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10 most common OSHA violations
Oct 24, 2016

Which health and safety violations occur most often on the job site today? With construction accounting for one in five workplace deaths in 2014, higher penalty payouts in place and new rules for tracking and recording violations looming, we asked the Occupational Safety and Health Administration which rules are broken most often on construction-related projects.

As it turns out, the worst offenses have largely stayed the same over time. It should come as little surprise that fall-protection mishaps top the list. With more than 20,000 incidents reported in the last four years, it remains the leading cause of death in construction. Following close behind are faulty ladders and inefficient eye and face and head protection.

This summer, OSHA announce its interim rule raising maximum civil penalties by 78% to meet the requirements of a federally mandated increase designed to ensure that the fines reflect inflation. The rule went into effect on Aug. 1, bumping the maximum fee for serious violations to $12,471 from $7,000 and the penalty for willful and repeated violations to $124,709 from $70,000.

Meanwhile, OSHA caught flak this summer for the "anti-retaliation" provision of its new electronic recordkeeping rule. The contested portion of the rule eliminates post-accident drug and alcohol testing of involved employees, which critics say is essential to preventing future incidents but that OSHA contends is a privacy violation. Previously, companies that have conducted post-accident testing have become susceptible to higher OSHA fines. Furthermore, OSHA has said the data collected will be publicly available in an effort to draw attention to the most serious violations and the companies at which they occur. The rule goes into effect on Nov. 1.

The following data reflects the leading construction-related occupational safety and health violations since 2012. OSHA notes that the data for previous years is nearly identical, indicating that many of these violations have been decades-long struggles to improve safety practices in construction. In all industries nationwide, worker deaths are down from 38 per day in 1973 to 13 per day in 2014, according to OSHA.

Below, we've listed the leading violations for federal OSHA as well as for the overall state-plan program.

Fall protection

Including residential construction, guard rails, portable ladders and scaffolds, this remains the most common OSHA violation among construction-related projects. Fall-related violations accounted for 359 out of 899 deaths in 2014, according to OSHA. The administration continues to respond with Local Emphasis Programs that include a focus on fall hazards in all 10 regions of OSHA governance nationwide.

Lack of training

Another common violation among OSHA's federal program and its state-run plans relates to training, specifically having to do with properly implementing fall-protection strategies. In addition to fulfilling the training requirements, employers must either confirm in writing that a worker has completed the necessary preparation or retrain the employee.

Eye and face protection

The requirement for workers in industries including construction to be equipped with personal protection equipment for their eyes and faces came to light earlier this year, when OSHA passed its final silica rule, reducing the allowable exposure to airborne silica dust five-fold and requiring that companies track worker exposure and offer medical exams for those exposed for lengthy periods. The rule updated OSHA's Eye and Face Protection Standard for consistency across its standards and to allow workers to use the latest protective gear.

Head protection

Though not as common as falls, head-protection violations do occur. In February, a Norridge, IL-based roofing contractor was cited and fined $115,500 for violations including employees working sans head protection, in addition to fall hazards and operating a nail gun without proper eye protection.

Hazard Communication

Construction sites are home to a range of materials and substances, and contractors must ensure that their related hazards are documented and shared with the rest of the project team. Communications should include standard labeling in addition to data sheets and employee training where relevant. Lead and silica dust are among the substances requiring hazard communication.

The top 10 OSHA construction standards cited by federal OSHA:

  1. Fall Protection, residential construction (1926.501(b)(13)): 19,367 violations
  2. Ladders, portable (1926.1053 (b)(1)): 7,192
  3. Fall Protection, guard rails (1926.501(b)(1)): 6,387
  4. Training Requirements (1926.503(a)(1): 6,175
  5. Eye and Face Protection (1926.102(a)(1)): 5,835
  6. Head Protection (1926.100(a)): 4,997
  7. Scaffolds, fall protection (1926.451(g)(1)): 3,708
  8. Scaffolds, aerial lifts (1926.453(b)(2)(v)): 3,438
  9. Fall Protection, low-slope roofs (1926.501(b)(10)): 3,361
  10. Scaffolds, access (1926.451(e)(1)): 2,993

The top 10 construction standards cited by OSHA state plan states:

  1. Fall Protection, residential construction (1926.501(b)(13)): 1,840
  2. Fall Protection, guard rails (1926.501(b)(1)): 1,206
  3. Training Certification (1926.503(b)(1)): 965
  4. Training Program (1926.503(a)(1)): 943
  5. Ladders, portable (1926.1053(b)(1)): 775
  6. Hazard Communication, written program (1910.1200(e)(1)): 727
  7. Fall Protection, low-slope roofs (1926.501(b)(10)): 698
  8. Head Protection (1926.100(a)): 674
  9. Fall Protection, steep roofs (1926.501(b)(11)): 571
  10. General Safety and Health Provisions (1926.20(b)(2)): 562

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