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Top 10 OSHA Violations of 2019

UPDATED ARTICLE AVAILABLE: The Top 10 OSHA Violations of 2020

What are the top most cited OSHA violations? Which workplace hazards are slipping between the cracks? And, which industries are most impacted?

OSHA has released a preliminary list* of the top 10 violations of 2019 at this year’s NSC Congress and Expo. The list, which includes violations issued between Oct 1, 2018 to August 15, 2019, has remained largely the same since last year. For the ninth year in a row, Fall Protection - General Requirements tops the list at #1.

A single serious violation could have fatal consequences for your workers, and cost your company $13,260 — and there were nearly 27,000 of them this year. It’s worth reviewing the list to ensure you’re not guilty of these common infractions.

Top 10 OSHA Violations of 2019

According to OSHA, a serious violation occurs when "the workplace hazard could cause an accident or illness that would most likely result in death or serious physical harm" and the employer should have known about it. It’s worth noting that OSHA is focusing their enforcement efforts on industries where violations have been common in the past.

1. Fall Protection - General Requirements

Standard: 1926.501

Citations: 6,010

Most cited industries: Roofing contractors, masonry contractors, commercial and home builders

Slips, trips, and falls are one of the leading causes of workplace fatalities. It should come as no surprise, then, that general fall protection requirements topped the list of frequent violations, with nearly twice as many citations as the #2 violation.


2. Hazard Communication

Standard: 1910.1200

Citations: 3,671

Most cited industries: Masonry contractors, painting and wall covering contractors, machine shops, general contractors

The hazard communication standard is designed to ensure that workers know about the hazards of chemicals they may encounter in the workplace and how to protect themselves. Employers should double-check that they have a written hazard communication program, safety data sheets (SDSs) are available, and that employees have received adequate training.

3. Scaffolding

Standard: 1926.451

Citations: 2,813

Most cited industries: Masonry contractors, roofing contractors, commercial builders

Scaffolding accidents are far too common, and they are almost always serious. The

Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that scaffolding cause 4,500 injuries and kill 60 construction workers each year. Most of these accidents are the result of slipping, planking or support giving way, or being struck by a falling object — all of which can be prevented by adhering to OSHA scaffolding standards.

4. Lockout/Tagout

Standard: 1910.147

Citations: 2,606

Most cited industries: Product manufacturing, sawmills

Many serious accidents happen while machinery is thought to be shut off — such as during routine servicing or maintenance. Lockout/tagout is critically important to protect employees from unexpected startup or energization of equipment. Establishing lockout/tagout procedures, providing training, and performing regular audits can help ensure that employees are protected from these hazards.

5. Respiratory

Standard: 1910.134

Citations: 2,450

Most cited industries: Auto maintenance, masonry contractors, cut stone contractors, painting and wall covering contractors

Carbon monoxide, welding fumes, mist from spray paint or chemicals, and dust from cutting or grinding stone and brick are just a few of the respiratory hazards employees may encounter in the workplace. If not properly controlled, these hazards can cause breathing problems, cancer, or even death.

Under OSHA standards, employers have a responsibility to evaluate and protect workers from respiratory hazards. Among the most common reasons for citation are failure to have a written respiratory protection program and failure to conduct required medical examinations for workers who use respirators.

6. Ladders

Standard: 1926.1053

Citations: 2,345

Most cited industries: Roofing, framing, siding and painting contractors

Ladder accidents can happen in virtually any industry and account for about 15% of workplace deaths, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

Selecting the wrong ladder for the job, carrying objects while climbing, and using worn or broken ladders are common contributors to accidents. To avoid an accident or citation, employers should ensure that any worker using a ladder has been trained in proper equipment selection and climbing techniques, and perform regular inspections to ensure ladders are in good working order.

7. Powered Industrial Trucks

Standard: 1910.178

Citations: 2,093

Most cited industries: Warehouses, framing contractors, machine shops

Powered industrial trucks — such as fork trucks, tractors, platform lift trucks, and motorized hand trucks — are used in many industries to move materials. Each type carries its own unique hazards. As such, employers must ensure that workers are properly trained and certified to operate the equipment, and evaluate each operator at least once every three years.

8. Fall Protection - Training Requirements

Standard: 1926.503

Citations: 1,773

Most cited industries: Roofing, framing, siding, commercial and residential contractors

Perhaps by now you’ve noticed a theme that working at height poses a significant risk of injury to workers — and a significant risk of citation for employers. Under OSHA standards, any employee who might be exposed to fall hazards must receive appropriate training from a competent person before working at height. Employers must also maintain written records of this training.

9. Machine Guarding

Standard: 1910.212

Number of Violations: 1,743

Most cited industries: Machine shops, metal shops

Over 800 workers are killed each year and another 18,000 suffer amputations, lacerations, crushing injuries, and abrasions from improperly guarded equipment, according to OSHA. As a rule of thumb, any machine part, function, or processes that may cause injury must be safeguarded. Inspections can help identify hazards such as those created by flying chips and sparks, rotating parts, points of operation, and ingoing nip points.

10. Personal Protective and Lifesaving Equipment - Eye and Face Protection

Standard: 1926.102

Citations: 1,411

Most commonly cited industries: Roofing, framing, masonry and siding contractors

Thousands of workers are blinded each year by flying objects, molten metal, liquid chemicals, and radiation. Eye and face protection was a newcomer to last year’s list, and remains in the #10 spot this year. Beyond providing adequate eye and face protection, employers should ensure that workers properly trained and PPE policies are strictly enforced.

*OSHA will release the final figures for FY2019 later this year.

Your takeaway

Now that you know the most commonly cited OSHA violations, how can you protect your workers and your business? In all cases, having written safety policies to address these hazards, communicating them clearly to employees, and making sure workers have received proper training can go a long way toward avoiding a citation or accident. If you haven’t done so already, now is a good time to look into an EHS management system to help demonstrate your compliance with applicable standards.

Next, check out this article on the benefits of near miss reporting.

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