The 5 Most Common OSHA Violations in Construction

common osha violations
By Holly Hughes-Barnes | 10 minute read

Among the most dangerous occupations in the country, construction has the largest number of preventable deaths, accounting for nearly one-fourth of all preventable fatalities in the workplace in 2021. 

All health and safety regulations should be followed to ensure employees stay safe on the job. The five most common construction violations are important to learn, so you can provide the proper precautions and training, to avoid injury or worse, of your employees.

What Are OSHA Violations?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is the regulatory agency responsible for establishing and enforcing workplace safety in the U.S. An OSHA violation is any workplace incident or condition that violates these safety regulations.

There are different types of OSHA violations and each type comes with a different maximum penalty:

  • Serious - $15,625 per violation
  • Other-Than-Serious - $15,625 per violation
  • Posting Requirements - $15,625 per violation
  • Failure to Abate - $15,625 per day beyond the abatement date
  • Willful or Repeated - $15,625 per violation

It is up to the employer to ensure the safety of their employees is guaranteed and health and safety standards, laws, and OSHA regulations are followed. Employees should also be educated on how to report OSHA violations on the job.

What Are the Most Frequently Cited OSHA Violations in Construction?

Most people in the construction and trade industries know about OSHA’s fatal four (falls, struck by, caught in/between, and electrocution), but for the fiscal year 2021, the four most common safety violations have changed slightly, although four of the five are related to falling.

1. Fall Protection - 5,295 Violations

OSHA has fall protection guidelines to help prevent workers from falling off of overhead areas, elevated platforms, or falling into holes. There are different requirements based on the industry with construction being required to provide fall protection for any work done over six feet of elevation.

2. Ladders - 2,026 Violations

Ladders have specific regulations to prevent injuries to workers. They must be clean and oil-free, strong enough to hold the load they are intended to hold, and positioned properly, among other things.

3. Scaffolding - 1,948 Violations

Scaffolding is commonly used on construction sites and poses a high risk of safety issues. According to OSHA, scaffold incidents in construction are usually due to planking or support failure, worker slipping, no fall protection, or workers being struck by falling objects. 

4. Fall Protection Training - 1,666

Every employer is required to ensure each of their employees is properly trained in fall protection and able to identify fall hazards on the jobsite. The training must be provided by a qualified trainer or program.

5. Eye and Face Protection - 1,452

Blindness or other serious damage can happen when the proper PPE is not provided and/or used. OSHA requires all employers to ensure their employees use the proper eye and face protective gear when dealing with hazards like chemicals, acids, flying particles, and more.

Free Construction Safety Checklist

OSHA Standards for Construction

To help prevent injuries and deaths as a result of construction hazards like these, OSHA has created safety rules for construction businesses to follow. These rules are also known as safety standards. And there are over 500 construction-specific safety tasks inside 40 different categories.

OSHA establishes health and safety requirements for all occupations and industries. There are general standards, which apply to all businesses, and there are construction standards, which have more rigorous guidelines and regulations for safety compliance, due to the nature of the industry.

Similarly, while you will need to know the basic construction safety requirements to remain compliant, you don’t necessarily need to know all of them. The health and safety regulations you enforce on your jobsites will depend on the type of construction you’re doing, the scope, and the hazards you work with.

If you hire subcontractors to perform work on your projects, they must also OSHA health and safety requirements for their employees, but you are still responsible for ensuring they are in compliance. If they are found in violation, both of you could be held accountable and face penalties for non-compliance.

OSHA Safety Training Requirements

Some OSHA construction standards require minimal training, while others require more in-depth training. The type of training necessary to be compliant will depend on the type of work and associated hazards of your projects.

“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

Avoid Common Construction Safety Violations

While these five most common OSHA safety violations are dangerous, OSHA has created standards to help reduce the risk and minimize the dangers of construction worksites. 

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. Don't forget to implement short meetings as part of your routine to discuss construction safety topics at your jobsite.

If you see hazards or feel your occupational health and safety have been put at risk in any way, you should immediately report construction safety violations to OSHA. To learn more about how you can keep your crews safe on the jobsite, check out our guide on Managing Safety Compliance on the Jobsite

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