a complete guide to OSHA

OSHA: The Complete 5 Minute Guide!

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A 5 Minute Guide to OSHA

Statistically, 21% of all work-related fatalities are in construction.

That equals about 1 and 5 worker deaths on average. In the construction industry, the leading cause of worker deaths is reported as:

  • Falls
  • Struck by an object
  • Electrocution
  • Caught-in/Between

Part of running a successful construction business is ensuring that you and your workers are safe.

The people that work for you are trying to earn a living and make it back home alive.

As a business owner, it is your responsibility to make sure they are working in the safest possible conditions.

Work-related injuries not only affect the people and families that depend on the income they get from your business, but it also affects the life of your company.

This article answers every question you have ever had OSHA, training requirements, and how to stay in compliance.

What is OSHA?

Logo of the OSHA: Occupational safety and health administration

Occupational Safety and Health Administration

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration operates under the United States Department of Labor. 

  • OSHA is dedicated to creating and enforcing job site safety and labor laws across several industries. 
  • The OSHA Act, which was signed into law by President Richard M. Nixon on December 29, 1970, and was expanded into an agency a year later.
  • OSHA is one of the smallest federal agencies, with about 2400 inspectors in charge of more than 8 million different workplaces.
  • 84,000 inspections annually to reduce workplace injury, exploitation, and fatality.

What is the purpose of OSHA?

a man wearing a white cast. OSHA certifications help employers and construction professionals prevent injuries

By the turn of the century, it was estimated that on average there were between 18,000 – 21,000 deaths of workers on the job per year.

By the end of 1970, approximately 14,000 workers died while on the job.

There had been little improvement to workplace safety in the last 70 years, in effect putting pressure on Nixon administration to act.

  • OSHA’s purpose is to improve conditions for workers in the United States through the implementation of laws and compliance standards.
  • OSHA sets standards by which employers are required to comply.
  • The ultimate goal is to create a safer work environment for employees and also protect the sustainability of businesses.

What type of work does OSHA govern?

Construction worker working on a steel beam. OSHA primarily focuses on hazardous jobs

Primarily, the administration focuses high-risk occupations.

Work environments that are heavily regulated include:

  • Construction 
  • Agriculture 
  • Oil and Gas 
  • Maritime  

There are several guidelines and standards in place that companies operating in these sectors are expected to follow.

For all other industries, there is a separate set of guidelines known as General Industry.

State vs. Federal OSHA Standards

Logo of CAL OSHA which is the state specific agency that sets laws for occupational safety in california

California / OSHA

OSHA is a federal agency, meaning it enforces LAW enacted by the federal government for the entire United States.

Each state has the right to either follow Federal laws or pass stricter laws specific to their State.

California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) better known as CAL/OSHA has historically maintained more stringent safety standards than the federal level. 

California, in particular, has expanded occupational safety laws to cover several key issues including:

  • Health & Safety Rights for California workers
  • Protection of Temporary Agency employees
  • Reporting Labor Law Violations
  • Reporting Employers in the Underground Economy
  • Requesting benefits for a work injury
  • Young workers programs
  • Providing information on apprenticeships, certifications, and licenses
  • Reporting Medical care provider fraud

CAL/OSHA has its own inspectors that issue citations to business for violations of safety regulations.

In addition, it offers educational conferences and information on getting insurance.

OSHA Enforcement – Violations and Fines

The most commonly cited construction safety violations:

  • Fall Protection
  • Hazard Communication Standard
  • Scaffolding
  • Respiratory Protection
  • Control of Hazardous Energy
  • Ladder Safety
  • Powered Industrial Trucks (forklifts)
  • Machinery and Machine Guarding
  • Electrical, wiring methods and components

Two construction workers on a job site, holding plans overseeing the construction of a large building. OSHA sends inspectors out to job sites all over the country to inspect for safety violations

OSHA Inspectors asses job sites for hazerdous conditions

Violation of safety standards for construction businesses can be incredibly costly.

Fines are frequently increased, sometimes twice per year. Penalties vary based on the violation. –stats taken from OSHA.GOV

Type of ViolationPenalty
SeriousOther-Than-SeriousPosting Requirements$12,934 per violation
Failure to Abate$12,934 per day beyond the abatement date
Willful or Repeated$129,336 per violation

States that have their own specific occupational safety standards that may have increased fines

OSHA Safety Inspections

Jurisdiction covers almost 8 million worksites.

Generally, inspection resources are focused on worksites with the most hazardous conditions.

Some of the criteria that is used to choose where inspections happen includes:

  • Imminent Danger Situations – A workplace that could immediately cause bodily injury or death to workers
  • Severe Injury or Illness – A workplace where someone was recently injured
  • Worker complaints – A workplace where complaints have recently been filed
  • Referrals – Violations reported by a local or state safety agency
  • Targeted Inspections – Hazard industries with high rates of injury
  • Follow Up Inspections – Workplaces that have recently been investigated

What does a typical inspection look like?

An image of a wooden house with several boxes and red checks next to them. Professional home inspection includes all of the major systems associated with residential homes

  • Inspection begins with a compliance officer presenting their credentials. 
  • OSHA credentials include a photograph and serial number. 
  • The officer will explain why this particular job site was chosen for inspection and then briefly detail the scope of the investigation. 
  • Inspectors will interview and speak with several of the employees on the job site as well as inspect safety hazards. Additionally, the officer will do a walkthrough of the job site and can request to see past safety and inspection records.
  • If an Inspector finds a violation, a citation will be issued within 6 months.

OSHA Citations

The goal is to create a safer work environment, not issue citations.

  • If you get a citation, you are given the opportunity to discuss the inspection with an area director and resolve the matter assuming the hazards are corrected. 
  • You are also given the opportunity during this consultation to repeal the citation.
  • OSHA maintains a policy of reducing fines in depending on the specific circumstances of the violation, including whether or not the hazard was corrected.

OSHA Certifications and Training

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration does not directly offer certifications.

Officially there is no “OSHA Certification.”

The agency does authorize private trainers and courses, that meet their requirements.

Authorized trainers issue what is called the 10-Hour or 30-Hour card through their program known as OSHA Outreach training.

As safety standards for each job site are different, training is based on a simple set of consistent guidelines for workers to follow.

The concepts covered in 10 Hour and 30 Hour card courses include: 

  • An Introduction to OSHA
  • The Osha Act, Employee and Employee Rights
  • Record-Keeping and Whistleblower rights
  • An overview of inspections, citations and penalties
  • Safety and Health Provisions
  • Fall Protection
  • Electrical
  • Falling objects, trucks and cranes
  • Trench Hazards (caught in between)
  • Protective equipment
  • Understanding health hazards on a construction site
  • Safe Handling of materials, disposal and storage
  • Hand and power tools
  • Scaffolding

Getting your DOL Card

Two electricians up in the air fixing a telephone pole. Many construction companies require their employees to maintain OSHA safety certifications

OSHA 10-Hour and 30-Hour Courses are designed to be a simple introduction to construction safety.

  • Employers are expected to train their employees on the specific hazards of their industry. 
  • Certain employers require their workers to be in compliance with training which can sometimes be on a recurring basis.
  • Some states may require training every 3-5 years.

After completing the course, you are issued an official card known as a DOL (Department of Labor Card).

Despite steady improvements, the construction industry remains one of the most dangerous for workers.

Occupational safety training is required in most states and on most job sites.

 Its goal works to reduce the number of fatalities in the construction industry.