Construction work is one of the most dangerous jobs in the United States. In fact, construction workers have a staggering 1 in 200 chance of being fatally injured on the job during their career. This is why it is vital to follow all safety procedures outlined by OSHA. Failing to do so could result in fines of up to $13,000 for a single incident. With so many moving parts on construction sites, it can be tough to remember and implement proper safety procedures. To make it a little easier for you, here is a list of 7 common OSHA violations on construction sites and how to prevent them.


  • Fall Protection

At the top of the list of violations is “Fall Protection”– and it has been for 12 years now. The reason this OSHA violation is so common in construction is probably because of the nature of construction sites. Most construction sites involve crews working on rooftops or other elevated structures. Additionally, construction sites often have uneven surfaces, debris, and other hazards that could cause a trip or fall. 


Some ways you can prevent falls is by setting up proper lighting, installing guard rail systems and nets for high up areas, and regularly inspecting the site for obvious hazards. Some hazards can include floor holes, damaged equipment, and improper safety gear. Training employees to recognize hazards should also be prioritized from the get-go. This is vital as falls are the leading cause of death for construction workers


For a full list of duties to prevent falls see OSHA Standard 1926.501.


  • Hazard Communication

Sometimes construction sites use hazardous chemicals. These can include chemicals in products like solvents found in paint and glue, gasses emitted from activities like welding, and exposure to harmful substances like asbestos. 


To minimize these risks you should ensure that workers are educated about these hazards as well as what measures to take during an emergency. Some best practices are to ensure that all chemical-containing products are labeled, containers with hazardous materials are sealed, and employees are given information about these chemicals in the form of written data sheets. 


For more information on your OSHA duties involving hazard communication See OSHA Standard 1910.1200.


  • Respiratory Protection

Dust, chemicals fumes, gas, paint sprays and vapors are common hazards on construction sites. These hazards can cause short and long-term health effects including lung damage. That is why it is so important to provide employees with the proper safety measures. This can include respirator masks and other PPE, and proper ventilation systems. As always, employees should also be educated about respiratory hazards and how to prevent them as well as how to properly utilize PPE. 


OSHA also requires that employers create a “…a written respiratory protection program with required worksite-specific procedures and elements for required respirator use…” Meaning, you should create a written protection and prevention program for respiratory hazards. 


See OSHA Standard 1910.134 for more information on PPE and employer’s duties around respiratory protection. 


  • Ladders

Ladders are sadly so hazardous that they get a category of their own from OSHA. Most accidents involving ladders are caused by inexperienced workers or improper or malfunctioning ladders.


You can prevent injuries from ladders by adequately training staff, and ensuring that the correct types of ladders are being used for the correct purpose. Employers should regularly ensure that ladders are working properly (rungs, cleats, and steps are in proper working order) and that the right ladders for each type of weight are being used by workers. Remember, ladders are not one size fits all. You should provide all necessary types of ladders (A-Frame, extension ladder etc.)


See OSHA Standard 1926.1053 for a full list of duties involving ladders. 


  • Scaffolding

Although scaffolding involves falls, OSHA has its own category for scaffolding risks. This is because scaffolding accidents are all too common. In fact, they were the 5th leading cause of OSHA violations in 2022. Common scaffolding accidents involve floor or plank collapse, defective scaffolding, and slips and falls off of scaffolding. 


Some ways you can prevent scaffolding accidents are by ensuring that scaffolding is created properly and securely, ensuring that only the proper weight is allowed on the scaffolding, installing guardrails, and ensuring that there is a clear walking path on scaffolding for workers. Employers should and must train employees to safely use scaffolding as well as inspect it often for obvious hazards. 


For a full list of OSHA duties for scaffolding see OSHA Standard 1926.451.


  • Lockout/Tagout (the control of hazardous energy)

This section is meant to prevent injuries like electrocution, burns, and equipment that might suddenly injure an extremity (like a jammed machine suddenly turning back on.) This section is called “Lockout//Tagout” because it is important that hazardous devices and machinery be equipped with “locks” and “tags”. Locks can be a locking system like a padlock, that locks a hazardous part of a machine while it is not in use. Tags are used to tag or mark the machine as a warning to employees. 


As always, employers should check often that locks and tags are being used properly. Employees should be given proper training for hazards involving random discharges (like electricity), and how to properly use a tagout/lockout system.


For a full list of OSHA duties for Tagout/Lockout see OSHA Standard 1910.147;


  • Powered Industrial Trucks

Another common OSHA violation on construction sites is “Powered Industrial Trucks.” This includes hazards and accidents involving industrial trucks like forklifts, tractors, and platform lift trucks. A leading cause of these accidents is when an operator unintentionally strikes pedestrians and workers. Other causes include tipping and impact accidents. 


To prevent these types of violations/accidents, employers should provide workers with safety gear, prohibit the use of cellphones during operation, and shrink wrap loads on forklifts so they won’t easily fall off. Additionally, workers are required to be certified to operate these kinds of heavy machinery. This ensures that they know how to operate the machinery properly and avoid accidents and recognize hazards.


For a full list of OSHA duties for Powered Industrial trucks see OSHA Standard 1910.178.


Don’t let these common safety violations affect your construction project. By understanding these and other safety protocols and using them in a diligent manner, you can keep your project safe and fine free!


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