Work site rules ahead

Regulations requiring construction companies to police their own work sites for safety hazards are expected to take effect before year’s end.

According to the Cayman Contractors Association, Occupational Safety and Health Regulations will likely be added to the island’s Labour Law by Cabinet members. A vote of the full Legislative Assembly would not be needed since only the regulations are being updated.

The regulations, often referred to as the Safety Policy for the construction industry, may go as far as determining what kind of clothes employees can wear to work sites. The rules are expected to be phased in over the next three years.

The first set of regulations is due to take effect in November.

Under a draft proposal presented to contractors last month, each construction firm would be required to designate one employee as a safety supervisor, and have on each work site a person who functions as the ‘nominated safety officer.’

Employees in both positions would have to take a 30-hour course taught by the Cayman Islands Department of Employment Relations Occupational Safety and Health office.

The safety officer would be responsible for overall work site safety and would be required to report all serious injuries to the Department of Employment Relations (DER).

‘Each company is required to have as many (safety officers) as it needs to cover the number of job sites it has at any given time,’ said Steve Hawley of the Cayman Contractors Association.

Companies would be required to provide, free of charge, various personal protective equipment such as goggles, hard hats, dust masks, and ear protection. Companies would also have to keep records of serious incidents, and report those to the DER.

The draft regulations also require construction businesses to provide employees with a written copy of their respective safety policies.

The workers have a responsibility to make proper use of the safety equipment, and to pay for lost, damaged or misused protective equipment and tools if the loss was caused by employee negligence.

Construction workers would have to wear shirts at all times, and refrain from wearing baggy or loose clothing which could get caught in machinery. Long hair would have to be tied back or worn in a net.

Certain regulations would also make work sites maintain a certain level of cleanliness so debris does not interfere with safety or working conditions.

A number of other regulations are on the way for 2008 and 2009. Government expects to roll out extremely specific rules next year for construction work at heights, on ladders, and on scaffolding. Those will include the required use of devices like safety harnesses and handrails.

A slew of regulations regarding the use of various tools, fire protection and certain construction techniques such as trenching, welding and steel work are expected to take effect in 2009.

The head inspector for the Occupational Safety and Health office, Rohan Marshall, said the draft regulations represent the minimum standards companies should meet in ensuring the safety of their workers and work sites.

Mr. Marshall has previously said that the types of occupational accidents that occurred too frequently in the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan seem to have dropped significantly of late as the government put more emphasis on investigating those incidents.

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