Two contracting firms recently got a costly lesson in violating Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations. Provencher Home Improvement of Beverly, Mass. and its Danvers-based general roofing contractor A.C. Castle Construction Co. Inc. were fined $294,500 after three workers fell and injured themselves.

The OSHA investigation revealed that the workers were on a spruce scaffolding plank with an invoice clearly marked “not for scaffold use.” The plank platform could not support the workers’ weight and was not graded for scaffold use, according to a report in EHS Today.

While this incident received a lot of attention due to the high fine OSHA levied, violations and the related financial penalties are far from extraordinary, according to OSHA data.

In fact, the latest statistics for 2013 to 2014 show roofing contractors alone received more than $18 million in penalties for violating OSHA standards. Compare that to the overall residential remodeling industry statistic — just over $1.2 million — and it seems clear that roofers need to pay closer attention to OSHA standards.

“The fact of the matter is that there’s a lot of exposure on a roof,” said Tom Shanahan, vice president, enterprise risk management at the National Roofing Contractors Association. Shanahan said roofers are often frustrated with the limited options OSHA provides to keep workers safe and able to do their jobs expeditiously. That’s often when violations occur, he added. 

But he said OSHA and roofers agree on one thing. “The desire to educate and train and build protection for fall protection — we’re hand in hand with OSHA on that,” Shanahan said.

While roofers receive the most fines, the types of violations between residential remodelers and roofers are remarkably similar. And falls are the no. 1 offender for both, sometimes leading to death. Of all worker fatalities in 2013, one in five were construction workers, according to information on OSHA’s website. Not surprisingly, falls also are the leading cause of death among roofers, said Harry Dietz, NRCA’s director of enterprise risk management.

OSHA generally requires fall protection — guardrails, safety nets and personal fall arrest systems — at heights of 6 feet or greater, and more than 10 feet on scaffolding. Additional fall protection is required for roofers working on low-slope roofs, Dietz said.

Here’s a look at the top OSHA roofing violations by number of citations for 2013 to 2014, and the most common mistakes that lead to them, according to Shanahan:

1. Violation: Duty to have fall protection
Citations: 3,431
Fines: $10.7 million.
Most common mistakes: Failure to: 1) Keep workers from falling; 2) Prevent things from falling on workers; 3) Ensure roof is safe to walk on.

2. Violation: Ladders
Citations: 1,056
Fines: $2 million
Most common mistakes: Ladders not secured at bottom and top.

3. Violation: Training requirements (fall protection)
Citations: 841
Fines: $948,146
Most common mistakes: Failure to document training and/or not getting employees to sign off on training.

4. Violation: Eye and face protection
Citations: 518
Fines: $835,924
Most common mistakes: Failure to use the equipment when it’s necessary or not properly training workers to use equipment.

5. Violation: General requirements (scaffolding)
Citations: 416
Fines: $756,952
Most common mistakes: Scaffolding incorrectly installed or used improperly.

6. Violation: General safety and health provisions
Citations: 338
Fines: $427,930
Most common mistake: Failure to assess job site hazards and take necessary precautions.

7. Violation: Fall protection systems criteria and practices
Citations: 293
Fines: $482,388
Most common mistakes: Improperly erected fall protection systems.

8. Violation: Head protection
Citations: 282
Fines: $416,282
Most common mistakes: failure to wear a hard hat when required or when overhead hazard exists.

9. Violation: Abatement verification
Citations: 195
Fines: $73,994
Most common mistakes: Failure to abate hazard previously cited.

10. Training requirements (ladders)
Citations: 141
Fines: $74,977
Most common mistakes: Failure to document training and/or not getting employees to sign off on training.