Builders Seek Timely OSHA Citations and Other Reforms
For the sake of enhancing worker safety and improving housing affordability, the nation’s home builders last week called on Congress to reform the regulatory procedures of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
“Builders know that creating a safe work environment makes good business sense,” NAHB First Vice President David Pressly told members of the House Subcommittee on Workforce Protections.
“It is no secret that safety saves lives — and money,” he added. “Builders have learned that the money saved through reduced workers’ compensation costs, lost time due to worker injuries and less time spent on accident claims and reports can be converted to improvements in the way they operate their businesses, including the management of safety and health on the job site.”
While NAHB has teamed up with OSHA on a variety of voluntary endeavors to advance job safety in the home building industry, Pressly said that additional efforts are required to fix OSHA’s inspection and citation process, including reviewing the amount of time in which the agency is allowed to issue citations.
Under current rules, OSHA can assess a violation up to six months after it has made its inspection, and that, Pressly said, creates uncertainty for home builders while doing little to improve worker safety.
“There have been many cases where home builders have received citations from OSHA five months and 28 days after an inspection. Typically, a house takes approximately 90 days to build. When the home is no longer under construction and turned over to its new owner, it makes it impossible for employees and supervisors to correct a violation or teach their workers how to properly fix the hazard,” said Pressly.
And while OSHA has a full six months to assess a penalty, builders are given a mere 15 days to respond to a citation before they lose their right to appeal. This “imbalance,” Pressly charged, “is not only unfair to employers, but most importantly, does not improve safety on the job.”
Pressly said that NAHB supports H.R. 739, legislation by the subcommittee’s chairman, Rep. Charlie Norwood (R-Ga.), that would provide more flexibility on the time period for making an appeal.
To further improve job site safety in the home building industry, Pressly called on lawmakers to require OSHA to deliver prompt written notification at the conclusion of an inspection. “This would allow builders to promptly correct any potential hazard or violation,” he said.
Further along these lines, Pressly said that OSHA should be required to provide employers with the information they need to understand the OSHA citation process. “This type of procedural reform is an important step towards helping our small business employers, who are so often intimidated and confused by the OSHA inspection and citation process,” he said.
“As a small business owner, I know that protecting the health and safety of my employees is one of my most important jobs,” said Pressly. “And that is why I am here today to urge the Congress to improve OSHA’s enforcement practices and procedures. This would make regulatory compliance more cost-effective for small businesses, improve housing affordability and enhance the safety of workers in the home building industry.”
Pressly's participation in the congressional hearings followed on the heels of his visit with OSHA Acting Assistant Secretary Jonathan Snare during last month's NAHB spring board meeting in Washington. Several members of the NAHB Construction Safety and Health Committee also joined in the talks with Snare.
Discussions centered on the association's ongoing safety initiatives; the OSHA alliance program, which has helped to increase awareness at the agency of differences between residential and heavy commercial construction job sites; and opportunities for future collaboration between OSHA and NAHB on safety programs.
To read Rep. Norwood's legislation, click here and enter H.R. 739 in the box at the upper left.
For more information, e-mail Michael Strauss at NAHB, or call him at 800-368-5242 x8252.
Photo by Charles Votaw