If asked, most people could give definitions of construction and maintenance. But when it comes to OSHA regulations, things like definitions aren’t that simple.
Whether painting is construction or maintenance is the point of contention in one recent case involving an OSHA fine.
A painter for Public Utilities Maintenance, Inc., Carlos Mejia, received a shock while painting an electrical tower in Belchertown, MA, in 2008. Fortunately, Mejia survived the incident.
OSHA said the company violated a standard that requires the employer ensure that no employee gets within the “minimum approach distance” of an energized part unless the employee or part is properly insulated.
Public Utilities argued that it wasn’t covered by the standard because it specifically doesn’t apply to construction work, which is defined as “work for construction, alteration, and/or repair, including painting and decorating.”
Directive seemed to favor employer
The company cited a 2003 OSHA directive that said a complete painting job on a major portion of a structure would be considered construction.
The federal court hearing the case agreed that the directive seemed to support Public Utilities.
However, the court gave more weight to OSHA’s interpretation than to the directive.
And this probably didn’t help Public Utilities’ case: Its own safety guidelines required its employees comply with the standard in question.
So the court agreed with OSHA that, in this case, repainting the tower was maintenance because the goal was to keep it from rusting.
What do you think about this decision? Let us know in the Comments Box below.
(Public Utilities Maintenance, Inc. v. Secretary of Labor, U.S. Circuit Crt. 2, No. 10-0123-ag, 3/29/11)