More stringent regulation expected in construction Builders urged to study new rules

March 21, 1993|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,Staff Writer

Construction companies can expect more frequent inspections and higher fines now that the Maryland Occupational Safety and Health program is becoming more stringent, members of the Carroll County Homebuilders' Association were told Thursday.

"MOSH has been hit pretty hard by the federal government," said Donn Falls, president of Firstline Safety Management Inc. in Virginia.

The state agency, which enforces the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations, was told last year to hire more employees and actively look for possible violations in new housing, Mr. Falls said.

In one case, a volunteer firefighter and a state police cadet were cited by MOSH after digging a plumber out of a caved-in trench.

"Governor [William Donald] Schaefer gave them a commendation for saving the man, and MOSH gave them a violation for jumping into an unprotected trench," Mr. Falls said.

Under current regulations, a "serious" violation carries penalties NTC to $7,000, Mr. Falls said. If the inspector deems the violation "willful," the fine can be as high as $70,000.

An "egregious willful" violation, one that endangers other construction workers, can multiply the fine by as many people as are working on the site, he said.

Violations are kept on a contractor's record for three years, Mr. Falls said. Repeat violations within that period are automatically deemed egregious and willful, he said.

Mr. Falls said the only way contractors and builders can protect themselves is by learning about the new regulations and training their employees.

He also said that contractors and builders should actively comment on pending legislation, such as a federal bill that would allow serious OSHA violators to face criminal charges.

Mr. Falls said unfavorable regulations were passed because industry members did not speak out.

"This current excavation law took 12 years until it hit the streets," he said.

"It was out for public comment five times, and a total of 45 groups submitted comments. When these upcoming bills are put out for public comment, I urge the associations to get involved."

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