Builders and remodelers in New England and beyond are looking forward to the JLC LIVE 2012 at the Rhode Island Convention Center in Providence, R.I., Wednesday, March 21 through Saturday, March 24. This year's conference kicks off with all-day intensive education and training sessions on Wednesday. Featured topics are: • EPA RRP Certified Lead Safe Renovator Training & Certification
€¢ OSHA Fall Protection Training
€¢ Marketing Workshop
€¢ Framing Class
€¢ Business as a System
€¢ Net Zero Energy Homes This year's Fall Protection offering is particularly timely, says instructor Darcy Cook of Worcester, Mass.-based SafetyTrainers.com. That's because OSHA has just launched an intensive enforcement effort focusing on residential builders and remodelers, with fall protection at the top of the list of concerns. "OSHA has made the residential construction industry a targeted industry," Cook says. "Their director said that they are to put all time, energy, and resources into the residential construction industry." In the past, OSHA has announced enforcement initiatives that never amounted to much. But this time is different, says Cook: "We are getting an increased number of phone calls right now of people getting fined in the residential construction industry, and the number one reason we are getting calls is because of their fall protection. This time, it is definitely happening for real." Already, says Cook, enforcement at the general contractor level is trickling down to affect subcontractors. "We are also getting calls from residential trade contractors who are working for a G.C., and the G.C.'s are now telling them that they can't go on the job site unless they are in compliance," she explains. "So for example, I just had a fireplace installation company call me because they didn't have a fall protection plan in place, the workers weren't fall protection trained and so forth, and the G.C. would not let them come and install the fireplaces. So they had to come to us so we could get them in compliance and up to speed as fast as they could, so they could go back and finish the job." And as the spring construction season picks up, Cook expects to see OSHA get more active. "OSHA does things they call €˜sweeps,'" she says, "where a lot of agents get together and sweep through an area. They're notorious for Cape Cod, from the bridge to Provincetown. So we expect to see sweeps happening, especially in the spring market. They've already warned us." And she says OSHA is stickier these days about negotiating a reduction in the penalty: "Everything typically now goes to a review board that makes the final determination on penalties." OSHA's new focus on residential contracting is driven by their numbers analysis: statistics, the agency says, show that workers are more likely to die or become disabled from accidents on residential projects than in commercial work. The reason might be that compared to the commercial world, safety planning, safety management, and a workplace culture of safety have not penetrated the homebuilding and remodeling industry. "The residential construction industry hasn't been educated enough and doesn't have enough professional support and resources," Cook says. "We are working with a lot of people who are getting fined and waiting until the last minute before they pick up the phone and ask for help. They really need to be coached at this point in time, because they are in a targeted industry for the next five years. OSHA is very clear and very serious about this initiative, and what happens in the next three years is going to determine what is going to happen by year four or year five. This is not going away."