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Contractors 101: 3 Practical Tips on How to Navigate Safety Codes and Regulations
As a small business or independent contractor (IC), it can be difficult to stay up to date on safety codes, regulations and the latest legislation in addition to your other daily responsibilities. Luckily, there are plenty of resources to provide ongoing education and awareness in the workplace and for your staff in the event of an accident.
Businesses should work in real-time to continuously improve their workplace. By keeping up with new industry requirements and standards, you will be prepared for a random or scheduled formal inspection without the stress.
Below we’ve rounded up three steps to help keep you informed of the latest safety codes and regulations so your business doesn’t suffer the consequences.
1. Do Your Research on Contractor Codes, Regulations and Standards
To manage your risks and stay current on new regulations, contractors and small businesses should familiarize themselves with the resources at their fingertips. There are a number of resources to refer to for updates on facility and contractor safety codes, and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) regulations.
To start, you can request OSHA consultation visits, specifically designed to help small businesses identify workplace safety risks. During an on-site visit with an OSHA consultant, you’ll walk through your workplace, identify risks and review what could be done to improve.
Different from enforcement visits, consultation visits do not put businesses at risk of penalty or citation. Instead, OSHA officials work with you to develop safety programs and keep you informed on the latest safety regulations, and how they impact your workplace and job sites.
Businesses can also browse the Federal Register, which publishes all governmental standards and policies, including OSHA’s. Businesses can easily keep up with the standards as they’re adopted, as well as corrections, insertions, deletions and amendments.
2. Educate Your Team
As you become familiar with safety regulations specific to your industry and line of work, it’s also important to educate and train your employees.
Businesses and IC’s can start from scratch to create their own training and education program. Or, they can just as easily incorporate OSHA trainings into hiring practices to ensure all employees receive the same consistent education.
For instance, you can access online courses through OSHA that offer training and education on safety or health related topics. OSHA’s online training covers slips and falls, emergency preparedness, fire prevention, asbestos awareness and more . By taking the courses through OSHA, you and your employees are guaranteed to get the most updated information.
Small businesses should also develop their own training day for all employees and management to participate in with potential scenarios that could arise in the workplace, or on a job site. Training programs should include emergency preparedness drills, fire simulations and more to test the preparedness and knowledge of employees .
When developing your training program, consider the following:
- Who are you training? Is there a specific person or group of people that needs this more than others?
- How much training have they already had?
- When was your most recent accident or hazard and how was it handled? Were there any errors that you can address?
Catering your training program to specific incidences that either happened, or are common in your industry will prepare employees to act responsibly.
Training program resources for electricians, plumbers and HVAC technicians:
- e-Hazard Electrical Safety Training
- National Safety Council Electrical Safety Training
- National Safety Council Workplace Safety Training
- Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association
- The Indoor Environment & Energy Efficiency Association
Any type of training or education you provide for your employees/contractors should be documented and kept in a Safety Log Book. Have a sign-in sheet for attendees and also include a summary of the training that was completed. A Safety Log Book is a great tool when working with inspection agencies as it illustrates your dedication to creating a safe work environment for your employees/contractors.
3. Navigate Through Regulations with Your Own Checklist
As a contractor or small business offering plumbing, electric or HVAC services, there are many hazards and risks, and codes to keep up with to make sure your worksite is safe. Ensure you don’t miss any risks or violations within your workplace by implementing a safety checklist for you and your employees to consistently monitor.
Your checklist—print or digital—should, at the minimum, include all equipment and its lifespan, as well as any maintenance completed. This can help foresee potential safety issues with equipment, or areas within your workplace. It should also include specifics on different areas within your workplace, including:
- Emergency procedures, and when they were last reviewed / practiced
- Incident and injury reports, and how they were resolved
Your safety checklist should be updated as maintenance is completed, accidents occur and as enforcement visits are conducted.