This is not a list on which you’d like to find your company, but it is a list you need to know, because it lists the top 10 safety violations committed in construction. Are you and your company perhaps guilty of any of them? Take a look and see. But remember, it's not enough for you to become familiar with this list. You must know and comply with the actual regulations. Be proactive and in compliance, avoid these violations. Don’t jeopardise your workers' safety.
The violations are constant
Year after year, the top 10 safety violations found by safety inspectors remain the same. The only thing that changes is their order on the list.
Violation #1: Fall protection
The standard for this outlines where you will require fall protection systems and which systems are appropriate for the given situation. If you’re looking to see where you might be (however unknowingly) violating the law, you have to be proactive. You won’t be able to see the violation by simply ‘driving by’.
During many types of construction work, you will require fall protection when working at heights of six feet or more. The type of fall protection allowed will depend on the structure and the work you’re doing, e.g.:
- Personal fall arrest systems
- Warning lines, etc.
Many of the violations involve roof work (including low slope roofs) but are not limited to that – elevator shafts can also pose fall hazards.
Violation #2: HazCom
By following the regulation, you must:
- implement a programme to inform employees of the hazards of chemicals they are exposed to on the job. The standard has several requirements, but some of the primary ones are also some of the ones where safety inspectors most often find deficiencies
- (if you’re an employer), have a written record of what your company has done to comply with the standard. This includes a list of all the chemicals you use (i.e. a chemical inventory)
- label all storage containers with hazardous chemicals with the information on the chemical’s identity and hazards
- train all employees before their first exposure and, equally important, retrain them when you introduce new or different chemicals, or when there are changes in the way you use the chemicals.
Violation #3: Scaffolding
Holes in scaffold platforms can be just as lethal as holes in any other walking/working surface, therefore it’s critical that you construct an adequate platform. With a few exceptions, each platform, on all working levels, must be fully planked or decked between the front uprights and the guardrail supports.
There must be an adequate point of access for the scaffold platforms, such as:
- a portable ladder
- a hook-on ladder
- direct access from another scaffold, etc.
You must protect employees for at least 10 feet, but the type of fall protection varies depending on the type of scaffold. In some cases a personal fall arrest system will be needed, for example, ladder jack scaffolds; in others, you will need a guardrail and personal fall arrest system. You may also need grab lines.
The key to staying compliant is to have a ‘competent person’ in charge of compliance and oversight.
Violation #4: Respiratory protection
Fumes, toxic, gases and vapours are a problem in the construction industry. The backbone of respiratory protection is having a good assessment of the exposures. This typically comes from an industrial hygiene assessment, which helps you determine the level of exposures and what appropriate respiratory protection you need.
Three common trouble spots
- The use of particulate or dust masks (N95 versions being the most common). What many employers fail to realise is that dust masks, such as N95s are considered respirators. If they are required, then you will require the full written respiratory programme.
- Not having your employees medically evaluated to see if they are physically capable of wearing the equipment.
- A lack of fit testing. Fit testing is a process and series of exercises by which you ensure each individual employee’s respirator is the correct size, is comfortable, and fits effectively.
Violation #5: Lockout/Tagout
Workers servicing or maintaining machines or equipment may be seriously injured or killed if you don’t properly control hazardous energy. The lockout/tagout standard requires you to implement a programme and procedures to control the unexpected release of energy during servicing and maintenance activities (e.g., the machine starts unexpectedly while you’re servicing it). This applies to:
- Other sources of energy in machines and equipment.
Violation #6: Powered industrial trucks
Powered industrial truck (PIT) violations are another commonly cited item, partly because there are so many types of lift trucks across a wide variety of industries. PITs include forklifts, powered pallet jacks, stand-up rider lift trucks, order pickers, etc.
The major compliance issue is when employers fail to train operators on all the types of PIT equipment they operate. Your training has to be equipment-specific. You do not necessarily have to train each operator on every pallet jack made by different manufacturers, but you cannot allow an operator who only has forklift training to operate a powered pallet jack without additional training. The training must be for each ‘type’ of equipment.
Violation #7: Ladders
When you or your staff use portable ladders for access to an upper landing surface, the ladder side rails must extend at least three feet above the upper landing surface to which the ladder is used to gain access. Or, when such an extension is not possible because of the ladder’s length, then you must secure the ladder at its top to a rigid support that will not deflect, and you must provide a grasping device, such as a grab rail, to assist employees in mounting and dismounting the ladder.
Another common violation is when employees use ladders for something they aren’t designed for, such as using the ladder as a walking platform or a lifting device. These practices are prohibited. Your ladders also have to be in good shape.
You must immediately mark portable ladders with structural defects, such as broken or missing rungs, cleats, or steps; broken or split rails; corroded components; or other faulty or defective parts, in a manner that readily identifies them as defective. Or you must tag them with ‘Do Not Use’ or similar such language, and withdraw them from service until you repair them.
Violation #8: Machine guarding
This requirement doesn’t address specific machines, but it does require you to protect employees from dangerous parts by some method and also guard the point of operation. The types of equipment may include:
- Injection moulding machines
- Metal cutting equipment
- Hydraulic presses
You also need to anchor the machines to prevent movement. This applies to machines designed to be at a fixed location and also to machines that could move during operation, for example many drill presses.
Violation #9: Electrical, wiring methods
Electrical standards are designed to protect employees exposed to dangers, such as electric shock, arc flash, electrocution, fires, and explosions. Some common electrical violations involve grounding of equipment, as well as using temporary wiring. For example, using temporary wiring (i.e., extension cords) in place of permanent wiring is a violation under most conditions. Even when it’s allowed, it’s a violation to run flexible cords or cables through wall holes or ceiling holes. Also, not having strain relief on cords and cables is another common violation. You need relief to prevent pull (or stress) from being directly transmitted to joints or terminal screws.
Violation #10: Electrical systems design
Employers must install and maintain equipment as you received it from the manufacturer, according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Plugging power strips into extension cords, rather than into the wall, typically goes against installation instructions and is a safety violation. It is also a violation when you use equipment in the workplace that has only been labelled and listed for home use.