The United States has approximately 130 million construction workers employed at more than 8 million worksites around the nation. In 2019 alone, there were over 2.8 million nonfatal workplace injuries and 5,333 work related fatalities. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) conducted over 75,000 jobsite inspections during that period, and in just the top 10 violations, there were nearly 27,000 citations issued.
So, who would want OSHA on their jobsites to do audits when they fear getting a citation? The better question is, why wouldn’t you want to invite OSHA to your jobsite to identify potential safety risks and keep your employees safe? OSHA was created because of public outcry against rising injury and death rates on the job. Since its creation, OSHA has focused its resources where they can have the greatest impact in reducing injuries, illnesses, and deaths in the workplace. And to do that, one of their most recent initiatives is the OSHA Strategic Partnership Program.
What is the OSHA Partnership Program?
The OSHA Strategic Partnership Program (OSPP) is a voluntary, written agreement between OSHA and employers, employees, and/or employee representatives during a specific project or duration. OSHA works with employers to strengthen their work safety and health during that project and future projects. OSHA and the participating contractors identify a common goal, develop plans for achieving that goal, and cooperate in implementation. Partners work to improve workplace safety and health long after the OSPP is completed. In Minnesota, the partnership program is implemented by Minnesota OSHA (MNOSHA) Compliance Partnership Programs.
What are the goals of an OSHA Partnership?
MNOSHA has four main goals for the Cooperative Compliance Partnership program.
- The first goal is to continuously reduce by 3% annually the number of injuries, illnesses and fatalities affecting participant employers, with a focus on eliminating injuries and fatalities resulting from those hazards that are the four leading causes of death on construction sites (falls, struck-by, caught in or between, and electrocutions).
- Second, to increase the number of construction contractors that implement effective safety and health programs and provide effective safety and health training for management, supervisors, and employees.
- Third, to recognize those contractors where managers and employees work together to develop safety and health management systems that go beyond basic compliance with all applicable OSHA standards and result in immediate and long-term prevention of job-related injuries and illnesses.
- And finally, to promote open lines of communication between MNOSHA and the construction industry in pursuit of safety.
What does MNOSHA do in the Partnership?
During the duration of the partnership, MNOSHA maintains communications regularly with the person(s) responsible for the management of the Partnership. MNOSHA conducts frequent safety and health site surveys (at least monthly) and maintains records of these visits. These visits are conducted in a cooperative manner with the contractor and all trade partners. The contractor agrees to exercise control over any recognized site safety or health hazard to eliminate the potential for injury or illness in accordance with contractual and business practice limitations.
Additionally, during the survey visits, MNOSHA may provide training on different topics that are relevant to the jobsite to all workers onsite. They are taught the safer way to do a task and then continue to do that task safely on this project and all other future projects, therefore, making each project safer.
MNOSHA also facilitates quarterly partnership meetings for employers participating in this program. These meetings are held in a roundtable format with participating employers sharing safety and health best practices they have learned from this partnership experience.
At the end of the partnership, MNOSHA Compliance provides a final report for the employer to assess how well the Partnership has worked toward meeting its goals.
So why partner with OSHA?
Shingobee was the first company to achieve a Level 3 partnership under MNOSHA’s partnership program with the Minnesota chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors in 2013. Level 3 is the peak level of the partnership program. Shingobee has completed six projects under the MNOSHA Cooperative Compliance Partnership program.
In our experience, the Partnership provides an opportunity to be an industry leader in safety and to work cooperatively with OSHA. It provides workers the skills to identify the most serious workplace hazards, develop workplace-appropriate safety and health management systems, share resources, and find effective ways to reduce worker injuries, illnesses, and deaths. Employers may reduce injury and illness rates, worker’s compensation costs, absenteeism, and other costs. Employees benefit from safer workplaces, increased safety and health knowledge and skills, and improved morale.
Therefore, with the OSHA Strategic Partnerships, employers, employees, and OSHA are proving that old adversaries can become new allies committed to cooperative solutions to the problems of worker safety and health.
About the Author
Seth Miezwa has been Shingobee’s Pre-construction Manager for three years and added the responsibilities of Safety Director one year ago. He has over ten years’ experience working in the construction industry and holds a BS degree in Construction from UW-Stout, with minors in Construction Safety Risk Control and Business Administration. He has completed OSHA 10-Hour and 30-Hour training.