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The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is enforcing several changes owing to the Covid-19 pandemic and the rise in technological advancements in the construction industry. In addition, the Biden administration’s proposals have increased the focus on worker safety. All these factors are anticipated to bring in several changes to the construction sector.
Let’s analyze 8 upcoming changes and their impact on the construction sector:
1. New OSHA Management
President Biden has made a series of new appointments to the OSHA administration. These include appointments for the positions of principal deputy assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health, deputy assistant secretary for pandemic and emergency response, and the senior advisor. Mayor of the city of Boston, Marty Walsh, took up the position of Labor Secretary in March 2021.
2. More Inspections
OSHA announced a new National Emphasis Program (NEP) and an Updated Interim Enforcement Response Plan for Coronavirus 2019 (ERP) in March, targeting employers in higher hazard industries. The NEP mandates that 5% of every OSHA region’s total inspections must be related to COVID-19, resulting in about 1,600 total inspections.
With an aim to enforce the law and existing standards and guidelines, OSHA plans to double the number of inspectors. OSHA will have a secondary focus on construction, manufacturing, and agricultural facilities.
3. Status of Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS)
Several states like California, Michigan, Oregon, Washington State, and Virginia already have an emergency temporary standard (ETS) in place, the construction industry needs to wait and watch if the national ETS moves out of its current pause status.
4. Infrastructure Investment
The Biden administration’s $2 trillion investment as part of the American Jobs Plan will see an influx of funds for repairing highways, bridges, and roads and improving road safety, ports, airports, and transit systems.
The bill also proposes to build and preserve more than two million affordable homes and commercial buildings, along with modernizing schools and other facilities. Construction projects of such magnitude are expected to generate ripples across the industry.
5. Workers’ Safety
The new administration has committed to ensuring workers’ safety on the job. Mayor Walsh, who is a former construction worker, aims to rebuild the middle class through union membership and increasing job opportunities for women. This means we are likely to see some regulations for the safety of workers in the construction industry.
6. Increased Compliance
The presence of more inspectors at the sites will compel the general contractors (GC) to closely monitor the enforcement of compliance and avoid formal complaints.
7. Supply Chain Delays
The cost of a few materials like lumber, drywall, and steel has been increasing since January 2020. Additionally, we have seen shipping delays starting from late 2020, which got worse following the Ever Given ship getting stuck in the Suez Canal.
This chain of events is bound to cause significant delays in the delivery of construction materials along with some anticipated rise in prices.
8. Technological Transformation
The construction industry is clearly undergoing a technological transformation. With the benefits from technologies like AI and Blockchain, the industry has been embracing them with open arms.
Adding to this, the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the adoption of technology among companies of all sizes. The pandemic has made the industry look for alternatives that are easier and more efficient than traditional construction methods.
We are exploring new ways to survey sites and monitor workers, track project progress, and ensure safety at sites. There’s no denying that this revolution will get more profound in the near future.