Nearly 6.5 million people work at approximately 252,000 construction sites across the nation on any given day. While safety should always a top priority on the jobsite, far too many preventable injuries and illnesses occur in the workplace each year – pushing the fatal injury rate for the construction industry higher than the national average for all industries.
Whether it’s a tight deadline, lack of education or overconfidence that leads to careless actions, following the rigid standards and precautionary measures put in place by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is not only the law, but also a practical and efficient way to keep your team safe.
Founded in 1970 as part of the United States Department of Labor, OSHA has enforced working standards and has provided training, outreach education and assistance to assure safe and healthful working conditions for people in all industries. Since its beginnings, OSHA has had a significant impact on workplace safety – reducing workplace fatalities by 65 percent and occupational injury and illness rates by 67 percent, all while US employment has almost doubled.
To keep on this trend of improved safety records and to alert employers of commonly recognized hazards, OSHA publishes a list of commonly cited standards each year. The following is a list of the top 10 most frequently cited standards following more than 35,000 federal OSHA worksite inspections in 2014:
1. Fall protection
According to OSHA records, falls are among the most common causes of serious work related injuries and deaths. To keep employees safe, guard floor holes, secure guardrails around elevated platforms and provide safety nets, harnesses and handrails on special job sites.
2. Hazard communication
With the number of hazardous chemicals used in the construction and building industries, it’s no wonder improper exposure and handling continues to pose a serious threat to the health of our workforce. By classifying chemicals and communicating hazard information on labels and safety data sheets to employees and contractors, it is possible to avoid danger while also increasing productivity and cost savings.
Nearly three out of four workers injured in scaffold accidents attribute the accident either to a planking or support giving way, slipping or being struck by a falling object, according to a recent Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) study. By implementing appropriate safety measures and acting in compliance with OSHA standards, American employers could prevent some of the 4,500 injuries and over 60 deaths every year and save $90 million in workdays not lost.
4. Respiratory protection
Respirators protect workers against harmful environments where airborne particles or harmful dusts, fogs, smokes, mists, gases, vapors and sprays may be present. By providing and enforcing use of the proper safety equipment, employers could avert illnesses such as cancer, lung impairment, diseases or even death for the 5 million workers required to wear respirators in the United States.
5. Powered industrial trucks
There are many types of powered industrial trucks used in the construction and building industries, and each poses its own operating hazards. Determining the best way to protect workers from injury largely depends on the type of truck operated and the worksite where it is being used. Keeping team members educated and trained on operational standards, as well as keeping machines in good working condition, are a few ways to reduce the risk at hand.
6. Control of hazardous energy
When dealing with electric-powered machines and equipment, the threat of electric malfunction and mishap is omnipresent. By controlling energy output through use of lockout-tagout procedures, employee training and periodic inspections, you can keep employees safe even in the most dangerous of jobsites.
Ladders are one of the most widely used tools in the construction and building industries, and one of the most dangerous. Lack of security, carrying too heavy of a load and poorly supported rungs are all common reasons workers fall or otherwise harm themselves on this everyday piece of equipment. Taking a moment to inspect and secure a ladder, as well as having a second person securing the ladder during ascent and descent, can save you not only from a fall, but also from wasted time and money.
8. Electrical, wiring methods
Whether you’re on the power line, wiring a building or working in an office with indirect contact to a power source, electricity can be a serious workplace hazard. In fact, if handled improperly, electricity can cause injuries such as shock and severe burns, and even fatalities. Per OSHA standards, always keep a 10-foot safety circle around all electric power lines – meaning no equipment, tools, materials or persons within that space.
9. Machine guarding
Crushed fingers or hands, amputations, burns and blindness are just some of the injuries reported to OSHA each year as a result of improperly safeguarding workers from moving machines. When the operation of a machine or accidental contact with moving parts could potentially harm employees, machine safeguards can help you protect workers from preventable injuries.
10. Electrical systems design
Electric systems, which are groups of electrical components connected to carry out some operation, need to maintain certain design elements, such as insulation, guarding, grounding and electrical protective devices, to keep workers and end users safe. Similar to the threats listed in number eight, if these systems are not held to a high standard, injury or fatality may occur.
As the construction industry continues to grow, it’s vital for workers, supervisors and employers to be educated and responsible for worksite safety. Following OSHA standards and utilizing its resources can help reduce deaths and serious injuries. Adherence to these standards can also lead to benefits for your business, such as improved safety ratings, leading to higher employee satisfaction, customer advocacy and a better bottom line.