As we slowly come out of the COVID-19 pandemic, the construction and landscaping industries are poised to start the spring season with many new safety requirements.
Safety requirements are not new to these industries as they must manage OSHA rules and, for those hauling equipment and supplies that require a commercial driver’s license (CDL), they must deal with federal Department of Transportation (DOT) requirements.
Below we cover important safety requirement deadlines and many of the OSHA and DOT regulations that construction workers and landscapers are required to meet.
Deadline approaches for expired CDL and medical card renewals
After nearly a year of the COVID-19 health emergency, many states that reopened their State Driver Licensing Agencies (SDLAs) have only resumed limited operations.
As a result, many commercial driver’s license (CDL) and commercial learners permit (CLP) holders were often unable to renew their CDLs and CLPs or provide medical certificates to their state driver licensing agencies.
Similarly, many physical exam sites were dealing with limited operations or backlogs, preventing drivers from scheduling appointments for their federally required medical card physicals.
For this reason, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) implemented and extended a waiver that now permits, but does not require, states to extend the validity of CDLs and CLPs due for renewal since March 1, 2020. It also waives the requirement that drivers have a medical exam and certification, provided they have proof of a valid medical certification and any required medical variance issued for a period of 90 days or longer and expired on or after Dec. 1, 2020.
This deadline is quickly approaching, and many state driver licensing offices and physician facilities are still experiencing backlogs or limiting in-person visits.
It is now time to make sure employees are renewing their CDLs and medical cards, which means getting a DOT physical, especially if the medical card has been expired before Dec 1, 2020.
DOT drug testing program requirements
Drug and alcohol use in the construction and landscaping industries is dangerous. Companies need to create an atmosphere where there is a desire to employ staff who will keep the workplace safe.
All staff who have a commercial driver license and drive a commercial motor vehicle are required by the Department of Transportation to be in a DOT drug and alcohol testing program for pre-employment, random, post-accident, reasonable suspicion, and return-to-duty testing.
- If you drive a single vehicle with a gross vehicle weight (GVW) of 26,001 lbs. or more.
- If you drive a vehicle, such as a truck (including a pick-up) or trailer (10,001 lbs. or more), and tow a unit with a gross weight of 26,001 lbs. or more.
- If you drive a vehicle that hauls hazardous waste of any size, weight, or amount, which requires a hazard materials placard.
Some companies have only a DOT testing program and decide to internally manage it themselves, but there are high hidden costs in doing so.
Given the complexity of the DOT’s drug and alcohol testing and record-keeping requirements, many companies hire a Drug & Alcohol Consortium Administration Services (C/TPA) to help manage their DOT and non-DOT drug testing programs.
This is where Compliance Navigation Specialists can help. Our experts ensure that all DOT rules and regulations are followed, including pre-employment testing and the implementation of random drug tests for you and your drivers. We take all the necessary steps and precautions to keep you and your drivers compliant with the DOT drug and alcohol testing requirements.
Managers must have reasonable suspicion training
Reasonable suspicion drug testing determinations are sometimes the most challenging aspects of a drug-free workplace program, yet can have a profound impact on safety, well-being and productivity.
With spring approaching, the rise of the opioid epidemic, ongoing issues with alcohol abuse, marijuana legalization across the nation, and changes to DOT testing regulations, managers need to refresh themselves on the requirements and the importance of documentation to keep the workplace safe.
Reasonable suspicion is described as a set of circumstances that give you reason to conduct a “fitness-for-duty” assessment of an employee based on objective observations.
Reasonable suspicion testing is used to determine that alcohol or drugs are not the cause of the observed behavior or appearance. Drug testing is a mechanism to determine if the employee has used a prohibited drug; regardless of when, or what amount.
The training includes one hour on signs and symptoms associated with drug use and one hour on signs and symptoms associated with alcohol misuse, covering the physical, behavioral, speech, and performance indicators of probable workplace misuse.
OSHA requirements may include audiogram, respiratory, and spirometry testing
When it comes to employment in the construction industry, there are many different types of exams and testing that may be required under OSHA rules. The most common physical exams include:
- work fitness assessment
- fitness-for-duty exam, and
- pre-employment physicals
Beyond exams, there are important occupational health tests that may be required for employment under OSHA 29 CFR, which include:
- audiometric testing, and
- pulmonary function testing or respiratory testing
Audiometric testing is a test of a person’s ability to hear sounds and assists in monitoring an employee’s hearing over time and is OSHA required if the work environment provided by the employer meets certain guidelines.
An audiometric testing follow-up program should indicate whether the employer’s hearing conservation program is preventing hearing loss.
Annual audiograms must be provided within 1 year of the baseline test. It is important to test workers’ hearing annually to identify deterioration in their hearing ability as early as possible. This enables employers to initiate protective follow-up measures before hearing loss progresses.
A pulmonary function test or respiratory test is OSHA-mandated to determine if an employee can safely and effectively wear a respirator to protect them against breathing airborne contaminants.
For example, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), more than 2.3 million U.S. workers are currently exposed to crystalline silica and high levels of silica exposure found in:
- cement/brick manufacturing
- repair/replacement brick furnace lining
- drilling, molding, sawing
- removing paint
- abrasive blasting
- jack hammering
- and more
On June 23, 2020: “medical surveillance” or silica respiratory testing became twice as strict with workers exposed to the “action level” at or above 25 micrograms for 30 or more days a year (previously, medical surveillance was enforced at the “permissible exposure limit,” at or above 50 micrograms).
Coming June 23, 2021: Obligations for engineering controls goes into effect as employers will put into place work practices to reduce and maintain employee exposure to respirable crystalline silica to or below limits.
Before your employees use a respirator or are fit-tested, they must be medically evaluated and cleared by a licensed healthcare professional using a “Respirator Medical Evaluation Questionnaire.”
Beyond the respirator medical evaluation, a spirometry breathing test shows how well you can move air in and out of your lungs. Periodic spirometry testing can be used to detect such accelerated losses.
Under OSHA 29 CFR PFT, spirometry testing is required in conjunction with the respirator fit test under certain circumstances to measure respiratory function.
OSHA Required and Other Testing Services
CNS can assist with your Occupational Medicine needs, no matter the size of your company. Our goal is to keep workers safe and healthy on the job, allowing you to continue the production that keeps your business running.
Currently, we also offer Mobile Occupational Medicine Services in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Ohio, New Jersey, Maryland, and New York, and we are always expanding.
Any of our employee screening services can be administered individually or bundled together to be made more affordable.
- Pre-hire screenings
- Pre-employment, DOT and Hazwoper physicals
- Audiogram testing
- Respiratory/Spirometry testing
- Drug and alcohol testing programs
- OSHA compliant services
- Flu Vaccinations
- Antibody Testing
- COVID-19 PCR Tests (100% sensitivity, 24-48 hour turnaround)
- Rapid Antigen Testing
- COVID-19 Vaccine
- and more
Our knowledgeable Occupational Health Examiners are focused on providing the best patient care possible with an end goal of long-term health and wellness for workers and employers.