Policy Changes in Effect for NASA’s Construction Safety Community
April 13, 2021
Two recent changes to NASA policy directly affect NASA’s Construction Safety community and its commercial suppliers and contractors. These changes went into effect Feb. 1, 2021.
First, requirements that were housed in NPR 8715.3, NASA General Safety Program Requirements are now found in NPR 8715.1, NASA Safety and Health Programs. This was done to consolidate a number of Institutional Safety-related requirements into one document and reduce the number of very specific safety requirements. The changes to these two NASA Procedural Requirements (NPRs) will result in more center flexibility to ensure employee health and safety.
The second change to construction safety policy is an example of increased flexibility. The Construction Safety requirement found in NPR 8715.1 is less stringent than the one previously in NPR 8715.3. The old requirement pointed to EM 385-1-1, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Safety and Health Requirements for mandates (or local center requirements if they were more rigorous). However, this requirement limited the pool of contractors NASA could select from, thereby limiting competition and potentially increasing costs. Instead, the new requirement points to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) 29 CFR 1926, Safety and Health Regulations for Construction (centers and organizations can still choose to follow more stringent requirements such as EM 385). The OSHA regulations, while less stringent, still provide a high degree of safety for employees.
“EM 385 contains a lot of requirements,” explained Michelle Leimbach, NASA Construction Safety Working Group lead. “Sometimes larger contractors can comply with it, and NASA centers with a high population of DoD [Department of Defense] facilities in the area have more access to EM 385-compliant contractors. But at other locations, it can be difficult to find EM 385-compliant contractors. We’d have to eliminate a lot of options because small companies might not have the resources to comply with EM 385-1-1. So, we revised the policy. Now, more small businesses can compete for NASA work, without sacrificing employees’ safety or health."
Questions about these changes can be directed to Leimbach.