Highlights from “The Most Common OSHA Violations for Electrical Contractors”
Between October 2020 and September 2021, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) charged nearly $2 million in fines to electrical contractors in the United States. These penalties were all the result of failure to comply with OSHA standards, but which standards in particular?
By understanding where other electrical contractors have gone wrong, you can help to ensure your firm doesn’t make the same mistakes — and, more importantly, avoid devastating workplace injuries. Here are the 10 most-cited OSHA standards for electrical contractors, according to the latest figures released by the Administration.
Note: This content is for informational purposes only, and should not be considered legal advice. For official help complying with these and other OSHA standards, contact your local OSHA office, or contact the Administration at 1-800-321-OSHA.
1. Standard 1926.416: General requirements for protecting employees
This standard covers the general requirements for working with electrical systems in the construction industry. It contains nine distinct rules, covering everything from preventing contact with energized power circuits to the necessary condition of electrical cables. According to this standard, OSHA citations may result from failure to:
- Prevent employees from working near power circuits unless those circuits are deenergized and grounded or sufficiently guarded from contact.
- Ensure employees wear insulated gloves when using hand tools near the potential location of underground power lines.
- Locate all energized power circuits prior to allowing employees to work near them.
- Set up barriers around exposed and energized parts of electrical equipment.
- Keep all walking/working spaces free of hazardous cords.
- Prevent load increases in circuit protectors beyond the top wiring load rating.
- Make sure employees use appropriately insulated tools to handle fuses in energized systems.
- Avoid the use of “work or frayed” cords and cables.
- Never support extension cords with staples, nails, or wire.
In the October 2020 to September 2021 study period, OSHA issued 39 citations to electrical contractors for violating this standard. These citations led to fines worth a total of $324,353.
6. Standard 1926.20: General safety and health provisions
This standard clarifies how other standards will be enforced, covering general topics from safety programs to personal protective equipment (PPE) and employee training in the construction industry. It makes several important safety responsibilities clear:
- Employers are responsible for offering effective safety programs.
- These programs must include frequent inspection of job sites, equipment, and construction materials, and must be conducted by “competent persons.”
- Multiple standards within part 1926 of the OSHA regulations require employees to provide safety training as well as appropriate PPE.
–Standard 1926.20 (f) specifies that each failure to train or provide PPE is a separate violation. So if you fail to train a whole team, you could be cited once for each employee, for instance.
Among electrical firms, violations of standard 1926.20 resulted in 15 citations from OSHA during the study period. Total fines amounted to $57,576.
7. Standard 1926.21: Safety training and education
Here, OSHA spells out the government’s authority over industrial training programs in the construction industry, and clarifies employer responsibility to train employees for safety and health. Sections that may lead to citations for electrical contractors include:
- Employers must teach employees how to recognize and avoid unsafe conditions, as well as methods of removing or at least controlling these hazards.
Between October 2020 and November 2021, OSHA issued electrical contractors 15 citations related to this standard, with fines totaling $87,022. That breaks down to an average fine of over $5,800.
8. Standard 1926.403: General requirements for approved electrical conductors and equipment
This list of “general requirements” covers the use of electrical equipment in the construction industry, including rules for setting up and working around electrical devices. In part, it states that:
- Employers must ensure that electrical equipment is safe for use in a variety of conditions.
- Any equipment that requires certification or official documentation must be installed and used as described by the paperwork.
- Electrical equipment must be safely secured to mounting surfaces (which means no wooden plugs driven into concrete, which apparently was a common problem when OSHA wrote the rule).
- Electrical equipment must have a certain amount of empty space surrounding it (usually not less than 30 inches, but sometimes up to four feet).
Violations of standard 1926.403 led to 13 OSHA citations among electrical contractors in the study period, with fines totaling $35,576.
9. Standard 1904.39: Reporting fatality, injury, and illness information to the government
Notably, standard 1904.39 is the only item on this list that doesn’t cover the construction industry alone. It comes from part 1904 of the regulations, which governs how employers must record and report workplace injuries and illnesses to the government. Specifically, standard 1904.39 states, in part, that:
- Employers must report workplace deaths to OSHA within eight hours of the incident.
- If a workplace injury leads to an employee being admitted to a hospital — or if there’s an amputation or loss of an eye — those incidents must be reported within 24 hours
- Employers can make these reports either online, using OSHA’s Serious Event Reporting Online Form, by calling your local OSHA Area Office, or by calling the central OSHA phone line at 1-800-321-OSHA.
During the study period, OSHA issued 11 citations to electrical contractors for violations of this standard, and charged total fines of $33,158.
The best way to avoid OSHA citations — and the workplace hazards that lead to them — is to work with the experts, either professional safety advisors or OSHA itself.
Click here for the full list of most common OSHA violations for electrical contractors provided by the Solus Group