Since its formation in 1970, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, has set standards to ensure all private-sector employers provide optimal workplace safety and health to their employees. Failure to comply with OSHA standards, even if it’s a small mistake, can penalize your construction company in a big way. As such, no business wants to account for the high costs that result from OSHA violations.

Here are the top 5 OSHA violations that every construction company should proactively avoid.

1. Fall Protection Violations

OSHA’s fall protection standards outline the proper construction and installation of safety systems, as well as the proper supervision of employees to protect them from falls when walking or working on surfaces with an unprotected side or edge above 6 feet.

Within the past decade, fall protection has been the most violated standard, with 7,042 violations taking place in the 2015 fiscal year. It’s also one of the most common causes of serious work-related injuries and deaths.

Employers must provide the right type of fall protection systems or equipment in a given situation; properly construct and install safety systems, such as guardrails and handrails; and train workers in the use and maintenance of those systems.

Other means of fall protection include toe-boards, safety nets, and stair railings. When fall prevention systems can’t be used, employers need to provide personal fall arrest equipment. Fall arrest systems often consist of lanyards, harnesses, and anchorage devices that may reduce the chance of injury or death if a worker does fall.

2. Hazard Communication Violations

In 2015, there were 5,681 hazard communication violations, of which 1,746 cases were due to failure to develop, implement, and maintain a written hazard communication program.

Hazard communication ensures chemical safety in the workplace. This means chemical manufacturers and importers must evaluate and specify criteria for classifications of health and physical hazards of the chemicals they produce or import.

Likewise, employers are required to provide detailed information about identities and hazards of the chemicals to workers, and train them to handle the chemicals appropriately. Each container of hazardous chemicals must be labeled, tagged, or marked with the following 6 elements:

  • Product identifier
  • Pictogram
  • Signal word
  • Hazard statement
  • Precautionary statement
  • Supplier information

Safety Data Sheets must be provided to facilitate recognition and understanding, and follow a specified 16-section format.

3. Scaffolding Violations

Scaffolding is another common OSHA violation, with a total of 4,681 violations in 2015. This standard outlines the safe use of scaffolding in construction and demolition operations. It sets performance-based criteria to protect workers from scaffold-related hazards while working on or near scaffolding at heights of 10 feet or higher.

Employers must have each employee who performs work while on a scaffold trained by a qualified individual. This helps workers recognize the dangers associated with the type of scaffolding being used as well as better understand the procedures to control and minimize those hazards.

A qualified, competent person at the worksite must also conduct inspections before each work shift and after any occurrence that could affect the scaffolding structural integrity. A guardrail or personal fall arrest system must protect employees more than 10 feet above a lower level from falling.

4. Respiratory Protection

There were 3,626 respiratory protection violations in 2015. This standard refers to the establishment or maintenance of a respiratory protection program with worksite-specific procedures.

Respiratory protection programs help safeguard workers against insufficient oxygen environments, harmful smoke, mists, vapors, and sprays; any of which may cause cancer, lung impairment, or death. Programs must be designed by a qualified program administrator at the worksite who is able to identify and evaluate any respiratory hazards, including a reasonable estimate of employee exposures and identification of the contaminant’s chemical state and physical form.

Employers must provide training, respirators, and medical evaluations at no cost to their workers. Before fit testing and use, a medical evaluation is compulsory to determine an employee’s ability to use a respirator. This evaluation must be performed by a physician or other licensed health care professional (PLHCP) using a medical questionnaire. Effective training for employees is required annually and when workplace conditions change, new types of respirators are used, or when employees’ knowledge indicates need.

5. Lockout/Tagout Violations

In 2015, there were 3,308 total lockout/tagout violations. This standard outlines specific practices and minimum performance requirements to safeguard employees from the unexpected startup of machinery and equipment, and the control of hazardous energy during service or maintenance activities.

Serious or fatal injuries can occur to workers if the equipment they service or maintain unexpectedly starts up or releases potentially hazardous energy. Therefore, it’s extremely important that all employees take necessary steps in accordance with the specific provisions of their employer’s energy-control procedure.  

Training is crucial to ensure that workers understand the purpose, functions, and restrictions of the energy-control program. Authorized employees are those responsible for performing the service or maintenance activities. They need the knowledge and skills to turn off and disconnect machinery from energy sources before performance by either locking or tagging the energy-isolating devices and verifying that the energy has been effectively isolated.

Affected employees are usually machine operators or users whose jobs require them to be in the area where service or maintenance is performed. They don’t perform lockout/tagout activities. However, they need to understand the purpose and use of energy-control procedures, and the importance of not using equipment that has been locked or tagged out.

Whenever there is a change in job assignments, energy-control procedures, or machinery that presents a new hazard, employers must provide retraining for all authorized and affected employees. Retraining is also essential whenever an employee’s knowledge or use of the procedure shows shortcomings.

 

It’s important to stay up-to-date and remain in compliance with OSHA standards and regulations. This helps construction companies manage and mitigate threats to their employees and customers. It’s also the best way to avoid unfortunate penalties from OSHA violations, prevent needless workplace tragedies, maintain low costs, and promote a secure and happy workplace where your employees can concentrate on what they do best.