Safety by the Numbers

Understanding OSHA regulations—and avoiding the statistics.

According to one business database, there are more than 20,000 construction-related businesses in the state of Iowa. And according to the state OSHA website, there are more than 50 OSHA training requirements for those companies. How many of them do you know?

With those numbers as background, it should come as no surprise that, across the country, half of the top ten OSHA violations for the past year were construction-related (see sidebar). What’s more, the number one citation category, fall protection, was a residential construction violation.

“As far as the standards are concerned, nothing much has changed for 2015,” says Jens Nissen, Iowa OSHA Administrator. “What has changed is some of the reporting requirements.”
New injury reporting rules for hospitalizations and some specific job-related injuries have gotten stricter, but Nissen says the safety guidelines remain much the same as in the past.

Safety and Health magazine recently published “OSHA’s Top 10” list of citations (those listed in our sidebar) and quoted Patrick Kapust, deputy director of OSHA’s Directorate of Enforcement Programs: “Employers need to be proactive and focus on prevention.” He recommended that employers use that top citation list as their guide in evaluating their own job sites.

Nissen gives the same advice. “For the construction industry, employers need to be looking out for the traditional issues that have been industry concerns in the past—things like falls, struck-by-equipment incidents, excavation safety issues.”
While training is certainly available from OSHA, employers are not required, at this time, to attend a general training course.

What is required is that employers train their employees on job-site hazards,” Nissen emphasizes. “This varies based on the job site and industry, but employers must ensure that their employees are trained on specific standards relevant to their industry, e.g., scaffolding, fall protection, or cranes.”

For larger companies, this is standard practice for new employees. But in a field where so many grew up swinging a hammer, formal safety training may have been nonexistent. Looking at that list of top citations, it seems an ounce of prevention could be worth much more than a pound of cure.

You could reduce your chances of becoming a statistic this year by following these five steps.

Five Easy Steps to Create a Safe Job Site

  1. Know the standards.
    As an employer, you are responsible for the safety of your job sites. Know what OSHA expects for your particular industry and make sure you understand those regulations.
  2. Learn how to recognize hazards.
    Knowing the rules is one thing. Recognizing the potential for danger is another. And recognizing the risks provides the greatest safety.
  3. Attend an OSHA training class.
    The surest way to guarantee your knowledge of OSHA standards as well as your ability to recognize hazards is to learn from the experts. The Iowa Division of Labor offers a variety of training classes each year. Or you can arrange to host one at your business. For the construction industry specifically, 10-hour and 30-hour training classes are offered through OSHA Training Services Inc. Visit for more information.
  4. Train your employees.
    Whether you have 1,000 or just one, every employee should be trained to recognize job-site hazards and should know how to perform his or her job safely. Make sure your employees understand the dangers and know how to prevent injuries at work.
  5. Know your job sites.
    No matter how much training you complete, or how well you think you’ve trained your employees, there is no replacement for hands-on knowledge. Always be available for your employees and be on-site regularly. Knowing how the job site functions from day to day makes identifying potential problems easier.

OSHA and good business practices dictate that employers provide a job site free of known dangers. Educating yourself and your employees on occupational safety is as important as providing a hard hat. Don’t enter the work site without it.

OSHA’s 2014 TOP TEN Most Frequently Cited Violations

  1. Fall protection
  2. Hazard communication
  3. Scaffolding
  4. Respiratory protection
  5. Powered industrial trucks
  6. Lockout/tagout
  7. Ladders
  8. Electrical: wiring
  9. Machine guarding
  10. Electrical: systems design