With so many moving parts onsite, it’s difficult for construction contractors to ensure all the proper safety procedures are being taken. However, following safety protocols isn’t optional. A single piece of poorly constructed equipment could have a huge impact on a contractor’s bottomline. A single violation can cost up to $13,000 and a repeatable violation could cost up to $136,000. In order to avoid these costly mistakes, we’ll give you a breakdown of the five most common violations in construction and how you can avoid them.
If you’ve been in the construction industry for a while, this #1 OSHA violation should come as no surprise. Fall protection is the most commonly cited safety violation for the past ten years. Fall protection wreaks havoc on construction sites. Although fall protection violations tend to happen on rooftops or any time work is being done above six feet, there are tons of areas where this can happen. From walkways to hidden holes, there are multiple opportunities onsite for field crews to encounter a fall hazard.
To avoid common fall hazards focus on daily pre-planning. Meet with team members daily to ensure that the proper safety measures, such as installing guardrail systems, are in place. Be sure to also provide your team with the proper equipment, such as appropriate ladders, for the specific job they’re working on. We’ll get into more detail on ladders below.
Some might say scaffolding fits into the general category of “fall protection.” However, scaffolding consistently comes up as a common safety violation in its own right. This is for many reasons including how seriously injured workers can become from this particular violation. When it comes down to it, these violations happen mostly due to poorly constructed equipment. Without nailing a scaffold to a mudsill, for example, contractors run the risk of allowing the scaffold to move too freely. This flexibility can allow crew members to fall from the scaffold but also creates the potential to injure others around it.
To avoid this violation make sure to partner with a licensed contractor who has a detailed plan to assemble scaffolds appropriately. Make sure part of their plan includes nailing the structure to a mudsill and installing a mid-rail to prevent a crew member from falling off either side. Another way to avoid this safety violation is to ensure damaged equipment is red-tagged and replaced. This way, you’ll construct a secure and safe scaffold for your team members onsite.
Ladders are not multi-purpose. Let me say that again - ladders are not multi-purpose. This is important to remember since this common safety violation happens because crews feel they can use a single ladder for very different tasks. By not using the right ladder for a specific task, contractors run the risk of their field crews getting injured or worse. Falls, commonly from ladders, account for eight percent of all occupational fatalities. A common example of this is when crew members will use an A-frame ladder for a task that requires a ladder to lean against a wall. By using an A-frame ladder rather than an extension ladder, in this example, the ladder could potentially fall out from underneath the worker.
To avoid this common safety violation be proactive about what work happens on a given day and ensure the right equipment for the job is available. By providing field crews with different ladders for different tasks, they’re more likely to complete the work with a reduced chance of injury.
There are times when the work onsite can create harmful pollutants. One of the most common violations occurs when crews are breaking ground. Because toxic dust is in the air during this phase of the construction process, crews are subject to potentially long-term medical complications that could even cause lung damage.
A couple ways to ensure this safety violation doesn’t happen is through proper training of how to use appropriate PPE. Through this training, crew members can learn how to identify damaged or ill-fitting PPE. With this training, you’ll ensure your team members are always equipped with the right PPE to protect them. A second way to avoid this violation is by putting the proper safety procedures in place during times where toxins might be present in the air. Creating such processes like “wet methods” can help to control the dust or pollutants and protect the safety of crew members.
Last, but certainly not least, is the dangerous safety violation known as hazard communication. From October 2018 to September 2019, this common safety violation accounted for a total of $5,105,026 in fines. The intention of hazardous communication is to ensure that all chemicals onsite are properly labelled. These labels should also address any potential for harm, such as how flammable the chemical is. If this information is not written on the label itself, it’ll be on a material safety data sheet. Where violations usually happen is that these material safety data sheets are not properly updated. When these datasheets are not updated accordingly, crews run the risk of handling potentially dangerous chemicals incorrectly.
One way to avoid this common safety violation is to ensure crew members have access to hazard communication, whether on labels of the chemicals themselves or through a material safety data sheet. Contractors can also make it required to update the datasheet as they handle the chemical. This way, crews are using chemicals with the highest safety measures in mind.
Don’t let these common, costly safety violations affect your performance in the field. By taking the time to train and adhere to the right protocols, you can ensure your team members’ safety while moving your project forward.