Due to the inherent risks of construction, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) heavily targets the industry for workplace health and safety investigations. During FY 2021, OSHA performed 8,858 investigations of construction workplaces and handed out 22,684 citations, costing employers $80.6 million in penalties. Below are the 10 OSHA standards most frequently cited in the construction industry and a brief overview of what employers must do to avoid violations.
Construction employers were cited 5,480 times for failing to fulfill their duty to protect workers from falls. Violations of this standard were cited more than twice as often as any other standard and were by far the costliest for construction companies, amounting to a total of $28.6 million in penalties last year.
The fall protection standard involves safeguarding workers from both falls and falling objects. Employers must identify and protect against potential hazards, such as ensuring working/walking surfaces are able to support employees and using guardrails or other protective systems when employees are walking or working six feet above a lower surface. Safety measures to shield employees from falling objects include having them wear hard hats and barricading the areas to which objects can fall.
Falls from ladders are one of the leading causes of occupational fatalities and, in FY 2021, 2,101 citations were issued to construction employers for running afoul of the ladder safety standard. The standard involves proper use of various types of ladders and ladder accessories, including not exceeding a ladder’s load requirements and placing ladders at correct angles on stable surfaces. Ladders should be inspected prior to each use and removed from service if damaged, and all workers must be trained appropriately on ladder safety.
With 2,089 citations, general scaffold requirements were a close third behind ladders. This standard concerns ensuring scaffolds and scaffold components are able to support specific loads, and that appropriate guard rails and other protections from falls are in place. Specifications for erecting and dismantling scaffolds, inspections and employee training on scaffold use are also covered under this standard.
OSHA views employee training as an important part of fall prevention and cited 1,688 construction employers for failing to meet requirements in this area. Employers must have a training program for each employee who might be exposed to fall hazards, from the use of guardrail systems and personal fall arrest systems to the role of each employee in the safety monitoring system. Employers must prepare a written certification record that includes the trained employee’s name, date of training, and signatures of the person conducting the training and the employer.
OSHA issued 1,499 citations to construction companies for failing to meet the eye and face protection standard. Employers must provide and ensure the usage of adequate protective equipment for employees who are exposed to eye or face hazards from flying particles, molten metal, liquid chemicals, acids or caustic liquids, chemical gases or vapors, or potentially injurious light radiation.
A total of 865 citations were issued in connection with the general safety and health provisions standard concerning contract work. This standard includes compliance, protective equipment and training requirements to ensure that contractors and subcontractors provide every worker performing any aspect of contract work with sanitary working conditions and an environment that is free of hazards that could negatively impact their health or safety.
The head protection standard, which was associated with 844 citations last year, is intended to protect employees working in areas where there is possible danger of head injury from impact, flying or falling objects, or electrical shock and burns. This standard involves the use of hard hats that meet protection specifications based on the job environment.
A total of 549 citations were issued for various failures to meet specific precautions to eliminate hazards and control risks for excavation work. This standard involves pre-planning, protective systems, safety measures and inspections to safeguard against hazards such as cave-ins, materials falling on workers, worker falls, nearby structure collapses, electrocution, explosions, gas leaks and flooding.
A total of 535 citations involved the aerial lifts standard. This standard touches on various requirements, including training and inspections, to ensure the proper and safe operation of vehicle-mounted aerial devices used to elevate personnel to job sites above ground.
Hazard communication failures led to 524 citations in the construction industry last year. This standard requires that the hazards of all chemicals produced or imported be classified, and that information concerning the classified hazards and appropriate protective measures be communicated to employees.
Given the industry’s inherent dangers and the high costs associated with OSHA violations, it is vital that construction companies comply with OSHA regulations for identifying workplace hazards and safeguarding workers.
If you need assistance with an OSHA matter, contact the OSHA lawyers at Sheehy, Ware, Pappas & Grubbs. We have assisted hundreds of employers in OSHA matters, including compliance, investigations, settlement mediation and litigation.