and Health Division Associate Director Walter Jones, who serves on the workgroup. “Workers and contractors appreciate the DFS approach and welcome its use.  Owners are apprehensive about the associated costs, but are learning that DFS also improves the end product.  On the other hand, architects have been highly resistant.  Since they have never been responsible for the ‘means and methods’ of construction, they’re worried that, if they begin to consider them now, they’ll expose themselves to liability issues when their efforts prove faulty.”

So far, the workgroup has developed a PowerPoint presentation and a case study of the Washington Design Group’s Idaho mixed-waste treatment facility that was built with DFS plans. It is now working on an OSHA 10-hour course for engineers and architects. Civil Engineer Mike Toole, a professor at Bucknell University who chairs the workgroup, has established a Design for Construction Safety website (www.designforconstructionsafety.org).

Though unaffiliated with OSHA or the workgroup, a national “Prevention through Design” workshop will be sponsored by NIOSH in Washington, DC, on July 9 – 11 (for information call 800-356-4674). OSHA is a co-sponsor and Scott Schneider, the LHSFNA’s Director of Occupational Safety and Health, will be among those making presentations.

Roadway Safety Alliance

The longest-running of OSHA’s safety alliances in which the LHSFNA participates (representing LIUNA) is the Roadway Safety Alliance, initiated three years ago and renewed this past January at the U.S. Department of Labor. Relying on a Susan Harwood grant from OSHA, a consortium that included the LHSFNA and the Laborers-AGC Education and Training Fund developed the highly acclaimed Roadway Safety Program. Last fall, the Alliance members began a four-year project under a Federal Highway Administration grant to step up and expand work zone safety training among supervisors and workers nationwide. 

Drug Free Workplace Alliance

The LHSFNA also participates in the Drug Free Workplace Alliance, a collaboration of OSHA, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) and the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Policy. The purpose is to share information and resources to strengthen efforts to prevent alcohol and drug use on jobsites across the country. A broad range of employer associations and unions participate in the Alliance. LIUNA is represented by Jamie Becker, the LHSFNA’s Associate Director of Health Promotion.

Cooperation Gets Results”

“While the LHSFNA continues to press OSHA to restore its focus on standards-setting, we fully support its Alliance Program,” says Sabitoni. “We see significant progress in all the Alliance areas in which we participate, and we appreciate OSHA’s initiative in this regard. The Laborers have always understood that cooperation gets results.”

[Steve Clark]