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Safety Q&A
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Q: What do you do when you have an employee with allergies than could potentially become a safety concern?

A: Allergies are environmental hazards that are becoming more prevalent in the workplace. Most often thought of are respiratory allergies (such as hay fever, mold or dust mite). Consideration must also be paid to allergic reactions to insect bites (bee sting & spider bites), potential food allergies, allergic reactions to chemicals or building materials.

While individuals are not required to divulge personal medical history to their employer (including allergies), it is prudent to ask for this information. A line item on the employees Personal Information Sheet or a note attached to their personnel file may help you to help them in the case of an emergency. An employee has the right to decline giving this information, however many will freely share this if asked, knowing it may help save their life one day.

Q: What should my company enforce in our drug screening program? Is there a separate policy for office personnel and field personnel?

A: Depending on collective bargaining agreements or employment agreements and company policy, a program may be anything from post accident drug screens to a random screening program. In some cases, pre-employment drug screens are administered (again if allowed). Because of potential limitations, office and field policies will most likely be different.

There may be legal ramifications if individuals within a group of employees are treated differently. As always, it is good practice to consult a labor attorney whenever considering implementing or modifying a drug screening policy or a substance abuse policy (remember, these are different!)

Q: In hot weather, workers often comment that PPE (such as safety harnesses, safety vests, hard hats, gloves, etc.) contribute to heat related illness. By trapping body heat close to the body, core body temperatures may rise. Can measures be taken to offset this effect?

A: While heat related illness is a very serious threat, modifying or choosing to not use required PPE is not an acceptable alternative.

Through effectively monitoring the temperature and heat index, you will be able to implement measures that reduce the possibility of heat related illness in your workers. Practices such as more frequent cooling breaks, hydration, effective scheduling of strenuous activities and alternate PPE may be effective.

OSHA also provides Fact Sheets about Heat Related Illness.

Q: Is it okay to ask employees to sign a daily sheet asking if they suffered an injury or came to work in the morning with an injury?

A: It is not illegal to ask an employee if they were injured during the course of a workday or to ask if they have an injury that could affect their safe work on your project.

Q: Is it illegal to ask for or complete a background check on a potential employee’s Workers Compensation or injury history?

A: A labor attorney should be consulted if you’re considering background checks or workers compensation screens. Generally speaking, previous injury or workers compensation claims may not be used as a hire/not hire condition.

Q: What is the rule on conducting pre-employment essential function analysis?

A: Pre-employment analysis is usually done post-offer. Each trade has its own essential functional requirements to perform each task safely. When establishing a post-offer / pre-employment essential function analysis program, qualified staff need to be knowledgeable in the tasks required & the specific job description of the potential employee.

An effective Essential Function Analysis program not only helps potential employees understand the physical requirements of the position but have been proven to identify health issues that required medical intervention. An effective program protects the safety and health of the prospective employee.

Q: What type of safety training is important for field supervisors?

A: It is imperative that field supervisors be trained in and understand the requirements for ensuring safe work practices of the trades people they supervise. While work tasks may vary depending on the trade (carpet installation vs. steel erection) the OSHA 30 Hour Construction Safety Training is a valuable educational resource. Many projects require this training of field supervisors. Most forward thinking construction companies provide this training for their field supervisors, whether or not the project requires it.

In addition, specialized safety training must be provided as the work demands (such as confined space entry, excavation or electrical LO/TO to name a few). If you’re unsure what training is needed, click the link provided below or contact the Chicagoland Construction Safety Council.

Q: What type of safety training is important for Project Managers?

A: Construction project teams (PM’s and Field Supervisors) have responsibility to provide a safe and healthy workplace for their team members. What better way to accomplish this than the ensure that Project Managers (in addition to field supervisors) possess the needed training?

While the OSHA 10 Hour Construction Safety Training class provides a basic overview of the OSHA 1926 Construction Standard and it’s requirements, the 30 Hour class provides far more detail and specifics of construction related safety challenges and solutions. As with field supervision, your type of work or trade may require specific safety training (scaffolding, roadway work zone or fall protection to name a few) to most effectively plan and manage your safety efforts.