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Avoid the Top 10 OSHA Violations

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News – OSHA Penalties:

The maximum penalties for serious and other-than-serious violations increased from $13,494 per violation to $13,653 per violation. The maximum penalty for willful or repeated violations increased from $134,937 per violation to $136,532 per violation.


The Top 10 Cited OSHA Standards

The most frequently cited standards and the number of violations are:

  1. Fall Protection – General Requirements (1926.501): 5,424 violations 
  2. Hazard Communication (1910.1200): 3,199 violations
  3. Respiratory Protection (1910.134): 2,649 violations
  4. Scaffolding (1926.451): 2,538 violations
  5. Ladders (1926.1053): 2,129 violations
  6. Lockout/Tagout (1910.147): 2,065 violations
  7. Powered Industrial Trucks (1910.178): 1,932 violations
  8. Fall Protection – Training Requirements (1926.503): 1,621 violations
  9. Personal Protective and Life Saving Equipment – Eye and Face Protection (1926.102): 1,369 violations 
  10. Machine Guarding (1910.212): 1,313 violations


Here is some advice on how to minimize safety incidents in these areas:


#1 – Fall Protection – General Requirements (1926.501): 5,424 violations

Falls are among the most common causes of serious work-related injuries and deaths, and in 2019, 880 workers died from slips, trips and falls. In fact, falls are the third-leading cause of total unintentional injury-related death in the United States, accounting for 22 percent of the 167,127 unintentional deaths in 2018, and are a leading cause of death and severe injury around the world. This includes falls from height and same-level falls.

Falls are the leading cause of preventable injury in the United States and Canada, accounting for 33 percent – 8 million – of the nearly 26 million preventable injuries in the United States in 2018, and nearly one-third of the 2 million visits Canadians make to the emergency room each year. In Canada, more than 40,000 workers experienced fall injuries in 2018; in the United States in 2019, 244,000 workers were injured in falls.

Employers must manage fall hazards in the workplace to prevent employees from falling off of overhead platforms, elevated workstations or into holes in the floor and walls, and to keep them from tripping, slipping and falling on level surfaces. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that fall protection be provided at elevations of four feet in general industry workplaces, five feet in shipyards, six feet in the construction industry and eight feet in longshoring operations. In addition, OSHA requires that fall protection be provided when working over dangerous equipment and machinery, regardless of the fall distance.

This checklist can help you and your employees identify fall and trip hazards and eliminate preventable fall deaths and injuries in the workplace.


#2 – Hazard Communication (1910.1200): 3,199 violations

Hazard communication is one of OSHA’s perennial Top10 citations. Without the labeling and training required by the hazard communication standard (29 CFR 1910.1200), workers might not realize that the chemicals they work with every day could be causing cancer, allergies, lung disease or reproductive harm. After all, while you can clearly see that a blade might cut your arm off, the link between a chemical exposure and a cancer that doesn’t appear until 20 years later is much less visible.

That said, the requirements of the hazard communication standard are fairly straightforward. Employers are required to make a list of all chemicals that are present in the workplace and must have a written hazard communication plan that addresses all facets of compliance, including in-house labeling systems, contractor chemical safety and unlabeled pipes.

Chemical manufacturers, importers and distributors are required to ensure that chemicals are properly labeled. Employers receiving these chemicals are required to ensure that the labels are maintained in legible condition. Employers must have a safety data sheet (SDS) for each chemical in the workplace. The SDS contains additional information that is not on the label. It must be readily accessible to employees. Workers must be trained in what chemicals they may be exposed to at work, what the hazards are, how to read labels and SDSs and how to protect themselves against chemical exposures.

The chemicals you use in your facility may not change frequently, however, that doesn’t mean your hazard communication program is one-and-done. The standard has annual program review and training requirements. Make sure that at least once a year, you revisit your program, note any changes – and sign and date it when you do.


#3. Respiratory Protection (1910.134): 2,649 violations

When airborne hazards such as fumes or dust cannot be contained, the best way to protect workers in the area is to use respirators. You may need a respiratory protection program (29 CFR 1910.134) if your workers are exposed to a hazardous level of an airborne contaminant, and their exposure cannot be reduced below the OSHA permissible exposure limit through the use of engineering controls (for example, substitution or mechanical ventilation), or if workers are exposed to oxygen-deficient atmospheres.

You may also require workers to wear respirators if you deem it necessary, regardless of published exposure limits. Also, workers may choose to wear respirators even though you do not require it. In any of these situations, you will need a compliant respiratory protection program. Here are the requirements:


# 4 Scaffolding – (1926.451): 2,538 violations 

# 5 Ladders – (1926.1053): 2,129 violations

In 2016, OSHA updated its general industry walking-working surfaces standards (found in 29 CFR 1910 Subpart D) and its scaffold standards (found in Subpart I). With the exception of some requirements for updating fixed ladders, the requirements of the updated standards became effective in 2017.

Workers must be protected from falling when they use fixed or portable ladders, as well as mobile ladder stands and platforms. As of Nov. 19, 2018, all existing fixed ladders are required to have a cage, well, ladder safety system or personal fall arrest system. However, under the revised standard, cages or wells for fall protection are being phased out. Employers have until Nov. 18, 2036 (20 years from the date of publication of the revised standard)to replace cages and wells on all ladders extending more than 24 feet with a ladder safety or personal fall arrest system.

A scaffold is an elevated, temporary work platform. Supported scaffolds have rigid supports; suspended scaffolds are suspended by non-rigid means, such as ropes, from an overhead structure. There are dozens of different types of scaffolds, each with its own set of hazards and protective measures. Make sure that you know what kind of scaffold you’re using, and how to erect, dismantle and use it safely.


#6 Lockout/Tagout (1910.147): 2,065 violations

The OSHA Control of Hazardous Energy (Lockout/Tagout) standard (29 CFR 1910.147) covers the servicing and maintenance of machines and equipment in which the unexpected energization or startup of the machines or equipment or release of stored energy could cause injury to employees. Energy sources may include electrical, mechanical, hydraulic, pneumatic, chemical, nuclear, thermal or other energy.

This standard applies to the control of energy during servicing or maintenance of machines or equipment. Servicing or maintenance which takes place during normal production operations is covered by this standard if:

1. An employee is required to remove or bypass a guard or other safety device.

2. An employee is required to place any part of his or her body into an area on a machine or piece of equipment where work is actually performed upon the material being processed (point of operation) or where an associated danger zone exists during a machine operating cycle.

Normal production operations are not covered by this standard. These include:

3. Minor tool changes and adjustments which take place during normal production operations are not covered by the standard if they are routine, repetitive and integral to the use of the equipment for production, provided that the work is performed using alternative measures that provide effective protection.

4. Cord and plug connected electrical equipment when the employee performing the service or maintenance controls energization by unplugging the equipment from the energy source.

5. Hot tap operations involving transmission systems from substances such as gas, steam, water or petroleum, when they are performed on pressurized pipelines.


#7 – Powered Industrial Trucks (1910.178): 1,932 violations

OSHA in 29 CFR 1910.178 standard states that forklifts must be inspected either daily, or after each shift in cases where vehicles are in round-the-clock use. If problems are discovered, they must be reported, and the forklift must be removed from service immediately.

Refer to the owner’s manual, specifications and manufacturer’s recommendations to modify the checklist for trucks being operated in your workplace.  


# 8 – Fall Protection – Training Requirements (1926.503): 1,621 violations

Falls take two slots on the list of OSHA’s Top 10 citations. Not only do general requirements to protect employees from fall hazards make the list, training requirements for employees who are working at height come in at #8 on the list.

OSHA requires employers to provide a training program for each employee who might be exposed to fall hazards. The program must enable each employee to recognize the hazards of falling and shall train each employee in the procedures to be followed in order to minimize these hazards.


# 9 – Personal Protective and Life Saving Equipment – Eye and Face Protection (1926.102): 1,369 violations

Each day, thousands of workers receive medical treatment because of work-related eye injuries, while more than 1 million eye injuries occur annually.

The vast majority of eye injuries are preventable through the consistent use of appropriate eye protection that meets the current ANSI/ISEA Z87.1-2020 Standard.

Many eye injuries occur because workers are not wearing the right eye protection, their eye protection does not fit or they are not wearing any protection at all. Flying fragments of metal, wood, concrete and other building materials, along with windblown dust and debris, splash from chemicals and molten metal, hot sparks, optical radiation and even the everyday nail, are common workplace eye hazards.

OSHA’s eye and face protection standard, 29 CFR 1926.102, requires the use of eye and face protection when workers are exposed to eye or face hazards such as flying objects, molten metal, liquid chemicals, acids or caustic liquids, chemical gases or vapors or potentially injurious light radiation. Employers must ensure that each affected employee uses eye protection that provides side protection when there is a hazard from flying objects. Detachable side protectors (e.g. clip-on or slide-on side shields) meeting the pertinent requirements of this section are acceptable.

In addition, employers must ensure that each affected employee who wears prescription lenses while engaged in operations that involve eye hazards wears eye protection that incorporates the prescription in its design or wears eye protection that can be worn over the prescription lenses without disturbing the proper position of the prescription lenses or the protective lenses.


#10 – Machine Guarding (1910.212): 1,313 violations

Moving machine parts have the potential to cause severe workplace injuries, such as crushed fingers or hands, amputations, burns or blindness. Safeguards are essential for protecting workers from these preventable injuries. Any machine part, function or process that may cause injury must be safeguarded.

When the operation of a machine or accidental contact injure the operator or others in the vicinity, the hazards must be eliminated or controlled. A well-designed safeguard should:

  • Prevent contact with the hazardous area of the machine during operation.
  • Avoid creating additional hazards.
  • Be secure, tamper resistant, and durable.
  • Avoid interfering with normal machine operations.
  • Allow safe lubrication and maintenance.
  • Be safe for the operator to use.



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