Top 3 OSHA Citations for the Construction Industry

From October 2019 through September 2020, OSHA assessed penalties in the construction industry amounting to a whopping $71 million. Half of that was due to just three categories of violations.

Are you guilty of these top three costly citations? 

“Duty to have fall protection” 

Standard # 1926.501 of OSHA’s Safety and Health Regulations for Construction states that all workers on surfaces six feet or higher must be protected from falls and falling objects. This includes the following requirements:

  • Working and walking surfaces must be strong and secure enough to safely support employees
  • Employees must be protected from falling off of surfaces by guardrails, fences, safety harnesses, etc.
  • Employees must be protected from falling through, tripping in, or stepping into holes. 
  • Employees must be protected from falling onto dangerous equipment.
  • Employees must have protection from falling objects (hard hat and fall protection systems) 

By far the most frequent and expensive citation, the average penalty for violating this standard was $5400 — for a total of $24 million nationwide. It’s a hefty price tag, but since falls are the leading cause of death in construction, it pays to get this one right.

“General requirements” 

Standard # 1926.451 – General Requirements details scaffolding-related safety requirements. Everything from capacity to access is covered in this section, and addresses a whole host of potential safety hazards. Specific attention must be paid to weight limits, construction, stability, distancing, and support of scaffolds, platforms, and suspensions. This standard includes the following:

  • Scaffolds must be able to support their own weight plus four times their maximum intended load.
  • Each suspension rope must be able to support 6 times its maximum intended load applied or transmitted to that rope.
  • Each platform on all working levels of scaffolds shall be fully planked or decked between the front uprights and the guardrail supports.
  • Scaffold components manufactured by different manufacturers shall not be intermixed or modified unless the components fit together without force and the scaffold’s structural integrity is maintained.
  • Crossbraces should not be used as a means of access between scaffolding platforms.
  • Employees should not work on scaffolds covered with snow, ice, or other slippery material except as necessary for removal of such materials.

With 65% of the construction industry working on scaffolds, being diligent about safety can prevent most of the 4,500 scaffolding-related injuries that occur each year. Prevention of these injuries would not only save the average penalty amount of $2800 (the total of which was just over $5 million in fiscal year 2020), employers nationwide would also save $90 million in workdays not lost.


Did you know that March is National Ladder Safety Month? It’s important to maintain awareness of preventable injuries and fatalities, especially since violations of Standard # 1926.1053 – Ladders consistently rank in the top OSHA citations. The same ladder safety tips you use when cleaning your gutters at home also apply in the construction industry — but on a much larger scale and with additional considerations. Since 57% of deaths from ladders occur in the construction industry, taking the extra effort to ensure workers are using ladders properly can make a big impact in construction safety.

The OSHA standard for ladder safety includes the following:

  • Keep ladders free from oil or grease and ensure the steps have a skid resistant surface to prevent them from becoming a slipping hazard.
  • Ladders must not be loaded beyond the maximum weight for which they were built, and must be capable of supporting loads without failure.
  • Ladder rungs, cleats, and steps shall be parallel, level, and uniformly spaced when the ladder is in position for use.
  • Only use ladders as they were designed to be used. They must not be fastened or tied together to provide longer sections unless they were intended for such use.
  • When using a ladder to climb higher than 24 feet, ladders must be equipped with safety devices, self-retracting lifelines with rest platforms, or a cage/well with multiple ladder sections.

With just under $5 million in penalties assessed last year, the average penalty amount for ladder safety violation was around $2800. 

Take the time to keep your workforce safe

If an employee is injured in your workplace or at a job site, we’re here to help. As the leader in occupational medicine in Hampton Roads, I & O Medical Centers is one of your trusted partners in health and safety. 

But many of the injuries we see were preventable! Taking the time and effort to keep your workforce safe and enforcing safety requirements among your employees will go a long way toward a safer and happier workplace for all — and will also be easier on your bottom line!