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OSHA’s Top 10 Violations in 2020

Every single violation listed below occurred within the construction industry. Clearly, this fact proves that construction workers must be protected more than other workers since they are the ones affected by the most fatalities. Further, the 10 most frequent 2020 OSHA violations in manufacturing safety are:

  • Fall Protection (General Required)
  • Hazard Communication
  • Scaffolding
  • Respiratory Protection
  • Lockout/Tagout
  • Ladders
  • Powered Industrial Trucks (PITs)
  • Fall Protection (Training Required)
  • Machine Guarding
  • Eye & Face Protection

Total Number of Violations in Construction for 2018 = 32,266

Total Number of Falls in Construction for 2019 = 1,061

1 in 5 (20%) construction workers died from falls.

Because of OSHA, fatalities at work decreased from 38 per day in 1970 to 15 per day in 2019.

Fall Protection (General Requirements)

OSHA includes Fall Protection (General Requirements) because falls account for 1/3 of fatalities within the construction safety industry, making them this industry’s number one cause of death. Fall protection must be given to any employee that works 6 feet above a lower level.

Areas and Activities Needing Fall Protection

  • Leading Edges (unprotected areas)
  • Overhand Bricklaying and Similar Work (workers must lean over walls)
  • Low-Slope Roof Work (roof must be a maximum of 4 in x 12 in)
  • Steep Roof Work (roof must be greater than 4 in x 12 in)
  • Residential Construction (a building that is made to be a home or mostly made of wood rather than steel)
  • Hoist Areas (elevated surfaces)
  • Holes (workers may trip and step in or through holes)
  • Excavations (unprotected trenches)
  • Dangerous Equipment (ladders, saws, scaffolds, power drills, nail guns, and cranes)
  • Wall Openings (unprotected openings)
  • Other Construction Surfaces (any walking or working surface 6 feet above a lower level)

Types of Conventional Fall Protection Systems

  • Guardrail Systems (barriers that keep workers from falling over unprotected areas)
  • Safety Net Systems (nets that catch fallen workers)
  • Personal Fall Arrest Systems (body harnesses or belts that keep workers from falling)

Other Fall Protection Systems

  • Positioning Device Systems (supports workers that work on an elevated surface)
  • Fall Restraint Systems (prevents workers from falling)
  • Fall Protection from Falling Objects

Hazard Communication

Employers must implement a plan with these elements stated by OSHA:

Hazard Communication

  • Identification of hazardous chemicals.
  • Proper labelling of hazardous chemicals.
  • Location of Safety Data Sheets (SDS).
  • Use of SDS.
  • Inform and train employees.
  • Assess and adjust the plan.

It is the employer’s responsibility to accurately identify and label hazardous chemicals. Also, they must have their SDS in a location that exposed workers can easily access and ensure that their SDS is used properly. Finally, informing and training employees about the hazardous chemicals that they will work with is vital to everyone’s safety. Once the plan is implemented, employers must decide if their plan is working or if some or all elements need to be changed.


Scaffolding is not a dangerous area per se. But there are still many fatalities that can be prevented by implementing these suggestions:

  • Train employees properly.

ScaffoldingWorkers must know:

  • How to use the scaffold.
  • How to use necessary tools and materials.
  • What load ratings are and how they affect their job.
  • Necessary fall protection equipment.
  • Other hazards.
  • Follow directions.
    • Only use components from the same manufacturer.
    • Scaffolds usually become unstable once its height is four times its length.
    • Place scaffolds on a firm foundation.
  • Know the risks.
  • Weather conditions (icy, wet, icicles, etc.)
  • Access points (workers could slip)
  • Use a tagging system.
  • Green is safe.
  • Yellow is safe under certain conditions.
  • Red is not safe.
  • Continue to inspect.
    • Inspect scaffolds daily.
    • Pay attention to tag colors and their reasoning.

Overall, scaffolding alone is not the danger to workers. Rather, their lack of knowledge, skill, and competence is the reason behind most fatalities. In the end, it is the employer’s responsibility to ensure the safety of every employee working on a scaffold.

Respiratory Protection

Employers are responsible not only for the physical safety of their workers. But they must also make sure that their employees are working in a healthy environment.

General Rules for Respiratory Protection Programs

Respiratory-ProtectionOSHA clearly states the general requirements for an employer to implement proper respiratory protection. For instance, employers must:

  • Create and use a respiratory protection program.
  • Identify and assess breathing hazards within the work environment.
  • Choose and offer proper respirators to workers.
  • Give medical evaluations and fit respirators for workers.
  • Maintain, store, and clean respirators.
  • Train workers how to properly work around respiratory hazards and use respirators.
  • Assess and adjust the plan.
  • Give a written copy of your respiratory protection plan as well as certain records and documents to workers.

Respiratory Protection Programs in Construction

Certain events impact the type of respiratory protection that workers need. In particular, those working in construction need a tailored approach for the programs due to changes in:

  • Work processes or techniques (sandblasting, etc.).
  • Building materials or chemicals.
  • Respiratory hazards.
  • Respirators.

Ultimately, construction workers need special attention when it comes to respiratory protection programs because of their constantly changing workplaces.


In construction, workers perform tasks with dangerous equipment. However, lockout/tagout is a method that employers must use to keep machines from running and causing injuries or deaths. Employers must choose an authorized person to perform repairs, assign locks and tags, control locks, and take off locks and tags on a machine.

Procedures of Lockout/Tagout

Lockout-Tagout-(LOTO)The chosen authorized person should:

  • Find all energy sources.
  • Tell all affected employees that they conducted lockout/tagout.
  • Instruct workers to leave the area.
  • Turn off equipment with regular procedures.
  • Keep energy sources away from everything else with proper devices.
  • Put locks and tags on the device or power switch if you can.
  • Ensure there is no more energy in the machine.
  • Prevent parts from moving when working.
  • Turn on the machine to make sure it has no more energy in it.
  • Let the machine run until any remaining energy is gone.

Finishing Lockout/Tagout

Do not allow affected employees to enter the area until the authorized person:

  • Removes tools, debris, or parts of the machine.
  • Reinstall all parts of the machine.
  • Put energy back into the machine.
  • Allow affected employees to re-enter the area.

Requirements for Locks and Tags

Locks keep equipment from running. And tags let affected employees know that the equipment is locked out. Locks and tags should always be used together and never removed by anyone other than the authorized person.


Ladders are the culprit of 25% of the 40% of fatal falls in construction. Since so many workers use ladders on the site, employers must give workers proper training. When employers don’t do this or allow employees to use damaged ladders, workers lives are at risk.

Proper Use of Ladders

OSHA requires employers to perform these tasks for ladders to be used safely:

  • Train employees about safely using ladders.
  • Choose a best ladder for the task.
  • Assess all ladders every time before use.
  • Make sure employees keep contact with the ladder at three points (2 hands, 1 foot or 2 feet, 1 hand).
  • Make sure ladders are set up correctly before use.
  • Keep ladders that do not support themselves at the correct angle.

Improper Use of Ladders

On the other hand, OSHA informs employers of what they must not allow workers to do to keep them safe. Do NOT:

  • Stand above the second step unless the directions say you can.
  • Reach too far away from the ladder.
  • Lean away from the ladder.
  • Move the ladder while standing on it.
  • Put the ladder on an uneven surface.
  • Try to make a ladder longer by attaching more than one together.
  • Hold heavy items when using a ladder.
  • Turn away from the ladder when doing work or coming down.

Fall Protection (Training Required)

Employers must give workers a training program that includes:

  • The fall hazards on the worksite.
  • Proper procedures to use on-site equipment.
  • How to use each fall protection plans.
  • Roles of each employee in the safety monitoring system and fall protection plans.
  • Limitations for equipment use.
  • Proper procedures for storing on-site equipment.
  • The standards for their jobs.

Additionally, employers must require that each worker has the latest certification in training. And employers must also retrain employees when any changes occur on the worksite, in fall protection plans, and whenever affected employees do not follow the training program correctly.

Machine Guarding

Machine guarding prevents injuries and fatalities from moving parts of a machine. Standards vary by industry. But for construction, employers must adhere to the standards set by OSHA. For example, the standards address how to use:

  • Hand tool (manual and powered).
  • Abrasive wheels and tools.
  • Woodworking tools.
  • Air receivers.
  • Jacks-lever, ratchet, hydraulic, and screw.
  • Machine power-transmission equipment.

Eye & Face Protection

Eye and face protection is vital for workers in construction. OSHA compliance has specific requirements that must be met to ensure the safety of employees. For one, employers must train workers annually, or as needed, before workers use eye and face protection. Training must include the:

  • Need for face and eye protection.
  • Harm of not using PPE the right way.
  • Right way to use PPE.
  • Limits of the PPE.
  • Proper way to maintain and store the PPE.
  • Medical signs that could lead to PPE not being effective.
  • Requirements for eye and the face protection standard set by OSHA.

In addition, the most common types of eye and face protection include:

  • Protective eyewear — full-coverage (brow, temple, and front) safety glasses and goggles, or a respirator (full-face).
  • Goggles – prevents chemicals from splashing into workers’ eyes.
  • Full-face respirator – must be tight-fitting.

In short, construction workers are at risk of injuries and fatalities each time they step on the site. As a result, OSHA has put standards in place that require employers to keep them safe. Whether it is a protection plan, training, or PPE, employers must do everything they can to reduce the chances of workers hurting themselves on the job. See OSHA for more information about safety standards in construction.

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