The Role of OSHA in Construction Accident Prevention and Investigation

Written by Atlee Hall

Construction work poses a constant risk of injuries. Fortunately, federal agencies help regulate workplace safety. The biggest of these agencies is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Since its start, OSHA has helped improve workplace safety standards and reduce worker deaths, injuries, and illnesses across the country.

What Does OSHA Do for the Construction Industry?

In 1970, Congress established the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to ensure safe and healthy conditions for American workers. In addition to setting and enforcing safety standards and regulations, OSHA provides educational resources, outreach, and training.

How Does OSHA Help Prevent Construction Accidents?

OSHA has many regulations and standards specific to the construction industry. These standards cover all aspects of worker safety in construction, from sanitation to personal protective equipment and occupational noise exposure.

Construction Workers’ Rights Under OSHA

OSHA gives workers the right to do the following:

  • File an anonymous complaint against their employer
  • Request an inspection of the workplace and speak to the instructor
  • Review the standards and regulations their employer must follow
  • Receive workplace safety and health training in a language they understand

Workers are also protected from retaliation if they exercise their rights. They can’t be fired, demoted, or transferred for filing a complaint.

Employer Obligations Under OSHA

Employers must follow OSHA regulations or face penalties. Employers must:

  • Provide a workplace that is free from the recognized hazards under OSHA standards
  • Provide hazard communication training, material safety data, and proper labeling of materials
  • Keep records of illness and exposure incidents, and allow employees to access these records upon request

These regulations on the employer and worker side increase accountability and help make the industry safer.

Who Is Covered by OSHA?

OSHA covers most private sector employers and workers in all states, including Pennsylvania. However, federal OSHA does not cover Pennsylvania state and local government workers.

Contact information for Pennsylvania’s OSHA offices can be found online.

How Does OSHA Investigate Construction Incidents?

After you file a complaint, OSHA evaluates it. From there, they perform either an off-site investigation or an on-site inspection.

In an off-site investigation, OSHA contacts an employer by phone, describes the alleged hazards, and follows up with a fax or letter. The employer has five days to respond with corrective actions taken or planned.

The response will be shared with the worker who filed the complaint. If OSHA deems the response adequate, the complaint will be closed unless the complainant requests an on-site inspection.

On-Site Inspection and Investigations

OSHA prioritizes on-site inspections for any incident involving imminent danger or the hospitalization of three or more workers. Employers are required to report incidents in these categories within eight hours.

Employee complaints and referrals are third in line for priority, but the agency still takes them seriously. An OSHA inspector will assess the complaint, investigate, and speak to workers or a workers’ representative in confidence.

After the inspection and investigation, OSHA enforcement can issue citations and order employers to pay penalties, depending on the severity and type of violation.

Injured Workers’ Options for Compensation after an Injury

Any penalties OSHA gives an employer are civil enforcement, and fines do not become compensation for injured workers. Even if OSHA finds your employer violated standards, you cannot sue your employer to recover damages in many cases.

If you were hurt in a construction accident, you might have several options available to recover compensation for your medical bills and other damages. For example, workers’ compensation benefits will likely cover a significant portion of your expenses.

If your damages exceed your workers’ comp benefits, you could move forward with insurance or civil claims. Your construction accident attorney will advise you on the best choice for your circumstances.

Have Questions about OSHA and Your Rights as an Injured Worker? Call Atlee Hall Today

OSHA’s role in construction accident prevention and investigation has helped keep workers safer in Pennsylvania. However, accidents still happen. If you were hurt in a construction accident and aren’t sure where to seek help, reach out to the team of dedicated Pennsylvania construction accident lawyers at Atlee Hall.

Our attorneys can investigate the incident and use OSHA’s records as evidence to support your case. Call us today at (717) 393-9596 or complete our online contact form to schedule an initial case consultation.