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OSHA’s Top 5 Violations for the Construction Industry

Toby Graham /


That’s how much a single construction safety hazard can cost your business in terms of Occupational Health and Safety Administration fines. We’re talking about 5 figures for just one violation of workplace health and safety laws.

The damage to your bottom line doesn’t end there. Once OSHA has discovered a problem, they’ll give you a deadline. If you don’t fix the issue by that deadline, you could face the same penalty every day things go unaddressed. Oh, and if OSHA determines that you’ve committed a willful or repeat violation, you could be on the hook for 10 times as much: $134,937.

Ouch. Clearly, OSHA is making sure that construction safety hazards hurt in more ways than one.

By the way, this is only OSHA we’re talking about. Don’t forget about other federal regulators, such as the Environmental Protection Agency, or state plans.

And then there are all the costs beyond penalties. Construction companies that don’t adequately manage their risks can expect to pay hundreds of thousands—even millions—in indirect expenses such as the following:

  • workers’ compensation claims from people who have experienced injuries and illnesses
  • lost productivity during and after an incident
  • lowered workforce morale due to fear and uncertainty around risk areas
  • hours of labor spent identifying and fixing the issue
  • expenses of cleaning and replacing equipment and machinery that’s out-of-date, damaged, or broken
  • legal and compliance fees

One last, but important point. Good reputations are harder to build than bad ones. And your reputation tends to impact your ability to bring in new clients or your ability to attract and retain good employees. 

Make sure you’re buttoned up on the most commonly cited construction violations.

In 2020 OSHA issued 6,276 violations, of which 4,871 were cited as serious. The top violations were:


Let’s take a look at the top 5.

Edge Guarding



Holding two spots in the top 5, for the 10th year in a row fall protection was the most frequently cited OSHA violation. When workers are performing work at heights of 6 feet or more near openings or edges they must be protected from falling. Edge guarding violations are very common because construction workers are frequently exposed to fall hazards when working on rooftops, openings on sides of buildings, scaffolding, and other heights.

Learn how to keep your workers protected from fall hazards and your company safe from edge guarding violations.



Most scaffolding violations are the result of faulty equipment, dangerous environmental conditions, improper training, or a combination thereof. OSHA specifies that a “competent person” must be on hand to a) determine whether scaffolds are safe to use, b) direct others in erecting and dismantling scaffolds, and c) conduct training and inspections. OSHA’s scaffolding standards lay out safe and proper methods for scaffolding used in construction jobs.

Dive into OSHA’s scaffolding standards.

Fall Hazard Training


OSHA expects employers to protect workers from falls, but falls keep happening nonetheless. Organizations just aren’t doing enough to prevent falls, and workers aren’t taking the issue seriously enough. Training is critical to decreasing the number of falls in the construction industry, which is why OSHA leans on this violation a lot.

Learn how to protect your workers from fall hazards.

Jobsite Inspections


Safety inspections are the most effective way to identify hazardous conditions at the jobsite. Construction sites, in particular, require constant monitoring and observations to stay on top of constantly changing safety issues. Employers must perform regular inspections of jobsites, equipment and materials to ensure the safety of workers. The inspections must be conducted by a competent person.

Learn more about OSHA’s jobsite inspection requirements.

How to Avoid the Top 5 and Other OSHA Citations

Do any of the regulations on the list apply to your workplace? If they do, make sure you thoroughly review the standards and ensure you are complying with all employer requirements.

Be prepared in case OSHA knocks on your door.

There are several steps your company can take to both avoid OSHA fines and prevent worker injuries, illnesses and deaths. Developing and enforcing a comprehensive safety program is your key to success.

Your safety program should include:

  • Written Safety Programs  
    Develop and maintain written safety programs covering the hazards to which employees may be exposed. OSHA requires written safety programs and looks to see that they’re reviewed and updated annually. Make sure they are available to all employees.
  • In-depth Safety Training 
    Both new hire and annual safety training should cover all the risks workers are exposed to on the job site. Staff should be aware of the risks associated with their jobs, especially when working at heights, with hazardous chemicals, or with dangerous machinery.
  • Periodic Jobsite Inspections  
    Conduct inspections to identify hazardous conditions at the worksite. Most job sites require frequent monitoring and observations to stay on top of safety issues.  Inspections identify hazards and provide opportunities to fix problems before injuries and accidents can occur.
  • Safe Tools and Equipment  
    Provide safe tools and equipment and ensure workers inspect them regularly. Many workers rely on their tools and equipment to get their work done safely. Unsafe tools and equipment can mean a higher risk of serious accidents, including losing an eye or a limb. They can also lead to OSHA citations.
  • Personal Protective Equipment  
    Provide appropriate personal protective equipment, or PPE, to workers. Companies must pay for and ensure that workers have the necessary PPE, such as fall arrest systems, hard hats, respirators, and hearing protection, to do their jobs safely.

We’ve written a ton of helpful articles on how to minimize the OSHA top 10 at your facility. Check them out here >>

You Don’t Have to Manage Your OSHA Requirements Alone.

Have questions? Looking for more detailed OSHA compliance guidance?

KPA is here to help.

To truly protect your workforce and bottom line, you’ll need in-depth information—and not just about OSHA’s top 5, but every potential hazard that exists in your organization. You’ll also need to conduct a thorough evaluation of your facilities to identify current gaps and risk areas.

KPA’s unique combination of software, training, and consulting services can provide the coverage your people and your organization need.

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