A construction zone can be a dangerous place. Companies must do their due diligence to ensure that all workers are safe when working both on and off the construction site. All workspaces and equipment must be free and clear of any recognized hazards while meeting industry safety standards.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sets and enforces these safety standards at the national level. When accidents do happen, it may indicate that there’s been a safety violation.
The U.S. National Safety Council (NSC) reports on the most common safety violation data aggregated annually by OSHA. Here are the top 10 safety violations (in order of most to least) for fiscal year 2022.
- Fall protection – general requirements
- Hazard communication
- Respiratory protection
- Powered industrial trucks
- Fall protection – training requirements
- Personal protective and lifesaving equipment – eye and face protection
- Machine guarding
Half of these represent the most dangerous safety issues that are specific to the construction industry. These are fall protection, fall protection training, ladders, scaffolding, and personal protective equipment. Companies need to analyze the problem spots and target those areas where workers are still getting hurt.
Five common safety violations on construction sites
What are the most important safety rules in construction, and why do companies need to pay attention to them? The answer is more than just a company’s integrity and reputation. If an employer fails to provide the proper safety standards in construction, an injured employee may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits in Alabama.
Let’s take a closer look at the top five OSHA violations that are construction-related.
- Fall Prevention. Fall incidents top the list with 5,260 violations, keeping it in its number one spot again for the year. Construction workers often work at great heights, leaving them more vulnerable to falls that can result in serious injury or even death. In order to prevent injury, OSHA’s general fall protection requirements stipulate that all employers are required to provide proper fall protection systems. All working surfaces must also be strong enough to support the weight of workers. This includes walking surfaces such as ramps and runways. If roofing workers are on certain types of structures with no sides, they need to be protected by safety features such as a guardrail, safety net system, or a personal fall arrest (PFA) system like a body belt or a harness.
- Fall Prevention Training. OSHA has prepared an extensive and detailed guide that companies can use to teach fall prevention and safety to their employees. Nonetheless, there were 1,778 violations of fall prevention training requirements in 2022 (up from 1,556 the previous year). Skylight and roof openings are a particular danger to construction workers as are any other sort of unprotected holes or openings in building structures.
- Ladders. Once again, height is an issue for worker safety. OSHA provides detailed guidelines for ladder safety, from ladder inspection and maintenance to proper versus improper use. Many of the safety tips are common sense, such as only having one person on a ladder at a time or not leaning out when you’re working at the top of a ladder. When workers don’t follow the rules or employers don’t provide safe equipment, accidents can happen. Ladder violations for 2022 totaled 2,143, which was 453 more incidents than the previous year.
- Scaffolding. Scaffolding may be a mild annoyance to pedestrians, but it can mean life or death for a construction worker. OSHA requires employers to protect any employee who is working on a scaffold at a height of 10 feet or more above either the ground or the next lower level of scaffolding. Scaffolding – which must be erected by an appropriately qualified person – is designed to protect a worker from falling. It also protects a worker or any passersby from being struck by a falling object. OSHA documented 2,058 scaffolding violations in 2022, up from 1,943 in 2021.
As with other construction violations, a worker who was injured in a scaffolding mishap can talk to a lawyer about how to file a claim for workers’ compensation against their employer or a third- party personal injury claim against a responsible party other than the injured worker’s employer. If an innocent bystander is injured by defective scaffolding or an object that falls from it, they should reach out to a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible.
- Personal Protective and Lifesaving Equipment. Violations in this category are specific to eye and face protection. OSHA requires companies to provide proper PPE to all employees who are “exposed to eye or face hazards from flying particles, molten metal, liquid chemicals, acids or caustic liquids, chemical gases or vapors, or potentially injurious light radiation.” OSHA recorded 1,582 violations (that’s 131 more incidents than in 2021). Worn properly, PPE such as glasses, goggles, and face shields can adequately protect workers. An injured employee may be eligible for workers’ compensation if a company has been negligent in providing lifesaving equipment. An injured employee may also have a claim against a third-party responsible for providing lifesaving equipment (other than the employer) such as a safety contractor.
The top five general industry violations
Those other non-construction safety issues in the OSHA top 10 may sometimes overlap with construction as well. These include hazard communication, respiratory protection, powered industrial trucks, lockout/tagout, and machine guarding.
- Hazard communication refers to proper labeling and transparency around hazardous materials. 2,682 hazard communication violations were reported in 2022. Since hazardous materials are present on most construction sites, companies must make employees aware of their presence and also educate them about proper handling techniques.
- Failure to comply with respiratory protection regulations resulted in 2,185 violations. According to the CDC, construction workers should wear respirators to protect them from exposure to dangerous levels of silica, wood, or lead dust and particulate matter.
- Lockout/tagout refers to violations of the control of hazardous energy guidelines. Hazardous energy sources include electrical, mechanical, hydraulic, pneumatic, chemical, and thermal sources such as fires and explosions. In 2022, OSHA recorded 1,977 lockout/tagout (LO/TO) violations. Any dangerous machine or workspace must be properly safeguarded. For example, the company may be proven liable of a LO/TO violation if an employee encounters a live wire in an unsecured area that should have been locked or otherwise restricted.
- A powered industrial truck is basically the industry term for a forklift. Construction workers can be injured when forklifts tip over or are driven off a loading dock or elevated pallet. Unsuspecting pedestrians or passersby could also be injured. Forklift violations tallied 1,749 in 2022.
- Machine guarding. Employers must protect employees from injurious run-ins with moving machine parts as part of a safety protocol known as machine guarding. OSHA’s general requirements include maintaining all tools and equipment in a safe condition. Construction-related tools include hand tools; abrasive wheels and tools; woodworking tools; jacks-lever and ratchet, screw, and hydraulic tools; air receivers; and any mechanical power-transmission apparatus. Companies were in violation of the machine-guarding regulation of such tools 1,370 times in 2022.
If you or a loved one have been injured, don’t delay. You need to talk to a lawyer as soon as possible. Workers’ compensation and personal injury law can be complicated, but you don’t need to go it alone. You can trust the Decatur and Huntsville injury lawyers at Martin & Helms, P.C., who have been handling cases like yours in North Alabama for more than 25 years.
Our offices in Huntsville and Decatur can be conveniently accessed from both Madison and Athens, but our services extend through North Alabama and the Tennessee Valley. To learn more about what we do, call our offices or complete our contact form to schedule your free initial consultation.