Safety Best Practices

OSHA Compliance in Construction Safety

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Salus Safety
5 min read
October 17, 2021

Despite advancements in safety equipment, technology, and training, the construction sector continues to rank first when it comes to workplace injuries and fatalities. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that 5,333 employees died on the job in 2019. This boils down to an average of over 100 fatalities per week, or nearly 15 per day. Out of these deaths, approximately 20% come from the construction industry, the highest number since 2007.

Additionally, the construction sector accounts for 8.5% of all non-fatal injuries resulting in missed workdays. According to the BLS, 1.7% of construction workers had a severe injury that forced them to miss work in 2019. Considering these alarming statistics, there is a clear need for increased OSHA compliance in construction safety.

5,333 employees died on the job in 2019...Out of these deaths, approx. 20% come from the construction industry.

Requirements for Preventing Falls in Construction

According to CPWR’s February 2021 Data Bulletin, falls continue to be the primary cause of work-related fatalities in construction. In fact, 36.4% of all deaths in this sector were due to falls to a lower level. This is why it is critical for any construction company to build a strong safety culture and enact strict OSHA compliance measures to minimize fall injuries in the workplace.

As part of OSHA’s fall protection safety requirements, employers should set up the construction site to prevent workers from falling through openings in the walls or floors or from overhead platforms and workstations. In addition, OSHA mandates fall protection measures while working above hazardous machinery and equipment, regardless of the distance from the ground below.

Use a floor hole cover or a combination of railing and toe-board to guard every hole a worker may accidentally step into. Each elevated open-sided platform, runway, or floor should include a guard rail and toe-board. Additionally, provide safety nets, safety harnesses and lines, handrails, and stair railings for applicable jobs.

Additional OSHA guidelines pertain to working on rooftops, scaffolds, or ladders. When on a rooftop, it is essential to wear a correctly-fitted safety harness and use guardrails or lifelines. On ladders, ensure you are using an appropriately-sized ladder—it should be secured at least three feet above your landing point—and ensure three points of contact at all times. Scaffolds should be entirely planked or decked, and stably braced to avoid swaying and displacement. Be sure to inspect these standards thoroughly before beginning operations.

And always, always assure the working environment is hazard-free, supply free personal protective equipment (PPE) and safety education, and maintain clean and (to the extent feasible) dry flooring in work areas.

Requirements for Controlling Electrical Hazards

Electrical hazards pose an obvious potential hazard. Accordingly, OSHA sets strict electrical standards regarding the design and operation of electrical equipment and systems to safeguard workers from dangers like electrocution, electric shock, fire, and explosion.

Under OSHA’s electrical requirements, all exposed or operational components of an electrical system (such as lights, switches, motors, appliances, and enclosures) must be built and installed in a manner that reduces occupational electrical hazards. Additionally, the standards demand rigorous testing and certification of electrical equipment by authorized organizations before use to guarantee safety.

OSHA’s electrical safety standards for the construction industry contain a number of certification requirements to mitigate potential risks. Employers must, for example, verify electrical equipment is free of known risks that may result in death or injury. They should request that the site’s power company de-energize and ground power lines or install insulated sleeves over power lines, and provide coverings for all fittings, pull boxes, and junction boxes to isolate electrical elements.

Check that power tools are always kept in a safe condition, and properly guard electrical equipment to prevent employees from accidentally touching live elements. Training on the identification of hazardous conditions and relevant regulations is also key, as well as proper lockout and tag-out procedures.

But OSHA compliance when it comes to construction safety doesn’t just fall on employers. Employees but also take measures to prevent accident. Employees should always keep a safe distance from suspended power lines. Remember to conduct inspections of portable tools and extension cables, utilize power tools and equipment in their intended manner, and always adhere to appropriate lockout and tag-out procedures.

Requirements for Working Safely in Trenches

When trenching operations are conducted safely, workers are less likely to face exposure to cave-ins, falling objects, and toxic environments. OSHA’s Technical Manual on Excavations: Hazard Recognition in Trenching and Shoring requires inspection before work begins. Whenever conditions change, a competent person should first inspect trenches and protective systems before resuming work.

Your site needs protective systems in place to avoid trench collapses. In fact, all trenches at least five feet deep require a protective system according to OSHA regulations. Said system must be developed by a licensed professional engineer for trenches 20 feet deep or more.

These trench protective systems include sloping trench walls at an angle away from excavation, shoring or installing aluminum hydraulic or other kinds of supports to avoid soil movement, and installing regular supports to prevent cave-ins.

Employees working in trenches should always bear the following precautions in mind:

  • Keep equipment and materials away from the trench edge
  • Always provide a means of exiting a trench—but also ensure that a worker will not have to travel over 25 feet to the nearest exit
  • Keep a minimum distance of two feet between spoils and the edge of a trench
  • Conduct regular trench examinations before re-entrance and after any occurrence that increases the risk of hazards, like rainstorms, vibrations, or high surcharge loads
  • Ensure that trenches are clear of standing water and atmospheric hazards

Use Salus for Compliance Management

Compliance with OSHA regulations is integral to maintaining a safety culture on construction sites. However, keeping track of the many, varied regulations and protocols manually can prove an administrative challenge.

In comes Salus. Salus is a construction safety solution that can help ensure your site is safeguarded against health risks. The mobile safety app allows managers to create forms, automate tasks, and track compliance in real-time. Collecting all this information in one central hub centralizes operations, and allows management to keep up to date. When workers fall behind on document submissions, you will know exactly who to contact to ensure the work is completed.

Digital safety software solutions like Salus are revolutionizing safety in the construction industry. For more information about compliance management for your construction project or job site, contact Salus today to schedule a demonstration!

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