By KERRY SMITH

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Heat prevention, union walk-around designation/representation and helmets were among the topics an expert construction safety panel covered during the Associated General Contractors of Missouri’s annual convention April 2 in Kansas City, Mo.

A panel comprised of safety professionals from a number AGCMO-member construction firms shared details on the industry’s efforts to understand, comply with and provide feedback on the latest construction safety and health regulatory policy from OSHA.

Panel members included: Jeff Montgomery, safety director at IWR North America; Kevin Cannon, senior director of safety, health and risk management with the AGC of America; Courtney Hobbie, director of safety at Kozeny-Wagner; Joe Shryock, icon Mechanical safety director and Brandon Anderson, VP of safety at AGCMO.

Heat prevention in outdoor and indoor work settings is back on the front burner of OSHA safety regulations, according to Cannon. “Back in 2021, companies petitioned OSHA to issue a federal standard for this, but the agency refused,” said Cannon. “In September of 2023, OSHA convened a small business regulatory enforcement fairness panel. The AGC put forward three contractor members to participate in the process.”

Public comments submitted to OSHA late last year included establishing a contractor requirement to keep a daily log of extreme daily temperatures and corresponding safety-specific actions – such as the number of breaks per hour – when trigger temperatures, either hot or cold, materialize during jobsite working hours. The final report, Cannon said, stated that OSHA needs to allow flexibility in enabling a company to define how it handles construction worker climatization. AGC still believes OSHA’s language is vague on this topic.

The panel also articulated the latest nuances related to OSHA’s union walk-around rule. “Back in 2012 and 2013, in terms of representation, OSHA allowed a third-party individual to represent the project on an agency walk-around and allows non-union employees to select anyone to represent an employer on one of these safety and health site walk-arounds – such as a community activist, a worker advocacy group rep or a number of others not directly involved in the job,” Cannon said, indicating that in September 2016, OSHA was sued by the National Federation of Independent Business over this because of unclear language. Regardless of the legal action, OSHA published its final rule on April 1 of this year and it goes into effect May 31.

On the topic of hardhats vs helmets, Anderson urged companies not to wait until construction safety helmet are required to try them out and gain much greater protection against severe injuries or death from falls and other accidents.

“Do helmets cost more? Absolutely,” said Anderson, “but they cost much less than a brain injury. Protecting our workers is essential.”