Through innocent accident, neglect, lack of oversight or incompetence, safety violations occur at construction sites all over the country. And the danger or injury to onsite workers, as well as the cost to real estate investors and owners, are real. And in some cases, can bankrupt a construction project from achieving completion.
Now that we are through three fourths of 2018, we wanted to take a look at some of the most popular and egregious safety violations committed at sites throughout the country. We will not yet tabulate the number of onsite injuries and deaths caused by safety violations, as well as the where and what in costs to the real estate industry.
But for now, our focus is on the most reported safety violations and what they consist of, as noted by federal OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration). Some of the most cited safety violations include:
ONSITE FALLS AND LACK OF FALL PROTECTION
One of the most serious and common causes of death and injury on construction sites are falls. And not just falls from building structures and tall machinery, but falls from elevated platforms, overhead work stations and from faulty scaffolding; as well as falls into holes in walls, floors and the ground surrounding a construction site.
Requirements by OSHA to protect employees and site visitors from falls state that fall protection must be provided for anything elevated four feet or higher in general industry workplaces. It’s six feet throughout the U.S. construction industry. Plus, fall protection is required when working near or above dangerous machinery and equipment (regardless of elevated height).
Floors, walls and ground holes must be provided sufficient and strong enough hole covering to prevent falling into them and to facilitate walking over them. And sufficiently strong guardrails and barriers must be provided to prevent falls from elevated platforms and workstations. A site needs to be completely inspected to insure all these safety precautions are in place before work at a construction site can commence.
HAZARDOUS CHEMICALS – SPILLS AND CONTAMINATION
Lack of communication to employees at a site regarding hazard substances contained on that site is one major cause that makes this safety violation such a mainstay in the construction industry every year in the U.S. Improper storage of hazardous materials is another.
OSHA calls this a “Hazard Communication Standard”; and its requirements for preventing safety violations and accidents consist of several. They include a proper evaluation and identification (labeling) of all chemical substances onsite, proper and safe storage of them away from workers and where construction work is conducted and insuring that every single worker on a construction site is made aware of the presence, location and dangers of all hazardous materials.
Scaffolding, like falls, is another major safety violation and cause of injury and death at construction projects. The number of fatalities each year from faulty and collapsing scaffolding is usually less than 100. But one death is entirely one too many, especially when it is a fact that this does not need to be an accident waiting to happen. Instead, it is an accident that never has to happen!
Often, the workers injured in a scaffolding accident are those who contributed to it by providing the support or planking that shatters, slips or gives way. Slippery surfaces and weakly joined scaffold walkways are other causes. But again, OSHA requires all scaffolding to be thoroughly inspected and tested before being used by workers. Regardless of the type of scaffolding in place (supported, suspended, shipyard, bridge or staging scaffolding), every construction site scaffold must be thoroughly inspected and ruled 100% safe before being put into use.
LADDERS ON CONSTRUCTION SITE
Accidents from ladders used at construction sites is another major safety violation cited by OSHA in its recent online report. Here the cause is similar to that of scaffolding: self-supporting and portable ladders that are of weak and faulty construction, consisting of faulty and/or weak material and in some cases used to support loads in excess of their capacity.
OSHA requires portable ladders to support four times its intended weight, except for such ladders that are extra-heavy-duty type 1A metal or plastic ladders, in which case will support at least 3.3 times its maximum intended load. Likewise, OSHA has clearly-stated regulations governing the testing of all ladders to be used on a construction site. Such testing must be conducted on all ladders (including fixed ladders) that clearly determine compliance with OSHA requirements. The entire ladder, including its rings or rungs, must be thoroughly inspected and tested before being put into use at a site.
MACHINERY AND MACHINE GUARDING
Not only serious workplace injury can occur to workers on a construction site, a malfunctioning machine or improper operation of machinery can cause accidents that result in death. Injuries such as blindness, loss of hearing, burns, broken bones, serious lacerations, crushed hands and fingers and even amputations can occur from moving machine parts.
Thus, safeguards are absolutely essential for preventing safety violations and in protecting workers from such accidents. Perhaps a machine malfunctioning cannot be predicted but safeguards can be put into place so when such may occur, workers are protected from any and all injury. Such potential can also be eliminated or controlled to a great extent. Again, inspection and testing of all equipment and machinery in advance, and safeguards put well in place, are required by OSHA. The mindset at a construction site must be more than 100% safety if possible but 100% safety must and will be established and maintained.
WHAT COMES FIRST FOR A CONSTRUCTION SITE?
Clearly there is a common denominator in these and other safety violations committed at construction sites throughout the country, especially such violations which cause accidents that result in serious injuries and even death.
Beyond rare freak acts of extreme nature, deliberate sabotage, acts of terror or criminal behavior, these are all safety violations and accidents which can be prevented. Thorough, detailed and complete inspection of an entire construction site on a frequent basis, and of all materials, equipment, tools, machinery and ongoing construction as it proceeds, needs to be conducted without fail. Investors, owners, supervisors and project site managers alike must enact and maintain 100% compliance with OSHA rules as well as eternal vigilance in this regard.
Safety always comes first!