Top 5 Construction Safety Violations and How to Avoid Them

Posted by
Lance Roux
on Apr 12, 2024

Perhaps the biggest benefit of a safe construction site is fewer injuries. However, another advantage is how they also tend to stay on schedule. This helps you, as the general contractor, avoid costly delays. The National Security Council estimates that workplace industries cost $167 billion across all industries in 2021. Identifying the top 5 most common construction safety violations is the best way to start assessing your worksite management plans.

Avoid worker injury claims, accident delays, and insurance complications by focusing on these safety violations in construction.

Understanding Construction Safety Violations

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a construction safety violation is any breakage of the workplace’s safety standards, guidelines, and rules. Following the latest construction safety regulations is a challenge for contractors working across the industry.

From large-scale home builders to specialists focusing on industrial construction, all general contractors must address some safety risks. Determining which violations your worksites are most at risk for is essential, as is executing a comprehensive plan to address them.


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Top 5 Construction Safety Violations

Violation 1: Lack of Construction Fall Protection

Falls are the number one safety violation reported to OSHA. In 2022, nearly 6,000 fall incidents were reported to the agency. Even minor falls can lead to severe injuries due to complications with other materials or equipment landing on the worker. Common construction site scenarios that create fall hazards include:

  • Improper setup or construction of scaffolding
  • Misuse of portable ladders and lifts
  • Unguarded or flagged protruding steel rebar
  • Holes in walls, floors, and scaffolding not surrounded by guards or railing
  • Failure of supports for walk boards, scaffolding, or ladders
  • Cluttered worksites featuring trip hazards like scattered materials or dropped tools

Many falls occur when working at elevated heights, but trips and falls can be dangerous even at ground level. It's essential to have a strategy for keeping the ground clear and free from trip hazards.

Guardrails must be attached and checked on all lifts, scaffolding, and other elevated work areas. Harnesses only work when kept in good shape and fit your workers. All openings in floors and walls should be highlighted and guarded. At the same time, your team needs to develop safe communication and operating procedures for boom trucks and other lifting devices.

Violation 2: Inadequate Hazard Communication

No matter the hazard on the construction worksite, it’s essential to communicate the risk factors to all workers and managers. One meeting that doesn't have everyone in attendance can’t fully address a falling or electrocution risk. You must reach every worker through mandatory training or awareness campaigns.

For best practices, follow up with signage at the specific hazard. For example, use yellow and black hazard marking tape and large signs to highlight a hole in an otherwise finished floor. Construction safety management for hazards needs to involve planned, formal communication before the job begins as well as constant reminders once on-site.

Violation 3: Unsafe Scaffolding Hazards

Scaffolding offers a safer, more stable space for working above the ground. However, it's useless, even dangerous, if improperly set up or used. The two main risks of using scaffolding come from workers falling and scaffolds collapsing.

Common mistakes made during scaffolding setup include:

  • Setting up over soft or uneven ground
  • Using incorrect attachment points on the structure
  • Failing to follow the manufacturer’s instructions or the scaffold plan
  • Overloading the frame

While all those mistakes can cause tipping or collapse, a lack of guardrail use is the primary contributor to fall risks. Always follow the setup plan, respect weight limits, and use proper guardrails to reduce scaffolding hazards.

Violation 4: Construction Electrical Hazards

Electricity is essential on the construction job site to power equipment, tools, lighting, and more. Still, it comes with its own set of dangers. Electrical hazards are often complicated by a lack of communication, creating a situation with combined safety violations.

On the construction site, electrical risks include:

  • Direct shock and electrocution
  • Indirect shock through water or charged equipment
  • Fires and explosions caused by electrical sparks

These risks can arise due to safety violations like misused or overloaded power equipment, a lack of maintenance, the use of damaged or undersized extension cords, and a lack of ground fault protection. Workers who are around specific electrical hazards need more than just additional training. They also need personal protection equipment (PPE) like insulating gloves and insulated mats to stand on.

Violation 5: Lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Speaking of PPE, each construction site has a different set of hazards requiring this equipment. It’s all too common for sites to offer only basic safety glasses and gloves. Depending on the hazards, workers may also need ear plugs or muffs, goggles that protect from sparks and liquids, respirators that trap drywall dust, and fall prevention gear like harnesses.

Not only does PPE need to be available, but it also needs to stay in good condition and fit a wide range of body types. You’ll also need to promote its actual usage among workers. Even the best PPE in the world can’t prevent accidents if your workers forget to use it.

Related Content: How to Build a Construction Incident Report


What Happens If You Get a Construction Safety Violation?

Some violations can trigger inspections and fines from OSHA. Others may not result in a fine, but they still put your team members at risk. You may have to pay a fine of up to $7,000 per violation, with far more acute financial penalties if you continue to violate the OSH Act of 1970. Contractors must address the issue immediately after receiving a construction safety violation notice and record what measures they take to rectify the situation. Working with a safety consultant to catch any other potential violations is the most proactive way to prevent future citations.

Even well-managed construction sites can have accidents. A lack of proper communication and PPE only compound the issues. Implementing effective safety management systems for addressing risks ensures the well-being of your workers and helps you avoid costly violations as the general contractor. Timely safety auditing could save you thousands of dollars


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Tags: Accident Investigation, Safety Tips, Accidents, Best Practices, Residential Construction, Commercial Construction

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