As industry professionals, roofing contractors are inherently aware of the risks that their businesses and crews face each day on the job. Many make their best efforts to train crews, provide proper safety equipment, and develop safety policies to protect workers and clients, but sometimes even the best efforts and preparations are simply not enough. OSHA site inspections happen daily, and no matter how much safety equipment is available on the job or how many guidelines have been established, they are pointless if not applied effectively and followed consistently.
For this reason, it is important to take the time to review some of the most common OSHA violations to properly prepare crews and jobsites, as well as to take advantage of OSHA’s free resources that are available for construction professionals.
It’s a harrowing feeling to drive up to a jobsite and notice that crews aren’t following safety standards; unfortunately, this is not a rare occurrence for most construction managers. From new hires to subcontractors, established safety guidelines may slip through the cracks, especially when workers don’t receive the appropriate amount of time for onboarding or safety training. These violations are not just reserved for new recruits; often seasoned crew members who have been employed by the same company for years can get complacent and begin to slack on basic safety measures.
Finding a team member on a roof without a harness or not wearing protective gear is not just a hazard but a real liability for a business owner and a fatality risk for a crew member. According to OSHA, there were approximately 4,675 worker fatalities in private industry during calendar year 2017. Out of those, 971 (20.7 percent) were in construction. In other words, one in five worker deaths in 2017 were in construction.
So, what are the most frequently cited violations in 2019? As reported by Federal OSHA for fiscal year 2019 (October 1, 2018 through September 30, 2019), the following were the top 10 most frequently cited standards:
|Cited Standard||Total Number of Violations|
|1. Fall Protection – General Requirements (Standard: 1926.501)||7,014|
|2. Hazard Communication (Standard: 1910.1200)||4,170|
|3. Scaffolding (Standard: 1926.451)||3,228|
|4. Lockout/Tagout (Standard: 1910.147)||2,975|
|5. Respiratory Protection (Standard: 1910.134)||2,826|
|6. Ladders (Standard: 1926.1053)||2,766|
|7. Powered Industrial Trucks (Standard: 1910.178)||2,347|
|8. Fall Protection – Training Requirements (Standard: 1926.503)||2,059|
|9. Machine Guarding (1910.212)||1,987|
|10. Eye and Face Protection (1926.102)||1,630|
While the rankings for OSHA’s Top 10 most cited violations are typically a repeat of previous years, it is important to refresh crews on this vital information. Fall Protection – General Requirements (1926.501) tops this year’s list for the ninth consecutive year. Meanwhile, Eye and Face Protection (1926.102), which was a newcomer to last year’s list, remains in the No. 10 spot.
With Fall Protection being the No. 1 most cited OSHA standard, it is important to have not only the proper fall protection equipment, but the proper training. Employers must be proactive and set up the workplace to prevent employees from falling from overhead platforms, elevated work stations or into holes in the floors and walls.
OSHA considers falls to be one of the “Fatal Four” worker fatalities. The others are strikes by objects, electrocution, and caught-in/between. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that these “Fatal Four” were responsible for more than half (59.9 percent) of construction worker deaths in 2017. Eliminating these safety issues would save approximately 582 workers’ lives in the United States every year.
Tools and Resources
In order to assess hazards and prepare workers, OSHA has developed a number of helpful and free resources for protecting crews:
Training – OSHA offers a wide variety of training programs and resources at www.osha.gov. The revised version of the Training Requirements in OSHA Standards is exhaustive and more than 250 pages in length but will provide detailed information on what is required in meeting the training standard. The Training Tab on OSHA’s website provides quick links for locating educational programs by area, PowerPoint guides and more.
Updates – Industry professionals can stay informed on the latest updates from OSHA by following their news feed or subscribing to their online newsletter, QuickTakes. The newsletter is distributed twice monthly and provides the latest updates regarding enforcement actions, rulemaking, outreach activities, compliance assistance, training and educational resources. As of last year, subscribers began receiving occasional “Did You Know?” messages that inform them of the latest OSHA safety resources.
Safety Tools/Apps – OSHA has and continues to develop a variety of interactive and user-friendly apps and training tools that contractors and crews can use to assess hazards on the job. Such tools include but are not limited to the following:
- OSHA’s Hazard Identification Training Toolis a web-based video game style training tool that can be used for learning the core concepts of hazard identification. The objective of this tool is to empower business owners and crews to better understand the process in identifying hazards on their own jobsites.
- The Heat Safety Tool App was developed in conjunction with OSHA’s “Water. Rest. Shade.” campaign to decrease the number of heat-related injuries and fatalities. Heat illnesses and deaths are preventable, and this app is an easy way to calculate the heat index and understand risk levels. The app also allows the user to receive reminders about protective measures that should be taken.
- Safe Lifting Calculatorwas developed by Oregon’s Department of Consumer and Business Services to automatically alert the user when he/she fails to use proper lifting techniques while picking up a box or similar load. Oregon OSHA’s app was designed based on research conducted on safe lifting in order to provide a maximum safe weight for various lifting scenarios.
Although the construction industry is teeming with high-risk hazards, business owners and workers can stay safe with proper training, tools and by understanding risks involved on the job. By staying abreast of the latest requirements and utilizing industry-specific safety apps and tools, such hazards and associated accidents can be avoided. Since OSHA’s standards may be revised at any time and new tools are developed each year, it is important to regularly review current safety guidelines and make proper modifications as needed to keep crews informed and safe.
OSHA Commonly Used Statistics: https://www.osha.gov/data/commonstats
U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics: https://www.bls.gov/iif/oshwc/cfoi/cftb0321.htm
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: https://www.bls.gov/iif/oshsum.htm
OSHA Newsletter QuickTakes: https://www.osha.gov/quicktakes/
OSHA Training Requirements: https://www.osha.gov/Publications/osha2254.pdf
OSHA’s Hazard Identification Training Tool: https://www.osha.gov/hazfinder/index.html
Heat Safety Tool App: https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/heat_index/heat_app.html
About the author: Erika S. Carruth is the founder and president of Solovei Consulting, Inc., a full-service marketing communications firm. As a writer and content developer, her focus areas include roofing and construction, technology and environmental sustainability. For more information, visit www.soloveiconsulting.com.