The safety and health of construction workers took center stage Tuesday when OSHA and the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) entered into a formal partnership that officials from both organizations say will help focus efforts to make construction sites safer.
The Construction Health and Safety Excellence (CHASE) agreement was signed by OSHA Administrator Charles Jeffress and AGC Executive Vice President and CEO Stephen Sandherr.
"This partnership not only formalizes our cooperative relationships," said Jeffress. "but stands as a statement of principles, symbolizing our commitment to work together to improve safety and health on construction sites. Mutual trust and respect are key to our efforts to provide safe and healthful working conditions for those who build America''s infrastructure."
Under terms of the partnership, AGC will create three tiers of safety and health performance -- Red, White and Blue.
To reach "Blue" status, contractors must meet tough safety and health guidelines that include:
- an occupational injury and illness rate 10 percent less than the industry average;
- a comprehensive site specific written safety and health program -- which includes employee involvement, based upon OSHA or American National Standards Institute (ANSI) guidelines;
- agreement to serve as mentors to contractors who have yet to attain "Blue" status;
- ensuring employee involvement in all aspects of the contractor''s safety and health program, including self-audits, job hazard analysis and safety training;
- safety and health orientation for new employees and training for all employees on hazards specific to the contractor''s work site;
- effective safety training for supervisors;
- designated safety personnel who have received training equivalent to OSHA''s 30-hour construction safety and health course; and
- a safety and health record which includes no willful or repeat serious violations in the last three years, and no fatalities or catastrophic accidents in the last three years that resulted in serious citations.
In return for meeting these criteria, OSHA, after making a verification inspection, will:
- not target the site for a planned or programmed inspection within the following 12 months;
- conduct an unplanned inspection only in response to reports of imminent danger, a fatality or catastrophic accident, and a signed complaint;
- handle all other complaints, except cases of serious injuries, by telephone and fax;
- not issue penalties for other-than-serious violations that are promptly abated; and
- reduce any citations by the maximum amounts for good faith and history.
The agreement requires that local AGC safety committees visit construction sites to verify the proficiency of the applicant contractor''s safety and health program.
Jeffress said that OSHA area offices and AGC local chapters will be able to use provisions of the CHASE agreement to create local partnerships.
by Virginia Sutcliffe