Every day, millions of men and women across the US walk onto construction sites with one goal in mind – get the job done safely. But that does not always happen. The construction industry is inherently risky, with thousands of construction workers injured or killed on the job each year. The numbers show just how hazardous the sector is – Construction workers make up only 6% of the US labor force, but 5,333 workers died on the job in 2019. On average, that’s more than 100 fatalities a week or about 15 deaths every day! This disparity underlines the need for a sustained push to improve safety on the job for those shaping the communities in which we live, work and play.
The leading causes of construction deaths—the Fatal Four: falls, struck by equipment, caught in between, and electrocutions— account for over 60% of all construction-related deaths in the US. The key to worker safety is compliance with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations. This includes providing employees with safe work practices and training on equipment usage before they start work.
Preventing accidents at your company starts with strict adherence to OSHA standards. Technology-driven solutions can help construction firms stay compliant and heighten awareness of the importance of being committed to safety, every day.
Every construction company should be dedicated to the safety of its workers — making sure every man and woman goes home in the same condition in which they arrive every day. That said, here’s a rundown of the top 5 violations in the construction industry and the latest OSHA safety standards your firm must comply with to ensure worker safety and avoid costly citations.
1. Machinery and Machine Guarding
Machine parts such as moving gears, cogs, chains, and conveyor belts have the potential to cause severe injuries such as crushed fingers and hands, amputations, burns, or blindness. Precautionary measures are thus essential.
Identifying hazards is the first step toward protecting workers and promoting workplace safety. OSHA directives state that one or more methods of machine guarding must be used to protect operators and other employees from hazards, including those created at operational points, rotating parts, flying chips and sparks. All machine parts, functional areas, and processes that can cause injury must be safeguarded.
The minimum general requirements for safeguards include:
- Contact prevention that stops any limbs from contacting dangerous moving parts
- Durability and tamperproof safety devices that will withstand normal machine use and remain firmly secured
- Protection from falling objects, especially onto moving parts of the machine
- Elimination of sharp edges
- Safe lubrication without needing to remove the safeguard
Safety guards and devices come in various forms and should be constructed from materials that is appropriate for a particular industry and can withstand the impact, heat, and prolonged use of machinery in a specific setting.
2. Eye and Face Protection
Thousands of workers are blinded every year due to work-related eye injuries that are preventable. OSHA standards dictate that employers must provide eye and face protection to prevent chemical, radiological, mechanical, or environmental irritants from causing injury.
Eye and face protection is mandatory whenever workers are exposed to hazards from liquid chemicals, acids, molten metal, chemical gases or light radiation. Side protection or detachable slide-on side shields are obligatory wherever there is a potential hazard.
OSHA safety regulations further specify that employers are required to design the protective wear to account for prescriptions for those employees who need them. Alternatively, employees need to use eye safety gear that can be worn over their prescription lenses without disturbing their sight or affecting the degree of protection.
Eye and face personal protective equipment (PPE) also needs to be marked with the manufacturer’s ID as well as shade numbers to determine the appropriate level of protection when working around injurious light radiation. Operations that require specific protective shades include metal arc welding, gas metal arc welding, flux-cored arc welding, plasma arc welding and cutting, torch brazing, and torch soldering.
OSHA further directs employers to provide adequate training to employees regarding the correct use of PPE, which protective items should be worn, how each item should be worn, as well as how to maintain these items.
3. Fall Protection
With a great deal of construction work happening at elevated areas and variable heights, it’s not surprising that injuries from falling are among the most common and serious workplace hazards. Employers are required to set up work environments in a way that minimizes the risk of falling from elevated workstations.
OSHA safety regulations state that fall protection must be implemented at heights of four feet in general industry work environments and six feet in the construction industry. Protection has to be secured when working over dangerous machinery and equipment, regardless of the fall distance.
Fall protection measures include keeping floors clean and dry, appropriate PPE, and educating employees about potential hazards. Safety nets, harnesses and lines are essential requirements. OSHA also underlines that guard rails and toe boards must be used around any elevated platforms, dangerous machinery or equipment, and floor holes.
Sixty-five percent of the building and construction industry work on scaffolds. With around 4500 scaffold-related injuries annually, it is imperative that strict safety measures are in accordance with OSHA safety regulations. Scaffolding must be sound and able to carry its own weight plus four times the maximum intended load without settling or displacement.
Construction regulations also require scaffolds to be designed by a qualified person and constructed accordingly. Out of the workers injured in scaffold accidents, 72% are as a result of plank giveaway, slipping, or being hit by a falling object. All of these accidents can be minimized by complying with regulatory standards.
5. Respiratory Protection
Toxic gases and contaminated air can lead to serious, life-threatening diseases including cancer, lung disease, and even death. Respiratory protection is thus crucial. Wearing respirators protects workers against harmful dust, smoke, gases, sprays, and insufficient oxygen environments.
Respirators remove contaminants from the air by filtering out airborne particles. Air-purifying respirators are able to filter out chemicals and gases. In severe conditions respirators supply clean air from a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), with its own air supply.
Important to note: Before employees can use respiratory protection, they need to undergo medical evaluations and fit tests.
OSHA Safety Regulation Compliance Solution
Construction safety is evolving, and improvements in equipment and adopting technology have helped push the industry forward. Still, a renewed and sustained commitment to safety is essential given the number of preventable injuries and deaths in the industry each year.
OSHA regulations are in place to help ensure the safety of employees and contractors on site, but ensuring compliance can be difficult for construction companies that operate using more traditional methods like paper logs or spreadsheets. Salus helps by providing technology-driven solutions so you can stay compliant with OSHA safety standards, monitor training, and heighten employee awareness.
Learn more how Salus can simplify your safety compliance and help ensure your construction workers return home safe every day by booking a demo today.