10 November 2022
Peckar & Abramson PC
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It is becoming increasingly clear that the Occupational Safety
and Health Administration (OSHA) is having an active year, perhaps
emboldened by an administration increasingly engaged in its
long-term institutional goals. Much of the discussion this past
year has focused on the agency’s efforts to address the hazards
of heat injury and illness on the job.
However, contractors are well advised that the agency continues
to focus on a broad array of matters that should be of continuing
concern in the construction industry. Notably, OSHA continues to
point to the construction industry as accounting for more than half
of all OSHA citations.
Fatalities remain high, with a total of 1,008 fatalities in
construction work in 2020, the latest year with complete Bureau of
Labor Statistics data. The actual breakdown of the most common
causes of fatalities on construction sites in 2020 was:
- Falls to lower level: 351 (34.8%);
- Struck-by object: 153 (15.2%);
- Electrocutions: 53 (5.2%); and
- Caught-in/between: 28 (2.7%).
The most common violations found by OSHA on construction sites
in 2022 include the following.
The detailed statistics show that the findings of violations
remain remarkably consistent on the whole.
OSHA has widely publicized that there were 22 excavation-related
fatalities in the first six months of this year. Three of the seven
largest penalties issued by OSHA this year were for trenching
violations. There were a number of additional fatalities that
month. Media reports in the months since indicate that the trend of
excavation injuries has continued apace. A review of recent
excavation citations shows the most commonly cited violations
relate to the excavation standard. Failing to protect a trench from
collapse is cited in approximately two-thirds of all excavation
OSHA matters, while failure to provide proper ingress and egress,
placing spoils too close to a trench, failure to provide daily
inspections and failure of the “designated competent
person” are also very common citations. OSHA continues to
emphasize trenching safety through its National Emphasis Program,
which has been in place since 2018.
Violations of the fall protection standard (29 CFR §§
1926.501-503) remain the most common citations. These violations
account for approximately 25% of all citations and three times the
number of any other group of violations. They also constitute an
overwhelming number of the repeat and willful citations issued by
the agency and four of the largest seven penalties issued so far
this year. To address fall protection hazards (and thus OSHA
citations), contractors need to have a sufficient training program
and ensure that workers are trained to understand and avoid the
hazards of a fall. Moreover, contractors should take steps to:
- cover floor holes;
- provide guardrails and toe boards around open-sided platforms;
- provide safety harnesses, nets and railings.
The new arrival of aerial lifts on the list is bound to draw
additional emphasis from OSHA going forward. OSHA has noted that
aerial lifts-such as extendable boom platforms, aerial ladders,
articulating (jointed) boom platforms, and vertical towers-have
replaced ladders and scaffolding on many jobsites due to their
mobility and flexibility.
OSHA guidance emphasizes training, worker awareness of potential
hazards, and inspections of jobsites to avoid workplace incidents.
OSHA has further stressed fall protection, proper equipment
operation, work zone stability and overhead protection in operating
aerial lifts. Perhaps more than most construction standards, the
regulations require employers to evaluate and understand the unique
hazards of their particular workplace and address them in policy
Going forward, contractors must remain vigilant of these
violation notices issued by a seemingly revitalized agency-and the
related causes of fatalities-to best protect their workers,
worksites and business operations. Best practices call for
instituting programs developed with safety and legal professionals
to ensure full OSHA compliance.
Previously published in Construction Executive.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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