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The Practice Management Knowledge Community (PMKC) identifies and develops information on the business of architecture for use by the profession to maintain and improve the quality of the professional and business environment.  The PMKC initiates programs, provides content and serves as a resource to other knowledge communities, and acts as experts on AIA Institute programs and policies that pertain to a wide variety of business practices and trends.

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  • 1.  OSHA Applicability

    Posted 10-07-2021 12:42 PM
    Hi
    I am seeking guidance from someone who is an authority on this issue (not just opinions.  I have those...)  Anyway, what is the applicability of OSHA to existing buildings that aren't marine or factory occupancies?  The OSHA text for buildings outside of these two is sufficiently vague to imply  inclusion of all buildings, but was that the intent? 
    I work for Northwestern University, and we are evaluating ALL our existing buildings for OSHA compliance.  This has been triggered by an OSHA fine that we received.  The Facilities Management group is unclear as to its applicability to, say, a classroom building, an office building, a research lab or a performance hall.  Our Risk Management group is advising that the OSHA requirements apply anywhere that there is an employee.  In some cases, this is contrary to IBC.  And there are historic building implications,i.e a beautiful wood stair railing may be short by several inches for current OSHA compliance, but was within code at that time of construction.  Coming up with safe installations and maintaining architectural integrity is sometimes a challenge.  For buildings with no OSHA compliant roof parapet, fall protection must be installed to access anything within 15 feet of the perimeter.  This means retrofitting guard rails or a fall arrest system with anchors to structure.  Guardrails may be aesthetically undesirable.  Anchor systems require ongoing visual inspections and testing, which burdens our Operations teams. 
    Further, most design teams ( A or E) don't even know that there are OSHA requirements that an Owner needs to address.  It needs to be included in a design just like compliance with any other code or ordinance.  There are real consequences for non-compliance that range from fines to death.  I recommend that all design personnel take an 8 hour OSHA class to learn about conditions that require physical permanent solutions (a self-closing gate at the top of an access ladder, for example) in a building for the life safety of the employees.
    To compound things, just like the AHJ, compliance may be at the discretion of the OSHA inspector that day...
    Is there an initiative to get OSHA and IBC to look at the places where they intersect and resolve differences or support the life safety of workers?
    If you are able to address either of these two questions from an authoritative position (working on a committee already addressing this?) please share your expertise.

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    Deborah Burkhart AIA
    Project Manager
    Northwestern University
    Chicago IL
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    Join us at the PM Luncheon at A'22! Keynote speaker is Phi Bernstein, FAIA. Click here to learn more.


  • 2.  RE: OSHA Applicability

    Posted 10-09-2021 11:14 AM
    "The Designer's Guide to OSHA" tackled all of these issues. Unfortunately, it has not been updated since 1982 and therefore requires a thorough read of current statute in order to apply its insights. There are some copies available online. There is some robust discussion replying to your query on the Construction Specifications Institute forum.

    Having worked in architectural firms for 20 years, I recall the advice from our professional liability insurance risk management presenters that architects should avoid obtaining specialist instruction and certification in jobsite safety, as that responsibility is assigned to the contractor by industry standard contracts. I do not know if this continues to be the conventional wisdom. Certainly, facility organization architects are in a different position than architects in private practice and should obtain this knowledge. Somehow the idea of enforced ignorance has never seemed to set right, though, and perhaps there are education opportunities to obtain knowledge of the impact of OSHA regulations on the design of buildings that avoid the issues of construction site safety while helping us serve our design clients.

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    Philip Kabza AIA
    Principal
    SpecGuy Specifications Consultants
    Mount Dora FL
    ------------------------------

    Join us at the PM Luncheon at A'22! Keynote speaker is Phi Bernstein, FAIA. Click here to learn more.


  • 3.  RE: OSHA Applicability

    Posted 10-11-2021 06:06 PM
    HI Mr. Kabza,
    I wish that that "The Designer's Guide to OSHA" were current.  However, the questions are not really about the design criteria for a specific solution.  We can read the OSHA criteria for the railing height of a guard rail, for example.  And, they are certainly not about Construction practices which are covered under a completely different set of OSHA rules.

    The questions (which may not have been clear) are really much more broad.   It's really about where does OSHA apply in General Industry building types and how does it relate to IBC?  IBC allows a building to retain "existing at-the-time code compliant" items under certain circumstances.  In OSHA, there seems to be no clarity on the occupancy or on impact to a historic building.  Does it really mean that EVERY building must be retrofitted right now to meet OSHA criteria?  That is a huge burden:  financially and aesthetically.  Is there an initiative to clarify this and to align IBC and OSHA requirements? 
    thanks again for your input.
    deb



    ------------------------------
    Deborah Burkhart AIA
    Project Manager
    Northwestern University
    Chicago IL
    ------------------------------

    Join us at the PM Luncheon at A'22! Keynote speaker is Phi Bernstein, FAIA. Click here to learn more.


  • 4.  RE: OSHA Applicability
    Best Answer

    Posted 10-11-2021 06:15 PM
    I am retired now but had a 40-year practice on industrial, office-distribution, and commercial buildings. Your consultant is correct in that OSHA rules apply to all employees, and not just NWU's employees but also contractors and subcontractors who work at NWU, including you. The best source for civilian federal (not DOD) building rules and guidelines is the Whole Building Design Guide (WBDG). This link will get you to the most up-to-date OSHA regs,  https://www.wbdg.org/design-objectives/secure-safe/occupant-safety-health. There are many other links on this webpage which might take you to more specific resolution of your issue. And BTW your A-E consultants should also have been knowledgeable about OSHA regs (and any other codes and regs) relevant to their work. That is within their purview and standard of good practice. It is well known that the previous administration attempted to unregulate as many federal agencies as they could, so it might take a bit of effort to find out what rules and guidelines are in effect now due to those superimposed administrative changes. That 8-hour OSHA course might be a good idea for key NWU employees who overlook A-E's and contractors doing work for the university. One judgement or fine could easily justify the cost of the courses.


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    Edward Acker AIA
    Senior Architect
    Broomfield CO
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    Join us at the PM Luncheon at A'22! Keynote speaker is Phi Bernstein, FAIA. Click here to learn more.


  • 5.  RE: OSHA Applicability

    Posted 10-11-2021 06:37 PM
    Mr. Acker
    Thank you for this.  The link to the WBDG website is not working.  I will search the WBDC website to see if I can find the content without the link.
    All the folks in NU Facilities Management (from trades people to professionals) were given the opportunity to take the 8 hour OSHA course.  It is one of the reasons that I know that there are different expectations from IBC to OSHA on the final design of a building.  It was very informative.  And one of reasons I recommended it for every AE person out there.  I think that it should be considered for curricula and licensing, too. 
    Again thank you. 
    deb

    ------------------------------
    Deborah Burkhart AIA
    Project Manager
    Northwestern University
    Chicago IL
    ------------------------------

    Join us at the PM Luncheon at A'22! Keynote speaker is Phi Bernstein, FAIA. Click here to learn more.