Top 9: How to Avoid the Most Common Violations with Technology

American workers owe their lives to federal health and safety standards. These rules, created and enforced by the OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Admin.), www.osha.org, Washington, D.C., are all designed to prevent injury and illness on the job.

Of course, following these standards has additional benefits for employers, from passing inspections and avoiding harsh fines to keeping workers as productive, efficient, and happy as possible. These violations represent some of the most common hazards in American workplaces, where one in five private-sector worksite deaths take place in the construction industry. So, why and how do so many people get these violations wrong? And how you can make sure your worksites are different?

Here’s what you need to know about the most cited violations:

1. Fall Protection

Responsible for more than a third of all construction site deaths in 2016, falls are also the number one cause of fatal worksite injuries overall. Are you doing enough to prevent workers from falling? Last year, inspectors gave out more citations for fall protection standards than anything else. They zeroed in on five safety sections, in particular, all of which applied to employees working more than six feet above a lower level. The proper guardrails, safety nets, and other mandatory safety equipment could help you prevent everything from a construction accident claim to loss of human life. However, everyone on the worksite has to know these standards and stick to them, especially on surfaces that have extra fall protection requirements (like steep roofs and surfaces with holes or unprotected edges). Employers must train any employee exposed to fall risks to recognize hazards and follow safety procedures. Unfortunately, these training requirements were violated at least 1,724 times in 2017. Most were general violations, but some applied to specifics like documenting this training (with a written certification record), choosing a competent person to conduct it, and making sure employees actually retain what they learned.

2. Hazard Communication

Managing and monitoring your worksite safety is impossible without proper communication, but this is especially important—and especially well-regulated—when hazardous chemicals are present. Workers rely on their employers to update them on hazardous chemicals (including which ones are present, when, and how to handle them safely). Your hazard communication program should include safety data sheets for every chemical, clear labels, and appropriate training.

3. Scaffolding

Construction scaffolding is a temporary installation that should make worksites easier—not more dangerous—to navigate. Any scaffolding that’s more than 10 feet in the air should include fall protection for workers, and any scaffolding higher than 2 feet must include a safe way to access it. These two standards alone accounted for more than 1,000 violations last year. One piece of technology that may be helpful on the job is an app that offers automatic weather capture on construction sites, alerts, and notifications, which can be very helpful when having workers on scaffolding.

4. Respiratory Protection

Are your employees exposed to harmful air contaminants like dust, fog, gas, smoke, or sprays? They depend on functional, well-fitting respirators to prevent illness and protect their air quality. But according to OSHA, many workplace respirators aren’t being used properly. If you want to avoid common respiratory protection citations, make sure employees are fit-tested, medically evaluated, and using respirators as required every time.

5. Control of Hazardous Energy

Also known as lockout or tagout violations, these safety citations apply to hazardous energy. This energy includes anything that powers a system and can harm people, from electricity and heavy objects to air pressure and tight springs. Your energy control procedures must meet every OSHA standard, so don’t rely on outdated monitoring technology or fall behind on your maintenance, training, or inspections. When hazardous energy is stored, it can also be released improperly, so energy controls are crucial for protecting workers and complying with federal standards.

6. Ladders

Is every ladder on your worksite stable and safe? Detailed safety standards matter when it comes to using and securing ladders properly. Like the scaffolding and fall protection citations, this group of common violations is also specific to the construction industry, and it includes violations like using the top step, failing to provide a grasping device or extension for upper landings, and failing to label or stop using ladders with structural defects. Ladders must be used for their intended purposes and secured at all times, especially on surfaces that aren’t stable.  One monitoring system that can be installed is the On-Site View—all that is needed to provide power is a 120 volt AC and this little camera will record a video of daily activities. It easily integrates into your website to capture and document critical activities on the worksite. Should a worker use a ladder and get injured you have the incident recorded to review if he/she was using the ladder/equipment properly.

7. Powered Industrial Trucks

Are your drivers properly trained, evaluated, and prepared to operate powered industrial trucks? These heavy-duty vehicles inspire thousands of safety citations every year, but the majority apply to the operators. If you want to avoid the violations make sure every driver is competent, trained, evaluated, and that their performance is evaluated at least once every three years. One large problem with trucks and vehicles is when they are backing up a huge blind spot occurs and they are not able to see what is behind them. Thanks to a new generation of reverse alarms, lives can be saved. The new alarms make a “ssh ssh” white sound that can be heard clearly on a construction site, even when workers are wearing headphones or ear protection.

8. Machinery and Machine Guarding

Where there’s machinery, there must also be strict safety protocols in place to prevent accidents. OSHA issued the most machinery citations for improper machine guarding, which means operators and other employees weren’t properly protected from rotating parts, flying sparks, and other accident hazards. If a machine exposes any worker to injury risks, you must use machine guards to keep body parts out of harm’s way.

9. Electrical Wiring Methods

Want to avoid electrocution, fire, and explosions at work? Make electrical safety requirements a top priority. The most common citations in this category apply to electrical wiring methods, but OHSA also cited sections about components and equipment, including outlet boxes and unused openings. At the top of the list: an electrical wiring standard that prohibits the permanent use of flexible cords as substitutes for fixed wiring. Just behind it is a citation that applies to splice and repairing cords. Before you make any changes to your electrical wiring, make sure you’re in compliance every step of the way.

Workplace health and safety is crucial in every industry, but construction sites are especially prone to the violations and injuries that OSHA tracks most frequently. Make sure your workers are trained and equipped to protect themselves, then prioritize your means of managing and monitoring every job standard that affects your site.

Howard Raphaelson has more than twenty-five years of tireless hard work as a personal injury lawyer. He is a partner for Raphaelson & Levine, www.raphaelsonlaw.com, New York, N.Y.