Over the last few years, OSHA has put greater focus on temporary and contract workers, and workers on multi-employer worksites, who all too often fall through the EHS cracks. One issue in particular that the agency has targeted is training. Temporary employment arrangements and multi-employer sites have created confusion over the responsibility for complying with health and safety standards and conducting the required training.

OSHA often has said that each employer should provide training on the hazards of the work environment most under their particular control, stressing that the key is coordination and communication between employers, and essentially saying it's everyone's job to ensure employees are trained properly.

One way companies can meet the challenges of workplace training is through the use of on-demand solutions that provide flexible training courses, making it easier to deploy training to employees at multiple sites on multiple shifts.

On Dec. 1, 2016, OSHA issued new recommended practices to help construction employers develop proactive programs to keep worksites safe. Aimed at finding and fixing job site hazards before they cause injury or illness, the Recommended Practices for Safety & Health Programs in Construction outlines a series of simple steps for implementing a safety and health program that includes training workers on identifying and controlling hazards, inspecting job sites with workers to identify any problems with equipment and materials and developing responses to possible emergency scenarios in advance. The agency's approach recommends safety and health programs be flexible, adjusting to fit small and large construction companies handling short-term or multi-year projects.

The recommended practices also emphasize the need to involve workers in safety and health program development and implementation and stress the need for communication and coordination on worksites involving more than one employer.

Despite the wide consensus on the value of safety training programs, several factors in the construction industry often pose significant obstacles when it comes to execution, including the number of people needing it, the broad range of topics that must be covered, the costs and difficulties of delivering it and the time and resources required to track compliance. Many EHS software platforms are accessible on mobile devices, making it easier to report and document hazards, incidents and near misses as they happen, when all the important details are still fresh to all those involved.

Another important issue is language. OSHA maintains the importance of not just providing training, but also making sure it is understood, which can be challenging on worksites with a lot of language diversity. These issues are even more critical when it comes to temporary or contract workers. An online training option also can offer courses in multiple languages, helping to ensure all workers better understand the information they are being trained on.

With more accurate data sent up the chain of command sooner, it becomes easier to correct any issues and be more proactive in preventing additional incidences from occurring.

Safety in 2017 and Beyond

There are many EHS challenges ahead in 2017 for the construction industry. However, there also are more resources available than ever before to meet the array of health, safety, compliance and reporting issues that companies face. From mobile apps to comprehensive cloud EHS software platforms, today's software solutions help manage even the toughest challenges. By making the right EHS software choices, those in construction can move beyond compliance with the latest regulations to develop and maintain a strong EHS culture with effective safety leadership.

Phil N. Molé, MPH is an EHS and sustainability expert at VelocityEHS, a cloud software company that helps companies manage SDS/Chemical inventories, audits, inspections, incidents, corrective actions, compliance issues and reporting and safety meetings management. For more information, visit www.EHS.com or call 888-362-2007.