Did you know that one in five workplace fatalities occur in the construction industry (according to OSHA – Occupational Safety and Health Administration)?
With safety concerns being a genuine challenge, OSHA plays a critical role in ensuring safety standards are respected on construction sites. Moreover, construction companies and team managers have a lot to learn from OSHA’s yearly reports on the most common safety standard violations.
Moreover, if you check several of these reports, it’s easy to notice that most violations show up year after year. So, if you care about your workers and want to make sure your company can pass an OSHA inspection at any time, all you have to do is ensure these issues don’t show up on your job sites.
To lend a helping hand, we put together a list of the top most common violations that show up in most of OSHA’s reports. If you manage to keep these issues under control, your construction business will thrive.
1. Fall Protection
Despite OSHA's strict guidelines, fall protection continues to top the list as the number one safety violation on construction sites. Alarmingly, more than one-third of jobsite fatalities in 2019 were caused by falls, highlighting the critical importance of addressing this issue.
In an industry where work at heights is unavoidable, guarding against fall hazards should be a top priority. According to OSHA Standard 1926.0501, all construction companies must provide adequate fall protection, which includes covering skylights, providing guardrails on ramps or stairs, and much more.
However, many less obvious hazards still go unnoticed. For example, hidden holes or obstructions on walkways can lead to disastrous accidents. Likewise, dangerous equipment and wall openings pose significant threats that must not be underestimated.
To counter these risks associated with gravity-related accidents, it's essential that employers establish and implement a comprehensive fall prevention program. This includes requiring employees to wear hard hats and setting up toeboards or barricades where necessary.
2. Lack of Training
Ensuring worker safety on construction sites is crucial, and a key aspect of this involves proper training in all work-related aspects. Data shows that comprehensive training can save lives, and a work culture designed around safety benefits both workers and employers.
So, take time to invest in thorough protection training for your construction team and foster a safe workplace environment. After all, well-trained employees are better equipped to recognize hazards, follow necessary procedures, and minimize risks on-site.
For example, the risk of accidents involving forklifts is lower when these machines are operated by well-trained operators. This happens because employers make it clear that essential forklift safety guidelines must be followed at all times.
The same is true for fall-related accidents. When employers know and understand the role of wearing their safety gear, even if a fall occurs, it’s less likely the accident will be fatal.
3. Eye and Face Protection
With over 1400 violations each year, OSHA’s Eye and Face Protection standard (also known as Standard 1926.102) outlines specific guidelines to protect employees from potential hazards like flying debris, chemicals, or harmful dust particles.
To put it simply, if there's any chance of eye or face injury on the job site, employers must provide adequate protective gear for their workforce. For example, you may need to wear safety glasses with side shields when dealing with airborne particles or full-face shields when handling hazardous liquids. It's worth mentioning that the protective equipment must meet specific ANSI standards as well.
4. Health and Safety
According to this standard, employers cannot ask their employees to work in hazardous environments and in improper and unhealthy work conditions. The standard also mandates contractors to supply workers with necessary Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) alongside proper training.
This also involves making sure every worker knows and understands how to work with the tools assigned to them (such as power tools, digging tools, and so on). Plus, every worker needs to know the consequences of ignoring their training, such as forgoing safety precautions when using power tools.
This regulation seeks to minimize risks and maintain a safe workplace for all employees in the construction industry.
5. Head Protection
OSHA's Head Protection standard mandates the use of head protection gear for employees at construction sites with risks of head injury. This includes potential injuries from impact, falling or flying objects, and electrical shocks or burns. Essentially, any construction project above one story necessitates adherence to this safety regulation.
And yet, it is one of the most common violations OSHA inspectors find on the job sites they visit. One reason for non-compliance may be ignorance or lack of awareness about the risks involved in not wearing proper head protection gear. This is quite common among small contractors who may be new to larger projects and are not familiar with safety standards.
Another reason some employers choose to forgo this standard is purely economic. After all, large-scale projects employ numerous workers, and providing helmets for everyone could add up financially. However, these savings are short-sighted as potential legal liabilities, medical bills, and compensation should an injury occur that would outweigh any upfront costs.
OSHA’s standards for the construction sector were designed with the workers’ safety and well-being in mind. And yet, there are plenty of contractors that choose to ignore these regulations.
As a result, the construction industry is one of the most dangerous fields for workers, with a worryingly high number of fatalities and accidents each year. But data shows that construction companies that follow safety standards are more profitable and have a better chance of thriving in the field. So maybe, times will change.