OSHA’s Top 10 Violations

As industry professionals, roofing contractors are inherently aware of the risks that their businesses and crews face each day on the job. Many make their best efforts to train crews, provide proper safety equipment, and develop safety policies to protect workers and clients, but sometimes even the best efforts and preparations are simply not enough. OSHA site inspections happen daily, and no matter how much safety equipment is available on the job or how many guidelines have been established, they are pointless if not applied effectively and followed consistently.

For this reason, it is important to take the time to review some of the most common OSHA violations to properly prepare crews and jobsites, as well as to take advantage of OSHA’s free resources that are available for construction professionals.

It’s a harrowing feeling to drive up to a jobsite and notice that crews aren’t following safety standards; unfortunately, this is not a rare occurrence for most construction managers. From new hires to subcontractors, established safety guidelines may slip through the cracks, especially when workers don’t receive the appropriate amount of time for onboarding or safety training. These violations are not just reserved for new recruits; often seasoned crew members who have been employed by the same company for years can get complacent and begin to slack on basic safety measures.

Finding a team member on a roof without a harness or not wearing protective gear is not just a hazard but a real liability for a business owner and a fatality risk for a crew member. According to OSHA, there were approximately 4,675 worker fatalities in private industry during calendar year 2017. Out of those, 971 (20.7 percent) were in construction. In other words, one in five worker deaths in 2017 were in construction.

So, what are the most frequently cited violations in 2019? As reported by Federal OSHA for fiscal year 2019 (October 1, 2018 through September 30, 2019), the following were the top 10 most frequently cited standards:

Cited Standard Total Number of Violations
1. Fall Protection – General Requirements (Standard: 1926.501) 7,014
2. Hazard Communication (Standard: 1910.1200) 4,170
3. Scaffolding (Standard: 1926.451) 3,228
4. Lockout/Tagout (Standard: 1910.147) 2,975
5. Respiratory Protection (Standard: 1910.134) 2,826
6. Ladders (Standard: 1926.1053) 2,766
7. Powered Industrial Trucks (Standard: 1910.178) 2,347
8. Fall Protection – Training Requirements (Standard: 1926.503) 2,059
9. Machine Guarding (1910.212) 1,987
10. Eye and Face Protection (1926.102) 1,630

While the rankings for OSHA’s Top 10 most cited violations are typically a repeat of previous years, it is important to refresh crews on this vital information. Fall Protection – General Requirements (1926.501) tops this year’s list for the ninth consecutive year. Meanwhile, Eye and Face Protection (1926.102), which was a newcomer to last year’s list, remains in the No. 10 spot.

With Fall Protection being the No. 1 most cited OSHA standard, it is important to have not only the proper fall protection equipment, but the proper training. Employers must be proactive and set up the workplace to prevent employees from falling from overhead platforms, elevated work stations or into holes in the floors and walls.

OSHA considers falls to be one of the “Fatal Four” worker fatalities. The others are strikes by objects, electrocution, and caught-in/between. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that these “Fatal Four” were responsible for more than half (59.9 percent) of construction worker deaths in 2017. Eliminating these safety issues would save approximately 582 workers’ lives in the United States every year.

Tools and Resources

In order to assess hazards and prepare workers, OSHA has developed a number of helpful and free resources for protecting crews:

Training – OSHA offers a wide variety of training programs and resources at www.osha.gov. The revised version of the Training Requirements in OSHA Standards is exhaustive and more than 250 pages in length but will provide detailed information on what is required in meeting the training standard. The Training Tab on OSHA’s website provides quick links for locating educational programs by area, PowerPoint guides and more.

Updates – Industry professionals can stay informed on the latest updates from OSHA by following their news feed or subscribing to their online newsletter, QuickTakes. The newsletter is distributed twice monthly and provides the latest updates regarding enforcement actions, rulemaking, outreach activities, compliance assistance, training and educational resources. As of last year, subscribers began receiving occasional “Did You Know?” messages that inform them of the latest OSHA safety resources.

Safety Tools/Apps – OSHA has and continues to develop a variety of interactive and user-friendly apps and training tools that contractors and crews can use to assess hazards on the job. Such tools include but are not limited to the following:

  • OSHA’s Hazard Identification Training Toolis a web-based video game style training tool that can be used for learning the core concepts of hazard identification. The objective of this tool is to empower business owners and crews to better understand the process in identifying hazards on their own jobsites.
  • The Heat Safety Tool App was developed in conjunction with OSHA’s “Water. Rest. Shade.” campaign to decrease the number of heat-related injuries and fatalities. Heat illnesses and deaths are preventable, and this app is an easy way to calculate the heat index and understand risk levels. The app also allows the user to receive reminders about protective measures that should be taken.
  • Safe Lifting Calculatorwas developed by Oregon’s Department of Consumer and Business Services to automatically alert the user when he/she fails to use proper lifting techniques while picking up a box or similar load. Oregon OSHA’s app was designed based on research conducted on safe lifting in order to provide a maximum safe weight for various lifting scenarios.

Although the construction industry is teeming with high-risk hazards, business owners and workers can stay safe with proper training, tools and by understanding risks involved on the job. By staying abreast of the latest requirements and utilizing industry-specific safety apps and tools, such hazards and associated accidents can be avoided. Since OSHA’s standards may be revised at any time and new tools are developed each year, it is important to regularly review current safety guidelines and make proper modifications as needed to keep crews informed and safe.

Sources

OSHA Commonly Used Statistics: https://www.osha.gov/data/commonstats

U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics: https://www.bls.gov/iif/oshwc/cfoi/cftb0321.htm

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: https://www.bls.gov/iif/oshsum.htm

OSHA Newsletter QuickTakes: https://www.osha.gov/quicktakes/

OSHA Training Requirements: https://www.osha.gov/Publications/osha2254.pdf

OSHA’s Hazard Identification Training Tool: https://www.osha.gov/hazfinder/index.html

Heat Safety Tool App: https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/heat_index/heat_app.html

About the author: Erika S. Carruth is the founder and president of Solovei Consulting, Inc., a full-service marketing communications firm.  As a writer and content developer, her focus areas include roofing and construction, technology and environmental sustainability.  For more information, visit www.soloveiconsulting.com.

Department of Labor Reminds Employers to Submit Injury and Illness Data to OSHA by March 2

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is reminding employers to submit their 2019 OSHA Form 300A (Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses) by March 2, 2020.

Who is required to submit Form 300A?

  • Establishments with 250 or more employees that are required to keep OSHA injury and illness records, and
  • Establishments with 20 to 249 employees in certain industries. See the list of designated industries.

Injusry and illness data can be submitted electronically at www.osha.gov/300A.

For questions about submission requirements, complete the Help Request Form at www.osha.gov/injuryreporting/ita/help-request-form.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to help ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. 

For more information, visit www.osha.gov.

U.S. Department of Labor Publishes Amendments and Technical Corrections to OSHA Standards

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently published technical corrections and amendments to 27 OSHA standards and regulations. This administrative rulemaking corrects minor misprints, omissions, outdated references, and tabular and graphic inaccuracies. The revisions apply to several industry sectors, including general industry, construction, shipyard employment and longshoring. Some revisions may reduce employer costs, and none expand employer obligations or impose new costs.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to help ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance.

For more information, visit www.osha.gov.

The ABC’s of Fall Prevention

Photos: Malta Dynamics

Falls accounted for almost 40 percent of fatalities in construction in 2017, according to OSHA, and failure to provide fall protection remains the most frequently cited OSHA violation. Nearly 400 construction workers died in the United States as a result of falls in 2017 alone. These are more than statistics on a page; these sobering numbers mean as much to the roofing industry as they do to any other profession. By nature, roofing jobs require working at heights, where we and our teams may be exposed to fall risks. It’s important to do everything we can to mitigate these risks and ensure that we and our teams go home safely at the end of the day.

Some simple precautions early on can prevent much more dangerous and costly scenarios later. Fall restraint and restricting access to hazardous areas can prevent falls in the first place, which is the preferred approach whenever possible. Guardrails are an excellent, cost-effective way to restrict access to roof perimeters, skylights, roof hatches, ladder access points, and other fall hazards. If your jobsite lacks these safety features, temporary guardrails are available that don’t penetrate the roof and damage it. These portable, free-standing safety rail systems are great for temporary jobsites or one-time contracts, where you aren’t installing permanent guardrail fixtures.

Whenever workers need to access areas in which there is a fall risk, however, fall protection is key. Personal fall protection systems are a cost-effective way to ensure the safety of your team. The basic ABC’s of fall protection are Anchors, Bodywear, and Connectors, which combine to make a complete personal fall arrest system.

Anchors

Anchors are the fixed points on a roof to which personal fall protection gear can be tied off. Anchors provide a solid foundation for any fall protection system, ensuring the rest of the worker’s fall protection equipment is secured to a stable point that can support their weight and the force of a fall.

Many styles of roof anchors are available, including standard single-worker anchors, four-way anchor plates, and swiveling anchor points that allow for increased working range, as well as reusable anchors that can be installed with screws or nails for temporary use on rooftops.

Bodywear

The gold standard of bodywear for fall protection is a full body harness. The full body harness is the roofer’s equivalent of a sailor’s life vest — both can save one’s life in an emergency. Worn properly, harnesses evenly distribute the force of stopping a fall throughout the parts of the body best able to absorb it — across the larger muscles of the legs, shoulders and chest.

Few other pieces of equipment are as personal to the user as one’s harness, so it’s important to find one that fits well and is comfortable to wear. Many harnesses offer optional padding for the back, neck and shoulders to help keep the pressure off, even when wearing a toolbelt. One-piece designs eliminate shoulder pad slippage and help to keep the harness and padding in place, allowing it to be worn safely and comfortably even while moving around on the jobsite.

Connectors

Connectors include self-retracting lifeline (SRLs), shock-absorbing lanyards and vertical lifeline assemblies. These components are what actively arrest a fall and stop an uncontrolled descent. They also assist in absorbing the fall’s impact and diverting some of the stopping force away from the worker’s body and harness.

An important factor to consider when choosing a connector for roofing jobsites is the location of your anchor point relative to the working surface. Most standard SRL and lanyard systems are designed for overhead tie-off, but this isn’t always possible when working on a rooftop. When you’re working on a leading edge — a walking/working surface with an unprotected side or edge 6 feet (1.8 m) or more above a lower level — and you don’t have an overhead anchor point, foot-level tie-off requires a different style of connector that’s designed and rated specifically for these kinds of applications.

Of course, all the best fall protection gear in the world means little if your crew doesn’t know how to use it correctly or fails to wear it because it’s uncomfortable or ill-fitting. Training and proper fitting and use of personal fall arrest systems is an important final step to take with your teams.

OSHA 29 CFR 1926.503 states: “Employers must provide a fall protection training program to workers who might be exposed to fall hazards. Training must include how to recognize fall hazards and how to minimize them.” OSHA cited 1,978 companies for failure to properly train their teams in 2018, up from 1,728 citations in 2017.

Simply purchasing fall protection equipment isn’t enough to keep your workers safe. Your team needs to know how to properly use, inspect and store safety equipment to prevent injury, and your equipment must be properly maintained and kept in good repair. Safety training courses are available from fall protection equipment manufacturers, who can train your teams on how to inspect, use and maintain their products. Knowing how to identify jobsite hazards, having a fall protection plan that meets your jobsite’s specifications and a rescue plan prepared should anything go wrong are all part of any successful training program.

Coming to a jobsite prepared to employ fall prevention, equipped with personal fall protection, and trained in the proper use of your safety systems lays the groundwork for keeping your crew safe when working on roofing projects at heights. These precautionary steps are important to ensuring that your team members don’t become another statistic.

About the Author: David Ivey is a Fall Protection Engineer for Malta Dynamics, where he oversees the engineering and installation of all custom fall protection systems. For more information or with questions about OSHA compliance of fall protection systems, contact him by email at divey@maltadynamics.com.

U.S. Department of Labor Approves New Respirator Fit Testing Protocols to Protect Workers from Airborne Contaminants

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a final rule that provides employers with two new fit testing protocols for ensuring that employees’ respirators fit properly.

The new protocols are the modified ambient aerosol condensation nuclei counter (CNC) quantitative fit testing protocol for full-facepiece and half-mask elastomeric respirators, and the modified ambient aerosol CNC quantitative fit testing protocol for filtering facepiece respirators.  Both protocols are variations of the original OSHA-approved ambient aerosol CNC protocol, but have fewer test exercises, shorter exercise duration, and a more streamlined sampling sequence.

These two quantitative methods add to the four existing in Appendix A of OSHA’s Respiratory Protection Standard, which contains mandatory respirator fit-testing protocols that employers must choose from to protect employees from hazardous airborne contaminants. The rule does not require employers in general industries, shipyard employment, and construction to update or replace their current fit testing methods, and does not impose additional costs.

The rule becomes effective September 26, 2019.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to help ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance.

For more information, visit www.osha.gov.

U.S. Department of Labor Implements New Weighting System for Workplace Safety and Health Inspections

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced that it has recently implemented the OSHA Weighting System (OWS) for fiscal year (FY) 2020. OWS will encourage the appropriate allocation of resources to support OSHA’s balanced approach of promoting safe and healthy workplaces, and continue to develop and support a management system that focuses enforcement activities on critical and strategic areas where the agency’s efforts can have the most impact.

Under the current enforcement weighting system, OSHA weights certain inspections based on the time taken to complete the inspection or, in some cases, the impact of the inspection on workplace safety and health. OWS recognizes that time is not the only factor to assess when considering the potential impact of an inspection. Other factors – such as types of hazards inspected and abated, and effective targeting – also influence the impact on workplace safety and health. The new system adds enforcement initiatives such as the Site-Specific Targeting to the weighting system.

The OWS replaces the current enforcement weighting system initiated in FY 2015. The new system is based on an evaluation of the existing criteria and a working group’s recommendations regarding improvements to the existing weighting system. OSHA has been running the new weighting system currently to confirm data integrity. 

The system will continue to weight inspections, but will do so based on other factors, including agency priorities and the impact of inspections, rather than simply on a time-weighted basis. The new OWS approach reinforces OSHA’s balanced approach to occupational safety and health (i.e., strong and fair enforcement, compliance assistance and recognition) and will incorporate the three major work elements performed by the field: enforcement activity, essential enforcement support functions (e.g., severe injury reporting and complaint resolution), and compliance assistance efforts.

OWS will become effective October 1, 2019.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to help ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance.

For more information, visit www.osha.gov.

OSHA Education and Training Requirements For Contractors

Many licensed contractors have been getting “on-the-job” training for years — some, since they were working on jobsites as young laborers. But what formal education and training are required for contractors? The short answer is that it differs slightly from state to state, but no one can escape OSHA.

Perhaps the best-known training requirements for contractors are those set forth in the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSHA) and the regulations OSHA enables.

OSHA permits individual states to develop and enforce their own occupational safety and health plans, statutes, and enforcing agencies as long as the states meet federal requirements (29 U.S.C. § 667), so many contractors may be more familiar with their state’s occupational safety and health act than the federal. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, jurisdictions with their own federally-approved plans governing both public and private employers are Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming. (Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, New York, New Jersey, and the Virgin Islands have plans that apply only to public employees.) State laws must be “at least as effective” and stringent as OSHA.

In most of these states, and in states that simply follow the federal OSHA requirements, construction-industry employee training is required to comply with the federal requirements set forth in 29 CFR 1926. California, Michigan, Oregon, and Washington have more stringent requirements than the federal rules.

What Training Does OSHA Require?

The Department of Labor’s regulations contained in 29 CFR 1910 and 29 CFR 1926 give employers numerous “accident prevention responsibilities.” These responsibilities specifically include the duty to train each “affected employee” in the manner the standards require. The regulations specifically require training for employees on topics including scaffolding, fall protection, steel erection, stairways and ladders, and cranes. Both federal and state courts interpret OSHA training requirements; state courts interpret them in states with their own laws but look to federal decisions for guidance.

Court decisions indicate that training requirements are interpreted broadly. For example, in 2002, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit evaluated 29 CFR § 1926.21(b)(2)’s requirement for employers to instruct each employee in the “recognition and avoidance of unsafe conditions.” The case, Modern Continental Const. Co., Inc. v. Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, involved vertical rigging in a tight working space during an underground project involving submerging a section of highway. The operation resulted in a fatality. The court found that the employers’ duty “is not limited to training for hazards expressly identified by OSHA regulation” and that employers are obligated to instruct their employees in the recognition and avoidance of “those hazards of which a reasonably prudent employer would have been aware.” The court recognized that while the training does not have to eliminate hazards, the training must focus on avoiding and controlling dangerous conditions.

Furthermore, merely holding or sponsoring training courses may not be enough to comply with OSHA; the regulations require employers not only to ensure training but also to ensure that each affected employee has received and understood the training. The District of Columbia Circuit emphasized this requirement in Millard Refrigerated Services, Inc. v. Secretary of Labor. The Court upheld a citation against an Alabama company operating a refrigerated storage facility after an anhydrous ammonia leak even though the employer claimed it didn’t know that its employee didn’t understand the training and therefore wasn’t wearing a respirator.

Decisions like this make it incumbent upon employers to recognize and anticipate hazards and ensure that employees have the proper education and quality training to handle them.

Penalties for Training Violations

Employers’ duty to train is worded as a duty to its individual employees: “The employer must train each affected employee in the manner required by the standard, and each failure to train an employee may be considered a separate violation” [29 CFR 1926.20(f)(2)]. The statute and regulations do not explicitly state the penalty for failure to give required training; penalties will depend on the facts of each case. OSHA violations generally fall into one of four categories: willful, serious, repeated, or other-than-serious. According to the Department of Labor, the current maximum penalty is $13,260 per serious violation and $132,598 per willful or repeated violation.

Courts have upheld steep penalties for certain training violations, particularly for repeated failure to train employees. For example, in Capeway Roofing Systems, Inc. v. Chao, a roofing contractor was fined $6,000 for failing to train an employee on fall protection. (The Secretary of Labor also assessed other fines against the contractor for failure to comply with rules on fall protection, personal protective equipment, and other regulations.) The court reasoned that the fine for failure to train was appropriate, though relatively high, because it was a third “repeat” violation. Additionally, in some states, certain OSHA violations, especially willful and repeated violations, can subject employers to criminal liability.

About the author: Caroline Trautman is an attorney with Oak City Law, LLP, based in Durham, North Carolina. Questions about this article can be directed to her at caroline@oakcitylaw.com.

Author’s note: This article does not constitute, and should not be construed as, legal advice on any particular scenario. For specific advice, consult with an attorney licensed in your state.

U.S. Department of Labor Selects New Director For OSHA’s Construction Directorate

The U.S. Department of Labor has selected Scott Ketcham as the new director of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA’s) Directorate of Construction (DOC) in Washington, D.C. Ketcham had served as deputy director of DOC since February 2017.

Prior to coming to OSHA’s national office, Ketcham worked for 19 years as an OSHA acting deputy regional administrator, area director, assistant area director, and compliance officer and manager in offices in the Seattle, Dallas and Philadelphia regions. Before joining OSHA, he spent five years as a staff industrial hygienist with the U.S. Army Medical Activity at Bassett Army Hospital on Ft. Wainwright, Alaska. He retired from the U.S. Army after 24 years of active and reserve service.

Ketcham holds a master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Alaska, a Bachelor’s of Science degree from Texas A&M University, and is a Certified Safety Professional. He has a strong background in the general industry, maritime and construction industries.

“Scott Ketcham is a dedicated public servant,” said Loren Sweatt, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health. “He has demonstrated strong leadership throughout his OSHA career, and I am confident he will continue to achieve the mission of assuring safe and healthful working conditions for construction workers in his new position.”

For more information, visit www.osha.gov.

U.S. Department of Labor’s OSHA Requests Information on Table 1 of the Silica Standard for Construction

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is requesting information and comment on Table 1 of the agency’s Respirable Crystalline Silica Standard for Construction. OSHA seeks information on additional engineering and work practice control methods to effectively limit exposure to silica for the equipment and tasks currently listed on Table 1. The agency is also requesting information about other construction equipment and tasks that generate silica that it should consider adding to Table 1, along with information about their associated engineering and work practice control methods.

In addition, OSHA is seeking comments about whether to revise paragraph (a)(3) of the Respirable Crystalline Silica Standard for General Industry to broaden the circumstances under which general industry and maritime employers would be permitted to comply with Table 1 of the silica standard for construction.

Information submitted will allow OSHA to consider new developments and enhanced control methods for equipment that generates exposures to silica, and provide additional data on exposures to silica from equipment and tasks using a variety of control methods under different workplace conditions. Expanding Table 1 to include additional engineering and work practice control methods, equipment, and tasks could provide employers with more flexibility and reduce regulatory burdens while maintaining protections for employees.

If information submitted in response to this request indicates that revisions to the silica standards are needed, the agency will then publish the proposed revisions in the Federal Register for public comment.

Comments must be submitted by October 14, 2019. Comments and materials may be submitted electronically at http://www.regulations.gov, the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal, or by facsimile or mail. See the Federal Register notice for submission details. 

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to help ensure these conditions for American working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education, and assistance.

For more information, visit www.osha.gov.

U.S. Department of Labor Reminds Employers About Submitting Injury and Illness Data to OSHA

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is reminding employers who have not already done so to submit their 2018 OSHA Form 300A (Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses).

Who is required to submit Form 300A?

How to submit Form 300A:

Submit injury and illness data electronically at www.osha.gov/300A.

For questions about submission requirements, complete the Help Request Form at www.osha.gov/injuryreporting/ita/help-request-form.

For more information, visit www.osha.gov.