Top 10 OSHA Violations in Construction and How to Avoid Fines
What are the top 10 OSHA violations in construction? Construction is a high-risk industry where accidents and injuries can happen at any moment. Therefore, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has established standards and regulations to ensure workers' safety on construction sites. Failure to comply with these regulations can result in severe consequences, including fines, penalties, and legal actions.
To help you prioritize safety on the job and maintain compliance with OSHA standards, we will explore the top 10 OSHA violations in construction and guide you on how to avoid fines.
What Is an OSHA Violation?
An OSHA violation is a failure to comply with safety and health standards established by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a federal agency that oversees workplace safety in the United States. OSHA regulations aim to protect workers from hazards such as falls, electrocutions, hazardous materials, and other potential dangers in the workplace.
When an employer fails to comply with OSHA regulations, they can be cited for a violation, and fines and penalties may be imposed. OSHA violations can range from minor infractions to serious violations that pose a significant risk to workers' safety and health. Employers need to understand and comply with OSHA regulations to maintain a safe work environment and avoid expensive penalties.
OSHA Violation Types
If an OSHA inspector finds a type of OSHA violation, they'll probably issue a citation.
OSHA categorizes safety violations into six types of OSHA violations, each with its corresponding penalties and fines, which can range from moderate to severe. The severity of the violations can significantly impact businesses, with penalties costing thousands of dollars.
The six types of OSHA violations include:
A serious OSHA violation is a violation where there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from the hazard.
Other-than-serious violations have a direct relationship to job safety and health but are unlikely to result in death or serious physical harm.
These are violations where an employer knowingly fails to comply with OSHA requirements or acts with plain indifference to employee safety and health.
De Minimis Violations
These are technical violations of OSHA standards that have no direct impact on employees' health or safety. These violations are the most minor class of violations and do not result in monetary penalties or citations, but employers are still required to correct them. Instead, OSHA provides guidance and recommendations to employers to address the violations.
Failure to Abate Violations
This occurs when an employer fails to correct a previously cited violation by the OSHA deadline. In this case, OSHA may issue additional citations and penalties until the violation is corrected.
These are violations that are substantially similar to a prior violation. If a business does not correct a previously cited violation, or a new inspection reveals a very similar violation, an OSHA inspector can issue a Repeated Violation. It's important to note that the previous violation does not necessarily have to be at the same worksite. Therefore, any citation issued anywhere should prompt company-wide policy changes to prevent future violations.
TYPE OF VIOLATION
$15,625 per violation
Failure to Abate
$15,625 per day beyond the abatement date
Willful or Repeated
$156,259 per violation
Multiple OSHA citations can be issued for each OSHA safety violation and penalties can add up quickly for employers who fail to address safety hazards adequately. Employers must take construction safety seriously and comply with OSHA regulations to avoid costly penalties and protect workers' safety and health.
Top 10 OSHA Violations
Each year, OSHA releases the OSHA Top 10 list, which ranks the most frequent violations recorded in its database. Rankings on the OSHA violations list can vary from year to year. However, while the order of the list varies slightly each year, the same 10 standards are consistently cited. Therefore, the OSHA Top 10 list is an excellent resource for understanding examples of OSHA violations and the circumstances that can lead to a citation.
The following is a list of the top 10 OSHA violations in the fiscal year 2022, based on the number of OSHA citations issued:
Fall Protection - General Requirements
For the 12th year straight, OSHA’s Fall Protection Standard remains at the top of the list. To prevent falls, employers must provide fall protection, such as guardrails, safety nets, or personal fall arrest systems to employees on walking-working surfaces (horizontal or vertical) with an unprotected side or edge above 6 feet.
This standard requires that employers provide details on how to classify and label chemicals used in the workplace. Additionally, it outlines the need to train employees, use safety data sheets (SDSs), and maintain a written workplace hazard communication plan.
Examples of OSHA violations include failing to:
- Properly label hazardous chemicals
- Maintain safety data sheets
- Provide training on chemical hazards
Violations of this standard commonly result in falls.
OSHA's Stairways and Ladders Standard sets forth guidelines for the secure usage of extension ladders, ladders, stepladders, and job-made wooden ladders.
An example of an OSHA safety violation, in this case, would be the misuse or failure to provide ladders that meet OSHA safety standards, such as damaged or inadequate rungs or steps.
If workers require respirators for protection, the Respiratory Protection Standard requires employers to establish a respiratory protection program. The standard specifies guidelines for employee training, as well as selection, fitting, cleaning, use, maintenance, and repair of respirators.
Employers may face OSHA violations if you fail to provide and ensure the use of appropriate respiratory protection equipment and fit testing.
The Scaffolding Standard addresses safety requirements for various types of scaffolds such as suspended scaffolds, supported scaffolds, and airlifts. Risks associated with scaffolds typically involve:
- Falling from an elevation due to the absence of fall protection
- Scaffold collapse due to overloading or instability
- Being hit by falling debris or work materials
- Electrocution caused by proximity to overhead power lines
The Lockout/Tagout Standard shields employees from amputations and other severe injuries caused by the sudden startup or cycling of machinery or the release of stored energy during maintenance and servicing.
Also known as the Control of Hazardous Energy, this standard aims to avoid injuries while servicing and maintaining machines or equipment caused by the unforeseen "release of hazardous energy." Although electricity is the most common form of hazardous energy, the standard is also relevant to other types of energy.
Powered Industrial Trucks
The Powered Industrial Trucks Standard outlines the construction and design requirements for vehicles such as forklifts or lift trucks, which are used to move, raise, or lower heavy objects. Additionally, it mandates that employers ensure that operators of such vehicles are appropriately trained in the operation and safety standards.
An example of an OSHA violation of this standard includes the failure to properly operate, maintain, or train workers on the use of powered industrial trucks, such as forklifts and pallet jacks.
Fall Protection - Training Requirements
This standard is distinct from the Fall Protection Standard discussed in the first point, as it focuses on employee training and education to prevent falls rather than physical hazard controls and fall protection systems.
If an employer fails to train workers on fall hazards and how to properly use fall protection equipment, they may face a serious OSHA violation.
Personal Protective and Lifesaving Equipment–Eye and Face Protection
Employers must provide their employees with appropriate eye and face protection whenever there are potential hazards such as chemical, environmental, radiological, or mechanical irritants.
Failure to provide and ensure the use of appropriate eye and face protection for workers exposed to flying objects, chemical splashes, or harmful radiation, will result in severe consequences.
The Machine Guarding Standard outlines measures to safeguard workers from hazards caused by machineries, such as rotating parts, flying chips, sparks, and other potential dangers.
Employers must ensure to properly guard machines to prevent contact with moving parts, such as belts, gears, and blades.
How to Avoid OSHA Fines
Compliance with OSHA regulations is essential to maintain a safe workplace. Although employers can take several steps to comply and avoid OSHA fines, establishing a safety training program is the first step to avoiding an OSHA violation.
Employers must train workers on proper safety procedures and ensure that they understand the importance of following them. They should also provide employees with appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and ensure that they are trained on how to use it correctly.
When you develop and implement safety training to train employees on everything they need to know to do the job safely and you give them the time and supplies to do things properly, it will help result in fewer violations.
Other ways to avoid OSHA fines include:
- Regularly review OSHA regulations to ensure compliance with the latest requirements.
- Conduct regular safety inspections of the workplace to identify and address potential safety hazards.
- Address and investigate employee safety complaints promptly.
- Maintain accurate records of workplace injuries and illnesses, as well as OSHA inspections and citations.
- Correct any identified violations promptly and thoroughly.
Compliance standards explicitly require training in many areas, but it's not enough to just provide training. Workers must be trained thoroughly on all necessary safety procedures and receive periodic training refreshers.
During an OSHA visit, inspectors may test workers on their knowledge of safety procedures, meaning documentation alone is not enough. Fortunately, an external source for OSHA compliance training can help ensure that training is comprehensive, up-to-date, and effective.
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