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What to Know About the Most Frequently Cited OSHA Violations

Written by Michael Purser

Top 10 OSHA Violations

Sometimes, employers violate or fail to uphold federal safety regulations. Violations might result from carelessness, negligence or even willful disobedience. Depending on the severity of the issue, OSHA may cite non-compliant employers. Every spring, the administration publishes a list of the most common OSHA violations from the previous year.

This article explores some of the most frequently cited OSHA violations each year, what the list really means and how you can protect your jobsite from common issues.

Types of OSHA Violations in the Top 10

The order of the top OSHA violations for each year changes, but it doesn't usually change very much. A few standards tend to show up year after year, which just goes to show how dangerous and pervasive those issues are.

Here are a few of the most frequently cited standards and where to find them in the CFR:

  • Fall Protection, Construction (1926.501)
  • Hazard Communication, General Industry (1910.1200)
  • Ladders, Construction (1926.1053)
  • Respiratory Protection, General Industry (1910.134)
  • Scaffolding, Construction (1926.451)
  • Control of Hazardous Energy (Lockout/Tagout), General Industry (1910.147)
  • Powered Industrial Trucks, General Industry (1910.178)
  • Fall Protection Training, Construction (1926.503)
  • Eye and Face Protection, Construction (1926.102)
  • Machinery and Machine Guarding, General Industry (1910.212)
  • Electrical Wiring Methods, General Industry (1910.305)
  • Electrical General Requirements, General Industry (1910.303)

You can think of this as a list of “usual suspects.” Some might drop out of the top 10 for a few years or swap places. But, like a bad penny, these violations always seem to come back again. Fall protection has had a dubious reign at the top of the list for more than 12 straight years. Sometimes it even appears twice, as it did in 2022 as both Fall Protection General Requirements and Fall Protection Training Requirements.

Takeaways from the Annual List

Lists are helpful for identifying common violations. But comparing the annual statistics is more than just the workplace safety equivalent of fantasy baseball. The figures tell a story for those willing to dig into the meaning behind the numbers.

Violations and Citations

The annual list doesn't measure the number of actual violations committed by U.S. employers or reflect the total number of complaints the administration receives each year. Instead, the top 10 is based on the number of citations issued for that standard.

Not all complaints result in citations or penalties. OSHA doesn't have the resources to frequently inspect the approximately 7 million worksites under its jurisdiction. The administration prioritizes and responds to complaints and accident data based on the severity of the infraction. Each citation begins with an inspection.

Annual enforcement data is available for the total number of inspections the administration conducts. If inspectors find evidence of standards violations, they may issue citations and penalties, which may include fines.

Citations also include required abatement and corrective measures that employers must implement or face additional penalties. Willful or repeat offenders may even referred to the Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP).

For every number on the list, there were probably several — maybe even many — more instances of the same problem that didn't result in enforcement activity.

Employee Reporting

The New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority popularized the slogan “if you see something, say something” after 9/11. But that applies to workplace safety issues, too.

If you believe that your employer is in violation of federal regulations, file an OSHA complaint. You can file online, by fax, by email, by mail, over the phone or in person at a local office. Employees and their representatives have six months from the date of the incident to file a report.

Worker complaints get high-priority attention from the administration. OSHA takes allegations of misconduct seriously. In fact, employee complaints get higher inspection priority than referrals from other federal, state or local regulatory agencies and media tips.

Workers may report suspected violations anonymously. Employees who file official complaints are covered under federal whistleblower protections. Employers cannot retaliate or discriminate against workers for bringing attention to hazards or violations.

Damages, Injuries and Fatalities

The top 10 most common OSHA violations don't include the dollar value of damages caused by those incidents. There is no casualty list or number of resulting injuries. It would be impossible to accurately calculate the lost productivity or workplace inefficiency caused by regulatory infractions.

However, the administration publicly tracks some information on frequent workplace safety issues reported to OSHA. The data page includes Injury Tracking Application data, an ongoing list of fatality inspections and other valuable statistics.

Patterns and Implications

Pay attention to the items that frequently appear in the top 10. They are mostly simple, everyday hazards. Anyone could fall off a ladder or forget safety glasses. Forklifts are found in almost every factory and warehouse in America.

This shows the importance of general safety principles. The small, simple, everyday issues are the ones that matter the most. Online safety training is the fastest, simplest way to improve those fundamental skills.

Online Safety Training

Spot workplace hazards and prevent accidents with online training. We offer more than 150 online safety and compliance courses. Each one is available 100% online from any internet-connected device. Our high-quality programs include general training and specific courses for a variety of hazards.

Outreach Training

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration partners with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) for the OSHA Outreach Training Program. Students can earn official OSHA 10 or OSHA 30 cards from the DOL by completing online courses offered by an OSHA-authorized training partner.

We provide authorized Outreach Training classes for workers of all experience levels in both construction and general industry. If you work with hazardous materials, we also provide online HAZWOPER education.

You can start and stop lessons at any time. All course material is available 24/7 from your laptop, tablet or mobile device. You never need to travel to a classroom or coordinate with a teacher. Just log in and start studying. Train at your pace as you learn how to avoid standards violations and protect yourself at work.

More Options

Earning your OSHA 10-hour or 30-hour card isn't the only way to master safety regulations. We offer additional training on many topics. We can help you earn your forklift certification, for example. Or we can prepare you to serve as a designated competent person on your jobsite.

Search our course catalog for specific hazards you face at work. Learn how to avoid bloodborne pathogens. Keep an eye out for projectiles and dropped objects with a struck-by hazard protection course.

No matter where you work or what you do, we have a course that will help you avoid the frequently cited violations listed above. You don't even have to leave home to do it. Sign up for one of our courses and start learning today!