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Top Ten OSHA Violations and How to Avoid Them

Julie Copeland

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The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) was established in 1970 "to assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance." In order for OSHA to succeed in this mission, companies must be in compliance of its safety standards.

Failing to be in compliance and violating these standards can be very costly to the lives of your employees and the livelihood of your business. Beginning August 1st the cost for workplace safety violations will increase by 78%, which marks the first time the rate will increase since 1990. The current maximum penalty of $7,000 for serious, other-than-serious and posting requirements will increase to $12,471 per violation and repeated violations will increase from $70,000 to $124,709 per violation.

It is now more important than ever to ensure that your company and your employees are compliant with OSHA standards. One of the first steps of this process is to make sure that your company and employees are aware of these standards and understand the necessary steps you need to take to avoid them.

To help enhance your safety awareness we have outlined the Top 10 OSHA violations from 2015 (2016 is not completed yet) and provided tips on how to avoid them:


1) Fall Protection - Total Violations: 6,173

For the past 5 years fall protection has reigned as the most common violation on this list. In 2014 there were 793 fatal and 261,920 non-fatal injuries resulting from an employee falling on the same level or to a lower level surface. Despite being a leading cause of fatalities and serious injuries proper fall protection is not always equipped at sites. Employers must protect their workers and take the following steps to ensure their safety:

  • Provide a guard rail and toe-board around every elevated open sided platform, floor and runway, as well as around dangerous machines and equipment.
  • Include safety harness and line, safety nets, stair railings and hand rail 
  • Select and provide required personal protective equipment to workers and train workers about job hazards in a language they can understand.

2) Scaffolding - Total Violations: 4,281

Scaffolds are often misused with more than 4,500 workers injured every year. These accidents can be caused by misuse (using a scaffold as a ladder) or often it can be due to improper training and deficient or damaged platforms. OSHA has set forth a list of guidelines to help avoid these tragedies which can be found here. It is important to follow OSHA's advice by providing proper fall protection equipment and ensure your employees are properly trained by offering Fall Hazard Awareness programs.

3) Hazard Communication - Total Violations: 3,180

Chemicals pose not only health hazards, like irritation, sensitization and carcinogenicity, but     also physical hazards, such as flammability, corrosion and reactivity. All employers with hazardous chemicals in their workplaces must have labels and safety data sheets for their exposed workers, train them to handle chemicals responsibly and provide the necessary protective equipment to ensure their safety.

4) Lockout/Tagout - Total Violations: 2,739

Lockout/Tagout (LOTO) refers to specific procedures to prevent injuries due to unexpected start up of machinery or release of hazardous energy during maintenance activities. Compliance with the LOTO standard (29 CFR 1910.147: control of hazardous energy) prevents an estimated 120 fatalities and 50,000 injuries each year. Make sure your practices conform to the site lockout procedure in order to safeguard against injuries such as amputations and death. Encourage your employees to always ask for direction if they have an uncertainty. 

5) Ladders - Total Violations: 2,512

Ladder accidents happen when workers select the wrong ladder for the job, don't inspect it for missing or broken pieces or get careless about how they use it. In addition improper use of scaffolding or other materials as ladder replacements is a common cause of accidents as well. It is important for employees to make sure ladders are in good condition before use, use the correct ladder for the job, never use a metal ladder near electrical wires and never use ladders in place of platforms, skids or braces.


6) Respiratory Protection - Total Violations: 2,250

Respirators protect workers against insufficient oxygen environments, harmful dusts, fogs, smokes, mists, gases, vapors and sprays. If someone is exposed to these hazards it can cause cancer, lung impairment, diseases or death. The fit of the respirator around the nose, mouth, or face is crucial to guarding the worker against these hazardous atmospheres. Oftentimes respirators may not fit correctly, do not provide the proper protection or employees may not be trained on how to wear the respirators correctly.


7) Machine Guarding - Total Violations: 2,242

Moving machine parts create workplace hazards. Machine-related injuries are particularly horrifying, making machine guarding an absolute must. Machine guarding protects employees from nip points, rotating parts, flying chips and sparks with barrier guards, light curtains and two-hand operating devices. In order to avoid these injuries you should never bypass a moving equipment guard and always report damaged or missing guards. Make sure all workers take injury preventative actions until a damaged guard is repaired or missing guard put back into place.

8) Powered Industrial Trucks - Total Violations: 2,182

Tens of thousands of injuries related to powered industrial trucks (PIT), or forklifts, occur each year in workplaces across the U.S. Most PIT incidents involve property damage as well. Unfortunately, most injuries and damages are due to lack of safe operating procedures, deficient safety-rule enforcement and inadequate training. So in order to prevent both injury and liability, make sure your workplace does not fall into one of these three categories.

9) Electrical - Wiring Methods - Total Violations: 1,976

Wires must be kept away from hazardous areas that could cause harm, so you must secure all wires to keep them safe with the ground of electrical equipment, wiring and insulation. In addition before a flexible (extension) cord set is used, instruct all workers to inspect for two things: external defects - like loose parts, missing pins or damage to insulation - and evidence of internal damage - such as a pinched or crushed outer jacket. Replace cords that power "fixed" equipment with appropriate permanent wiring and practice running extension cords overhead or taping them down to prevent tripping.

10) Electrical - General Requirements - Total Violations: 1,557 

General electrical violations stem from failure to install and use equipment according to factory instructions, to guard electrical equipment, to identify disconnecting means and circuits and to keep work spaces clear. All safety requirements must be met and hazardous areas marked.

It is extremely difficult to keep track of all the safety standards and precautions you should be adhering to. By partnering with Arbill and scheduling a workplace safety site audit today we can help you identify potential deficiencies and design a customized program to help you avoid accidents, keep your employees safe and ensure OSHA compliance.  

Have a Safe Day!


Topics: safety training, osha violations, workplace safety, OSHA citations

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