As OSHA’s 2020 fine increases go into effect, fall hazards—and their resulting fines—continue to plague the construction industry. While six-figure penalties are commonplace, the industry is now seeing fines that exceed $1,000,000.
Just last month, OSHA levied a Florida roofing company more than $1,007,000 in penalties for multiple fall protection violations. The roofer—which failed to use fall arrest systems on multiple jobsites and has a history of violations—was placed in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP).
This recent case follows an active year of OSHA enforcement. In fiscal year 2019, federal OSHA conducted 33,401 inspections—1,000 more than the previous year. Many of the most severe penalties occurred within the construction industry, frequently due to fall prevention violations.
Falls continue to be the construction industry’s leading safety hazard and is the first of OSHA’s “Fatal Four.” Falls typically make up about one-third of total construction industry workplace fatalities. Not surprisingly, nine of the top 10 industry OSHA fines concerned fall hazards in 2019.
Construction Industry’s Top 10 OSHA Fines for 2019
So, who drew the top penalties in 2019—and why? Here’s a quick overview of OSHA’s largest industry citations, as compiled by Construction Dive.
- $1,792,800 – Levied against a Maine roofing company after two workers died as a result of falls on separate jobsites.
- $528,700 – Charged against a Virginia masonry contractor in Virginia when a worker suffered injuries after coming into contact with overhead power lines on unsafe scaffolding.
- $462,600 – Assessed against a Florida roofer (and repeat offender) for failure to follow fall prevention regs.
- $374,500 – Issued to a Washington roofing company—now placed under SVEP—for fall hazards and failure to conduct regular inspections.
- $261,500 – Levied against a New Jersey framing contractor for serious, repeat fall hazards.
- $261,400 – Charged against a Montana asphalt paving contractor regarding two separate accidents: one worker fell 15 feet; three workers were burned.
- $252,100 – Assessed against an Illinois masonry contractor for failure to protect workers from falls and scaffolding hazards.
- $247,500 – Issued to an Ohio roofer for violating fall protection standards.
- $224,600 – Levied against a New York builder after a worker sustained fatal head injuries after falling off a ladder onto concrete. (Violations included failure to provide head protection.)
- $212,200 – Charged against a Missouri concrete contractor for exposing workers to trench hazards. The contractor failed to provide helmets to workers while excavated materials were raised over their heads while laying storm drains.
These contractors had histories of serious, willful and repeat OSHA violations—hence the large fines—but even for contractors with good track records, OSHA penalties can be hefty.
Increased OSHA Penalties for 2020
As you may be aware, OSHA penalties were increased effective January 15, 2020. The new penalty amounts are:
Type of Violation
Serious, Other-Than-Serious, and Posting Requirements
$13,494 per violation
Failure to Abate
$13,494 per day beyond the abatement date
Willful or Repeated
$134,937 per violation
Steps for Eliminating Fall Hazards on Jobsites
As you know, OSHA requires that contractors follow fall prevention regulations when crews are working at heights of 6' or more, or at any height when crews are working above dangerous machines, equipment and supplies.
That includes constructing guardrails and toe-boards, using safety nets and lines, and providing personal protective equipment at no cost to workers. It includes using the right ladders, ensuring scaffolds are meet certain specifications, and inspecting equipment prior to use.
It also includes training workers on elements of fall prevention, including:
- How to use equipment such as ladders and scaffolds safely—including erecting, disassembling and inspecting it.
- How to use personal protective equipment correctly and inspect it prior to use.
- How to recognize and respond to safety hazards and follow safe work practices.
It also includes training supervisors to all these safe work practices are followed and to lead by example.
Training is an ongoing OSHA requirement. Contractors must train workers when there are changes to the jobsite or the equipment or when there are indications further training is needed.
In addition, contractors need to maintain written certification of training for each worker.
Your HR Software Should Help You Maintain Safety
Your HR software can be invaluable in helping you enforce safe practices on jobsites. For example, EPAY’s HCM software includes an online Learning Management System that not only supports training videos and classes, but maintains training certification records and schedules.
In addition, our time clocks can be programmed to ask each worker safety attestation questions when they clock out, such as ‘did you have a safe work day?’ or ‘did you wear your helmet and harness today?’ This feature not only build greater safety awareness, but alerts management in real-time if there was a safety breach. And because the system creates an automatic audit trail, it provides employers with documentation that may help disprove false Worker’s Comp claims down the road.
In addition, EPAY HCM offers many specific features for contractors, such as certified payroll, and advanced mobile time-tracking app—and more.