Contractors: 10 Construction Site Safety Precautions You Might Be Skipping

When it comes to building a comprehensive jobsite safety program, one of the biggest challenges contractors have is making sure there aren’t any weak spots in their written policies or how those policies are enforced.

To learn which construction safety regulations are top of mind at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), look no further than its annual list of the most frequently cited serious violations. This data can be used not only to make sure construction companies address what OSHA believes are the most important issues, but also as de facto resource allocation guide that identifies which areas of safety might need more attention.

For the year 2016, the most frequently cited serious violations were:

1. Fall protection — residential construction

Standard 29 CFR 1926.501(b)(13)

There’s a much higher risk of falls from roofs in the residential construction sector than in any other sector. Residential contractors must provide the same fall protection as commercial contractors — for example, safety nets, guard rails, personal fall arrest systems — for anyone working 6 feet or more above lower levels.

Any fall protection program, for residential construction or otherwise, should begin with a site-specific job hazard analysis, which will determine what kind of safety equipment, including fall protection equipment, is needed. Training workers on the equipment is just as important as providing it. (See number 5 on this list.)

2.  Portable ladders not extended 3 feet above landing

Standard n29 CFR 1926.1053(b)(1) (1,452)

Among construction workers, about 80 percent of fall injuries treated in an emergency room involve a ladder.

If the ladder is too short to meet the 3-foot requirement, the top of the ladder must be fastened to a secure support and the employer must add a grab rail or similar grasping device to the ladder to help workers mount and dismount it.

3.  Eye and face protection

Standard CFR 1926.102(a)(1)

Dust, grit, tiny pieces of flying metal or wood, splashing chemicals, welding arc — all can damage the eyes. In addition to providing eye and face protection (and conducting a job hazard analysis to determine what protection is needed), employers must ensure that workers who wear prescription lenses either incorporate that prescription into safety glasses or use safety eyewear that fits over their glasses.

See this infographic for some helpful PPE tips.

4.  Fall protection – unprotected sides and edges

Standard 29 CFR 1926.501(b)(1)

Falls are the most common cause of fatal injury in construction, and preventing them often involves multiple targeted measures. Any working/walking surface that's 6 feet or more above a lower level must be protected by guardrail systems, safety net systems or personal fall arrest systems.

5.  Fall protection – training

Standard 29 CFR 1926.503(a)(1)

Employers must give training to any employee who might be exposed to fall hazards. Check out OSHA’s Fall Prevention Training Guide for tips on providing fall prevention training.

For more information, watch this quick fall prevention video.

6.  Head protection

Standard CFR 1926.100(a)

“Struck by object” makes the “fatal four” list of construction accidents that cause the most fatalities, as does “electrocution.”[10] Hard hats provide some protection against both. Employees who are in danger of head injuries from construction debris, falling objects or electrical shock must wear hardhats or other acceptable protective head gear.

7.  Aerial lifts – fall protection

Standard 29 CFR 1926.453(b)(2)v

Some two dozen workers die each year in aerial lift-related accidents. Many of those accidents involve falls, so not using fall protection equipment is a major mistake. When working from an aerial lift, employees must wear a body belt attached to either the boom or basket.

8.  Fall protection – roofing work on low-sloped roofs

Standard 29 CFR 1926.501(b) (10)

An employer must provide fall protection to any employee working on a low-slope roof with unprotected edges that are 6 feet or more above lower levels.

9.  General safety and health provisions – inspections by a competent person

Standard 29 CFR 1926.20(b)(2)

The burden to prevent workplace accidents lies with employers. As part of an accident prevention program, employers must assign a competent person to conduct regular inspections of jobsites, materials and equipment to make sure hazards are eliminated or managed.

10.  Scaffolds – fall protection

Standard 29 CFR 1926.451(g)(1)

Employers must provide fall protection for any employee working on a scaffold at more than 10 feet above a lower level. OSHA offers safety checklists for different types of scaffolds on this eTools page.

This top 10 list is a good starting point for making sure you’re not skipping any of the most important safety precautions, but for ideas and guidelines on instituting a complete safety and health program, OSHA offers these free resources