REALWorld Law


Health and safety

In this country, what are the main rules relating to health and safety on construction sites? Do these rules in any way relate to the use of the development after construction is completed?

United States

United States

The main agency in charge of enforcing federal safety and health legislation is the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) in the US Department of Labor. Congress created OSHA to assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education, and assistance.

The regulations and safety standards, known as the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (Act), regulate health and safety in the workplace. Some of the areas addressed by the Act with respect to construction are:

  • alarms
  • barriers
  • blasting and explosives
  • concrete and masonry construction
  • criteria for spray booths
  • demolition
  • disposal of waste
  • electrical wiring
  • elevated surfaces
  • emergency planning
  • excavations and collapses
  • exposure monitoring
  • fall protection
  • floor and wall openings
  • gases, fumes, dust and mists
  • hazard communication
  • head and other personal protection
  • industrial trucks (eg cranes, forklifts)
  • ladders and stairways
  • lead
  • medical surveillance
  • noise reduction
  • safe construction methods
  • scaffolding
  • signage
  • steel erection
  • tunnels and shafts
  • ventilation, and
  • worker training

In addition, the federal Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health (ACCSH) has been in place almost 40 years to focus on construction standards and policy matters affecting federally-financed or assisted construction.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also is charged with protecting human health and the environment and has promulgated many requirements and protections for the safety of workers on construction sites as well as those occupying buildings after construction. To name just a few, regulations include the discovery, handling, and remediating of hazardous materials on a site, the kinds of materials used in construction, pollution prevention, providing for storm water and drainage, and sustainability guidelines.

Both OSHA and EPA regulations address workers constructing buildings and occupying buildings. In addition to OSHA and the EPA, which are federal, most states also have enacted safety regulations. Safety regulations also can be and are promulgated at regional and local levels through codes, ordinances, rules, and regulations by other governing bodies.