But it doesn’t have to be this way. In this article, we’ll cover the four most common safety violations in construction (often called the fatal four) and the OSHA requirements in place to help reduce these violations. If you’re looking to improve your safety initiatives, these are the areas to start working on first.
“Falls are the number one reason for construction deaths,” says Sheldon Primus, authorized OSHA trainer and host of The Safety Consultant Podcast. “And it is the number one cited [violation] in construction every single year.”
Construction falls usually happen when there is a lack of fall protections put in place for workers.
Fall protections are safety systems like guardrails, nets, and personal fall arrest equipment. And OSHA requires that construction companies use these types of fall protections for any employees who are working six feet or more off the ground.
2. Caught in or between
Getting caught in or between objects is the second leading cause of injury and death and construction sites.
Here are a few examples of caught in or between hazards:
- Getting caught in a collapsed trench
- Getting clothing caught in machines that are running
- Getting crushed between a loading dock and a semi truck
Simple precautions like using trench shields and proper machine guards can help prevent these accidents.
The third leading cause of death for construction workers is getting struck by heavy objects or equipment.
A worker getting struck by a crane, or objects falling from a crane is an example of this.
Electrocutions are the fourth leading cause of construction deaths.
These are the leading causes of electrocution:
- Overhead wires: Workers who forget to pay attention to overhead wires when moving ladders or using booms often pay the price with their lives.
- Contact with energized sources: Workers can be electrocuted by bare wires, faulty equipment, or defective tools.
- Improper use of extension cords: Worn out cords are a common electrocution hazard.
OSHA safety standards for construction
To help prevent injuries and deaths as a result of construction hazards like the fatal four, OSHA has created safety rules for construction businesses to follow. These rules are also known as safety standards. And there are more than a few of them.
In fact, there are over 500 construction-specific safety tasks inside 40 different categories.
But not every construction company needs to know and comply with every single Osha standard for construction. The standards you need to know and follow are directly related to the kind of construction company you have, and the types of jobs you do.
For example, roofers most likely won’t need to know the OSHA standards for welding, cutting, and brazing. Larger contractors on the other hand, may need to know and follow every standard.
And most OSHA construction standards have training requirements that go along with them.
OSHA safety training requirements
Some OSHA construction standards require minimal training, like how to wear PPE. Other standards, like ones involving hazardous chemicals, require more in-depth training.
And depending on the standard, training may be required quarterly or annually.
Again, the type of safety training you need in order to be OSHA compliant depends on which standards apply to your specific construction company.
“If you're going to be cutting concrete, you need a silica class,” says Primus. “Or if you're going to be dealing with asbestos during a demolition, you should get some asbestos training.”
And he explains that the hazards OSHA expects you to train your employees on are directly related to these three things:
- The job you’re doing
- The equipment/material you’re using
- The environment you’re working in
Take a roofer for example.
Imagine the roofer will be putting on a metal roof today. That’s the job. The material he’ll be using is large sheets of metal roofing with sharp edges. The environment will be a roof that’s 20 feet off the ground.
So what are the hazards that the roofer will face?
Two things we know for sure. He’s working at heights. He’s working with sharp metal edges.
So before this roofer sets to work, he should have fall protection training and understand how to use PPE, like gloves.
While these four construction site safety violations are dangerous, OSHA has created standards to help reduce the risk and minimize the danger. If you need help understanding exactly what standards your company is responsible for maintaining, contact OSHA for help. They provide free on-site consultations. Or, they can refer you to a trusted advisor.
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