Construction Site Expert Witness On OSHA Standards

In OSHA Standards Changing: The standard that gave workers the right to know, now gives them the right to understand construction site expert witness William Gulya, Jr., President & CEO, Middlesex Trenching Company, writes:

As an Expert in OSHA safety standards, regulations and compliance, it is vital I keep up with the most current trends and changes that are proposed and implemented. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) main principle to date has been that employees have the “right to know” about the hazardous chemicals they work with. It is my understanding that OSHA is now implementing a newly revised Hazard Communication Standard to be consistent with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS). Therefore, effective December 1, 2013 OSHA is requiring that employees have the “right to understand,” and the employer must provide proof of this “understanding” to those employees.

Up to now employers training their employees regarding the knowledge of the materials they work with has been enough. Companies provided their employees with hazardous chemical training and then tested them on their knowledge of this training, which method satisfied the federal requirements. Starting December 2013, one-time testing of the employees’ understanding will not be enough. The employer will be responsible for showing proof that their hazardous chemical training is clearly achieving this compliance.

There is a huge difference between recognizing and understanding. The traditional training approach of presenting information and then testing for knowledge can now only be classified as short term, not continuous. Training must now be intensified to enable all employees to achieve true continuous “understanding.”

There are training programs that have addressed this new compliance challenge for employers. Training firms have formulated strategies to focus on employee “understanding” and are choosing interactive e-learning programs to support them. With the technology available today the Internet may just be the answer for employer compliance of this new standard. Employers who choose one of the several e-learning programs available must be sure they contain the key feature of a sophisticated analytics engine. This feature will provide employers with the necessary documented data needed for compliance reporting. The data must contain more than just training hours; it must also show evident, transparent results that demonstrate employee true understanding. It should provide the employer with the ability to identify any employees who do not understand, so intervention on an employee-by-employee basis can be performed.

With the looming federal regulation, I would encourage all employers to look into the best methods of compliance available and implement a comprehensive training plan. Complying with the new “right to understand” standard will simultaneously provide employees the reinforced knowledge they need to protect themselves and the employer’s business.

William Gulya, Jr., President & CEO, Middlesex Trenching Company for more than 35 years, specializes in excavation & construction site preparation – earthwork and grading, water mains, sewer installation, trench shoring, underground utilities, heavy equipment rentals and OSHA safety compliance. He provides litigation prevention consulting, mediation, arbitration, and expert witness testimony, regarding heavy equipment safety, construction safety and OSHA compliance; construction accidents; construction contract disputes; delay claims; and nonpayment issues.

Mr. Gulya is the author of the book, “The Straight Truth: The Life of an Expert Witness,”