Understanding contractor safety requirements

When hiring contractors to help with your home improvement project, you have every right to verify that they are adhering to federal and state safety codes while on your property.

Homeowners should always educate themselves on the rules, and watch closely to ensure that work is being done in accordance to the rules. Doing so not only ensures the efficiency of the work done to complete the project, but also it protects everyone involved from potential danger as a result of neglecting the rules.

Safety guidelines are implemented from a federal level; however, several states also have the power to enforce safety requirements as well. Contact your local building department for more information about state laws.

According to the Occupational Health and Safety Advisory Services (OHSAS), all contractors are required to obtain a permit to work before beginning a home improvement project. The contractor also must acquire proper licensing, certification and training before beginning any contracting job. Before hiring a contractor, you should always feel comfortable asking them to verify their merits that enable them to successfully complete the home improvement job.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) also has set apart several guidelines contractors must adhere to. One of these guidelines is that contractors should try to perform the job in a vacant unit. In the event this is not possible, workers should put a barrier system in place to protect residents from possible danger. Residents are only allowed to enter the work area after the work is complete and a full visual inspection has taken place. If the work takes longer than a 24-hour period, the barrier system must be kept in place overnight and residents should be instructed not to enter the area until the job is done.

Contractors also are responsible for inspecting the dwelling beforehand to determine if pre-cleaning is necessary. If paint chips are present at the work site, they must be removed with a HEPA vacuum before work can begin. Work site cleanings and visual examinations should be conducted each day of the job. Contractors also must conduct a dust sampling according to federal guidelines.

If you notice that a Boston contractor has not followed one of the guidelines listed above, or is otherwise neglecting a safety hazard while working in your home, you can either confront them directly or report the violation to their supervisor. If you would like to take more serious action, contact the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) directly at an office near you, or call OSHA's toll-free number at 1-800-321-OSHA to speak to a representative about the violation you witnessed.


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