Worker on jobsite following OSHA rules


Business Insider

The top 10 workplace safety violations and tips to avoid them

Scott Madison, a Ferguson author

by Scott Madison


When it comes to workplace safety, it pays to comply with regulations set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA. In 2016, the penalties for OSHA violations increased by 78% for the first time in over twenty years, and have gone up every year since then to adjust for inflation. The penalties in 2021 are now $13,653 for serious or other-than-serious violations and a maximum of $136,532 for willful or repeated violations.

In addition to OSHA violation penalties, jobsite safety can impact a business’s bottom line in terms of costs for worker injuries and illnesses. Plus, the skilled labor shortage is making it difficult enough for many trade business owners to hire qualified talent. Businesses that have a reputation of being dangerous to work for could find it even more difficult to attract and maintain skilled workers. By putting safety first and being vigilant for common OSHA safety violations on your jobsite, you can help your crew stay safe and keep your company free from costly fines and penalties.

Top 10 OSHA Safety Violations of 2020*

1. Fall protection

Elevated workspaces pose a risk for slips and falls, which could cause broken bones, spine injuries and even death. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 320 fatal falls in the construction industry in 2018. Falls are preventable, and it’s the employer’s responsibility to have safety measures in place to mitigate the risks of fall hazards.

Safety Tip: Measure workspace elevations to identify potential fall hazards. If a workspace is elevated more than 6’ from the level below it, make sure guard rails, safety nets or fall arrest systems are in place.

Bonus Safety Tip: People aren’t the only thing that can fall from a high level. Install toe boards or screens around the base of an elevated area to prevent tools, equipment and material from falling and hitting a worker below.

2. Hazard communication

Conditions and materials used on the jobsite can create a number of potential safety threats. Hazards like slippery surfaces, toxic chemicals and gases, extreme temperatures, electrified fences and construction areas are just some of the dangers that can be avoided through the use of hazard communication.

Safety Tip: Develop and implement a hazard communication plan. Assess any potential hazards an employee could be exposed to and communicate the risks using safety markers.

3. Respiratory protection

Inhaling air contaminated by dust, soot, gas and vapor – which are all common on jobsites – can lead to a number of chronic respiratory problems and diseases. It’s the responsibility of employers to provide respiratory protection to employees when workers are exposed to airborne contaminants.

Safety Tip: Personal respiratory devices should form a complete seal on the face. Beards may be in style, but they can impede a respirator from working the right way. Make sure facial hair is trimmed to allow for a respirator to fit properly.

Bonus Safety Tip: In order to protect workers from silica dust inhalation, OSHA outlined new requirements for dust collection on the jobsite that will go into effect on June 23, 2017. Learn about the new dust removal requirements >>

4. Scaffolding

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports scaffolding as a cause of 14% of fatal falls in the construction industry over a two-year period. Scaffolding used on jobsites must be designed by certified professionals, and employers are required to train their crew to identify scaffolding hazards. Overloading a scaffold with material and equipment that exceeds the intended weight load can cause the structure to break and fall. Scaffold surfaces that are wet or slippery also pose a threat to worker safety.

Safety Tip: Heads up. Make sure there is enough clearance between the top of the scaffold and any ceiling fixtures, beams or exposed power lines to avoid accidental contact, and be sure to have your crew wear hard hats when working on scaffolding.

5. Ladders

While ladders are often a necessity of the job, 24% of deaths in the construction industry are caused by falls from ladders according to the Centers for Disease Controls. Falls that lead to serious injury and possibly death can result from ladders that are set up on an unstable surface, are slippery or are carrying more than their maximum weight capacity.

Safety Tip: Make ladder use a two-person job when possible. Designate one worker to be the spotter to ensure ladder stability. An extra set of eyes on the ground can help spot a potential hazard.

Bonus Safety Tip: Never attach two ladders together to add extra length unless the ladders were specifically designed to do so.

6. Lockout/tagout

The accidental startup of a machine creates the potential for exposure to electrical hazards, gas, steam and moving parts in the point of operation. Use of a lockout or tagout device such as an approved padlock or a combination lock will prevent the startup of a machine by physically blocking the engagement of the required components for the machine to function. OSHA estimates the proper use of lockout/tagout devices prevents 120 worker fatalities and 50,000 injuries each year.

Safety Tip: Educate your team about the importance of using lockout/tag-out devices. Be mindful of workers who speak other languages and ensure the information is communicated to them as well.

7. Powered industrial trucks

Forklifts, pallet jacks, motorized hand trucks and other similar vehicles require care when operating to prevent injury to the driver and other workers in the driver’s vicinity. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 7,000 nonfatal worker injuries and 614 worker fatalities caused by forklifts over a six year period. For this reason, it’s important to only allow certified and trained members of your crew to operate forklifts.

Safety Tip: In addition to training your crew to operate forklifts safely, forklift maintenance also plays a role in preventing injury. Have your forklifts serviced according to manufacturer specifications by qualified mechanics.

8. Fall protection - Training requirements

The safety violation of failing to implement a fall protection training program earned the eighth position on OSHA’s list of violations. OSHA requires employers to train all workers who could be exposed to fall hazards on the proper procedures to minimize the risks of falling. The goal should be to empower your crew to identify fall hazards and know what steps to take to prevent falls proactively.

Safety Tip: Falling off of something is not the only fall hazard to be aware of on the job. Train your crew on the fall hazards associated with excavation sites to prevent them from falling into excavated areas. Learn about common trenching and excavation safety hazards >>

9. Eye and face protection

According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 2,000 workers suffer eye injuries on the job on average every day. Failure to wear eye protection and face protection is the leading cause of occupational eye injuries that may result in permanent blindness. OSHA places the responsibility on business owners to provide personal protective equipment, or PPE, for the eyes and face when employees are working around flying particles, chemicals and gases, and light radiation from welding.

Safety Tip: PPE for the eyes must fit properly in order to be effective. Stock up on different types of eye protection to have well-fitting PPE available to all members of your crew.

Bonus Safety Tip: Installing an eyewash station on the jobsite can help provide fast relief from accidental chemical exposure to the eye before going to the emergency room.

10. Machine guarding

OSHA requires “any machine part, function, or process that may cause injury [to] be safeguarded.” Moving machine parts without a safety guard in place at the point of operation pose a threat to workers from exposure to moving parts, flying pieces and sparks. Amputations, crushing, maiming, and lacerations are some potential hazards when using a machine without proper safety guards in place. OSHA outlines specific requirements based on respective industries. For the construction industry, the requirements pertain to hand tools and power tools.

Safety Tip: Opt for hand tools, cutters and clippers that require both hands to operate. Anchor all fixed machines to a sturdy mounting surface. Inspect tools regularly for signs of deterioration that may cause them to malfunction.

You can help keep yourself and your team safe just by keeping an eye open for safety violations during your day-to-day operations. In addition to preventing bodily harm, you can also help avoid fines and lawsuits. A little safety precaution can go a long way on the jobsite. Ferguson is your source for safety supplies and resources to help you protect your crew. Explore Safety Matters for more tips to help you stay safe on the job.

*Top 10 Most Frequently Cited Standards For Fiscal Year 2020, U.S. Department of Labor, 2021

Scott Madison, a Ferguson author

Scott Madison

Scott is a 10+ year veteran of the online space and has literally traveled the world to present the best possible ideas (according to him) that he is able to offer. His knowledge of the HFM & MRO industries offers an experienced data-driven perspective to all of his writings.