In early 2023, the construction sector employed nearly eight million people across the United States. That is the highest number of employees in the field since before the financial crisis of 2008. This rising demand for workers, temporarily interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, is also a reflection of the growing investment in the construction industry.
Aside from growth and rising employment rates, however, the construction sector is facing problems. One of those problems is the industry’s safety record. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), construction has the third-highest fatality rate of any industry across the U.S. Regulations like OSHA’s requirement of emergency medical services for construction sites are trying to change this.
What are OSHA Safety Standards for Construction and Beyond?
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was formed to protect employees in their place of work. Since 1970, the organization has dedicated itself to ensuring that workers in various industries are in a safe and healthful environment when they perform their jobs.
Construction is one of the four groups covered by OSHA standards, alongside general industry and the maritime and agricultural sectors. For each of those industries, OSHA standards lay out how employers must protect their employees from workplace hazards. Those hazards could include exposure to chemicals, protection from falls, and access to personal protection equipment (PPE), to name just a few examples.
For the construction industry, falls remain one of the leading workplace hazards. According to BLS figures published in 2022, falls, slips, and trips accounted for more than one in three workplace deaths within the sector. In addition, the same group of hazards caused more than 21,000 nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses.
These high numbers are perhaps not surprising, considering that nearly two-thirds of construction workers are exposed to heights but less than one-third use PPE, such as tethers or safety harnesses. While these figures may point toward a greater need for precautions to prevent accidents and injuries, OSHA’s remit doesn’t end there. The organization’s regulations also stipulate the range of emergency medical services employers need to provide.
What Are OSHA's Requirements for Emergency Medical Services in Construction Industry?
In an ideal world, workplaces could be made to be so safe that accidents simply wouldn’t happen anymore. However, in the real world, no matter how many precautions we take, we’re only human. Despite the most stringent precautions, accidents can happen in any industry.
When accidents happen, it’s important to have clear procedures and qualified personnel in place to limit the damage and ensure victims receive the best possible care. That is what OSHA standard 1926.50 does for the construction sector. The standard prescribes the extent of emergency medical services and first aid personnel construction companies need to provide on a job site.
Here is a closer look at its key provisions.
Medical personnel and emergency plans
Before work starts, employers need to put plans in place to guarantee prompt medical attention in case of serious injury.
Qualified medical personnel ought to be available to advise and consult the on-site team on occupational health topics.
If a job site is remote without reasonable access to healthcare facilities for injured employees, a qualified first responder must be on-site to give first aid.
First Aid supplies
The standards also cover first aid kits, which have to be on-site and easily accessible. Suitable first aid kits are stored in a weatherproof container with each item packed and sealed individually.
Employers need to check each kit before releasing it to go on-site.
Employers must also carry out weekly checks to avoid the depletion of individual items.
If workers are exposed to corrosive materials, employers need to provide drenching or flushing facilities, even on remote sites.
Transportation and communication
Construction companies have to ensure that injured workers can be promptly evacuated from the site to see a doctor or reach a hospital. This includes providing adequate transportation as well as communication.
The OSHA standards become very specific in this respect, stating that where 911 can’t be reached, on-site staff need a list of appropriate phone numbers.
The communication system has to be effective in the area where it is used. Supplying mobile phones in an area with patchy reception is simply not sufficient.
Although OSHA’s standards are specific, they stop short of listing the contents of first aid kits or whether an automated electronic defibrillator (AED) is required on a construction site. The responsibility to determine the exact supplies remains with the respective contractor and their site safety team.
Benefits of Emergency Medical Services in Construction
Emergency medical services have the potential to make construction sites safer for employees, contractors, and clients alike.
Employees benefit from being in a safer environment with a reduced likelihood of accidents and injuries. Working in construction need no longer be a high-risk job in places where OSHA standards are being followed closely.
Improving their site safety record also benefits employers in the construction sector. Fewer accidents or injuries mean fewer disruptions and a greater chance of completing projects on time and on budget. Companies also have an opportunity to develop their reputation as safety-conscious employers, allowing them to attract sought-after talent.
Clients also benefit from fewer accidents and injuries. They may not be directly exposed to the consequences, but accidents inevitably lead to delays and may push construction projects over budget. Emergency medical services on construction sites increase the chances that these incidents can be prevented or at least dealt with swiftly and in the best possible manner.
Emergency medical services on construction sites benefit the entire industry. By starting to build a reputation for being a safety-conscious sector that cares about employee well-being, leading construction companies can change the public perception of the sector.
As a result, construction businesses will find it easier to attract the staff they need across all levels, from on-site laborers to senior managers. OSHA’s requirement for emergency medical services in construction can help set this transformation in motion for the benefit of all involved parties.
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This article was written by the Medshop Editor - Medshop is a leading medical supplier, servicing the Australasian region with an unbeatable range of medical supplies and a drive to exceed consumer needs.