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Are You in Compliance? Blame It on Richard Nixon

It's all Richard Nixon’s fault!

On Oct. 29, 1970, President Nixon signed into law the Williams-Steiger Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH). This act created the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) and the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH). OSHA then created regulations on a federal level for worker safety. NIOSH then began setting forth standards to protect workers and the public.

We all know what happened next — compliance became a very complicated consideration.

Everyone would agree with the stated purpose of the OSH Act: “To assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women.”

Disagreement and confusion surfaces when employers attempt to comply with the regulations. Some industries have handled workplace safety better than others. Line workers in auto plants work in better conditions. Health workers have better safeguards in place protecting them from exposure to disease. Underground workers have safer work environments. Office workers have a myriad of ergonomic enhancements to minimize injury.

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Remodelers Face Regs Over and Above General Construction Industry Regs

How does the remodeling industry stack up? How about your company?

Remodelers are potentially exposed to hazardous working conditions, hazardous materials, hazardous chemicals, as well as hazardous customers. Unfortunately, the OSH Act does not contain regulations for hazardous customers; however, numerous federal, state and program regulations and standards targeting the construction industry do exist. Further, the remodeling industry has specific regulations over and above general construction industry regulations.

One of the major obstacles contractors face when fully accepting the responsibility of workplace safety is determining what regulations they need to comply with.

Once someone acquires the necessary regulations they need to read them and begin the process of implementing the requirements. After a contractor creates the necessary plans and programs to bring them within administrative compliance, they then need to train themselves, their employees and subcontractors on the proper procedures and techniques necessary to operate within compliance. Then the health and safety program needs constant monitoring to ensure continued compliance. All of this, of course, must be done profitably.

You Want to Comply. But Where to Start?

Where do you start if you want to operate your business within acceptable standards and practices of workplace safety?

Start with a commitment to workplace safety. No one wants an employee or customer injured on one of their projects. No one wants the added burden of fines and legal actions for an injury to a worker whose company does not have the mandated health and safety plans and programs in place. After making a commitment to workplace safety, contractors need to develop a comprehensive approach to health and safety compliance.

Health and safety issues affect the entire remodeling process, including design, estimating, sales, project management and especially installation. If one step in this process does not embrace the commitment to health and safety, you jeopardize the success of the entire plan.

We all know the safety mantra: safety first. But, safety first before what — profitability, sustained business operation, the ability to complete a project? Who pays for the increased overhead and direct project costs of a remodeling company operating within compliance? What level of enforcement exists to bring all contractors to the minimum acceptable standards? Who can one turn to for assistance?

Compliance Will Make Your Company Stronger

Some of these questions are difficult to answer. Others require a little leg work. OSHA (www.osha.gov), the Environmental Protection Agency (www.epa.gov), the Department of Housing and Urban Development (www.hud.gov), and your state’s occupational health and safety departments all have Web sites devoted to this issue. Visit these sites to obtain the regulations specific to construction and the remodeling industry.

Begin the process of bringing your remodeling company into compliance with health and safety regulations. Your company will be stronger for it. Your customers will be more satisfied. Your employees will be more confident. Your profits will be better protected.

Brindley Byrd, CAPS, CGR, is president of Qx2 Contracting, Inc., Lansing, MI. Byrd founded Qx2 Contracting in 1994 with the goal of helping to provide quality, affordable housing. Since then, the scope of the company has expanded to include housing advocacy, professional industry training and business-to-business consulting. For more information, e-mail Byrd.

BuilderBooks.com Offers Several Books About Safety and OSHA

BuilderBooks.com offers a variety of publications on safety and OSHA, including NAHB and OSHA's "Construction Safety Program Manual," which is a practical guide to designing a comprehensive safety program. To view or purchase any of the safety and OSHA publications available from BuilderBooks.com, click here or call 800-223-2665 to order.

The NAHB University of Housing Offers Designation Programs and Other Courses

The NAHB University of Housing offers CAPS, CGR, CGB and a variety of other professional designation programs and business management courses that set builders and remodelers apart from the competition. To learn more about NAHB’s designation programs, visit www.nahb.org/designations. For a complete list of all current education offerings, click here.

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