As a construction company, your number one priority should be creating and maintaining a safe work environment for your team.
According to OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), 1 in 5 deaths among U.S workers is in the construction industry. Despite advancements in safety equipment, technology, and training, fatal and nonfatal injuries are consistently high.
Injuries and deaths take an emotional toll on co-workers and everyone involved in the company, but they also could lead to considerable costs in insurance payouts, lost productivity due to missed work, and avoidable penalties.
To ensure your company avoids the consequences of poor safety standards and lack of training, let’s look at what you can do to prevent accidents and injuries in the first place.
Top 10 OSHA Fines for 2022: How to Avoid Them
OSHA is committed to safety in the workplace. They set and enforce workplace safety and health standards and ensure all employees know their rights.
Considering 60% of construction-related deaths are from falls, being struck by an object, electrocutions, and being caught in between an object, it’s clear that many accidents are avoidable.
OSHA plays a vital role in ensuring your company is compliant. Any violations will lead to penalties and fines. We’ll outline those fines and the steps you can take to avoid them.
What are the Top 10 OSHA Violations?
Certain violations show up time and time again and are largely preventable.
#1. Fall Protection
Fall Protection is the number one most violated OSHA standard. And given fatalities from falls continue to rise (418 fatal slips and falls in the construction industry in 2019), construction companies must comply with simple guidelines to keep workers safe.
The standard outlines where fall protection is required, which fall protection systems are appropriate for different situations, and the correct supervision of workers to prevent falls.
Employers should first assess the construction site to determine if it can safely support workers. Is it structurally sound? Next, they must decide if a fall protection system is needed and that those systems comply with OSHA standards.
To be safe, have fall protection systems in place. OSHA requires fall protection when workers are at heights of six feet or greater above a lower level and heights of less than six feet when working near dangerous equipment.
Fall protection systems should be inspected yearly to ensure all components work when you need them to.
Other simple solutions include adequate warning lines, a guardrail system, and proper employee training on the dangers of working above ground level.
#2. Hazard Communication
Hazard Communication is the second most-cited OSHA violation. It addresses chemical hazards from chemicals produced on the worksite and those imported and communicates those hazards to workers.
Chemical information is often complex and conveyed in confusing ways, making it hard for employers and workers to understand.
Chemical manufacturers and importers must determine the hazards of the chemicals they manufacture and import and prepare labels and safety sheets for their customers. But once on site, it’s up to employers to train workers and ensure they understand the risks.
Information should be streamlined and focused. Simplified hazard communication will be better processed and utilized by workers. Construction companies can make training interactive and focus on providing only salient information to workers.
#3. Respiratory Protection
Gases, dust, and fumes can make you sick or, in some cases, kill you. Some act quickly, like carbon monoxide, which can kill you in minutes, and others take years to cause health issues.
Potentially dangerous dust and fumes are ever-present on worksites, and workers are exposed to them when using power tools, spray paints, and cleaning solvents, to name a few.
It’s encouraged to examine all avenues to reduce worker exposure, but respiratory protection should be implemented where this cannot be achieved.
Start by reducing exposure through engineering controls (local exhaust ventilation) or administrative controls (rotation of workers between hazardous tasks). Wet-cutting techniques might also be employed.
Where these controls are insufficient, an adequately selected respirator must be provided to protect worker health. By properly selected, we mean based on the different hazards workers will be exposed to.
A qualified program administrator should manage the direction on implementing a respiratory protection program.
The guidelines are straightforward. Scaffolding should be designed by a qualified person and constructed and loaded per that design. Employers are bound to protect workers from falls and falling objects while working on or near scaffolding at ten feet or higher heights.
And yet, scaffolding is the fourth most violated standard on the list, leading to 60 deaths a year and 4,500 injuries.
Scaffolding accidents occur mainly due to defective equipment or improper assembly, slipping or tripping on slippery surfaces with no guardrails, and falling objects hitting workers below.
The accidents mentioned above are wholly avoidable. Construction companies should take safety measures such as:
- Compliance with current OSHA regulations
- Proper design and assembly of scaffolds
- Provide suspension ropes and body belts
- Require workers to wear personal fall protection equipment
A qualified person should provide training to each employee who performs work while on a scaffold, enabling employees to recognize hazards and how to minimize them.
Ladders are an essential piece of equipment on a construction site, but that doesn’t excuse the number of violations. As the fifth most violated OSHA standard, faulty or unsupportive ladders are accidents waiting to happen.
According to OSHA, ladders must be capable of supporting loads without failure. Failure might lead to injury or death.
The simplest way to ensure ladders are compliant and safe is to test and replace any faulty ladders during a site inspection, allowing you to also avoid a violation for failing to inspect your site.
To ensure ladders are OSHA compliant, check the rungs, steps, and cleats are parallel, level, and evenly spaced. Go to the OSHA website for the needed weight supports.
#6. Control of Hazardous Energy
The most frequently violated electrical standard is the failure to prevent the release of hazardous energy while employees perform servicing and maintenance activities.
Preventable burns, injuries, and deaths are frequent due to negligence and lack of training. The procedures for shutting down hazardous equipment are easy to follow and implement and involve a designated individual turning off and disconnecting machinery or equipment from its energy source.
OSHA requires employers to establish an energy-control program to ensure that employees isolate machines from their energy sources and render them inoperative before any employee services or maintains them.
Appropriate lockout or tagout devices should be applied to energy-isolating devices, and employees must be trained for the safe application, use, and removal of energy controls.
#7. Powered Industrial Trucks
Especially on large sites and projects, powered trucks, commonly called forklifts or lift trucks, are primarily used to move materials. They are also used to raise, lower, or remove large objects.
Each type of powered industrial truck presents different hazards. The most common reasons for citations are driving too fast, driving with an elevated load, driving too close to platform edges, and not following dock safety procedures.
Pre-shift inspections of industrial-powered trucks can save a lot of headaches. Defective trucks are unsafe and must be taken out of service until restored to a safe operating condition.
Every forklift operator should be trained and receive refresher training every three years to avoid accidents, near-misses, and citations for reckless behavior.
Many eTools, checklists, and fact sheets are available to help you meet OSHA standards and industry best practices.
#8. Fall Protection–Training Requirements
As we highlighted above, fall protection is the number one most-violated OSHA standard. One of the most effective ways to avoid injuries and deaths from falls is to train employees extensively and empower them to look out for fall hazards.
There are video programs and online courses available to help learners recognize falling hazards and how to minimize them. Such programs should cover potential risks and protective measures to prevent injuries while working on elevated platforms and runways or near floor, wall, or window openings.
Once properly trained, employees will be able to explain potential fall hazards and how to prevent them, identify various forms of fall protection and the situations needed, and inspect and use fall protection equipment properly.
With four fall protection-related violations on this Top 10 list, it’s clear that construction companies must train their employees better.
#9. Eye and Face Protection
It’s damning that thousands of people are blinded from work-related eye injuries each year. Potential hazards such as flying particles and debris, liquid chemicals, and acids are rife on construction sites, so protective equipment must be provided.
Construction companies must provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to all employees to protect their eyes and face.
Here are the OSHA requirements for eye and face protection.
#10. Machine Guarding
Moving machine parts can cause severe and life-threatening workplace injuries. Any machine part that may cause harm must be safeguarded. The last thing you want is crushed fingers or hands, amputations, or blindness.
OSHA provides training for machine hazards and proposes many different safety features to eliminate or minimize hazards, one of which is machine guarding.
Many machines are fitted with electronic safety devices to ensure safe machine operation. It’s important to note that machines running correctly can still be fatal to employees, as well as moving parts and abnormal behavior.
Machine guards need to be solid and durable, difficult to remove, and able to withstand extreme conditions. Electronic sensors should monitor and enforce machine guards. If a guard is open, an alarm should be triggered.
Here's How Violations Can Rack Up
OSHA fines are avoidable. Remember, fines rise with inflation, but below is what you’ll be liable to pay for violations.
- Serious violations: $14.502 per violation
- Failure to abate: $14,502 per day beyond the abatement date
- Willful or repeated: $145.027 per violation
Can your company afford to pay these fines?
Not to mention, the real cost savings isn’t from avoiding fines from OSHA. If you think those are steep, you should see workers comp claims…
Training is the Best Defense Against OSHA Fines
General training on safety, with effective strategies, is your best defense against OSHA fines. Hold refresher training, make sure workers are following through with the training, and make it interactive and engaging for your staff. It's much better to have a positive attitude with required training than to skip it and really regret it.
If your skilled trades workers understand safety and are working in a safe manner, that will save on fines and claims. A safety-centric culture needs to be a top priority in the organization even if you are behind schedule and can do it quickly.
Sure, a forklift operator may get away with carrying more with that forklift beyond its max load. But one day, it will fail, and then you'll have downtime on a critical aspect of your job site.
Not to mention safe, uninjured, employees are going to be happier and more productive.
Key Takeaways to Avoid the Top 10 OSHA Fines in 2022
Inspections, a commitment to proper training, and clear guidelines are the most crucial safety elements in the workplace. OSHA requirements are extensive but easy to implement with planning and a commitment to safety.
Empower your employees by developing a culture of open communication around safety hazards and concerns. Your employees will see things that management doesn’t, so encourage them to speak up.
Finally, to attract the best skilled tradespeople you must provide quality training on all projects they join. Training videos, online learning, and stringent safety protocols will attract workers.
Work with a niche staffing agency that provides skilled tradespeople who know how to work safely on your worksite and avoid the top 10 OSHA fines.
IST ensures you avoid a manpower crisis by helping you build a deep bench of tradespeople through proactive planning and identifying the needs of your specific project.