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Top 10 "Serious" OSHA Violations

Written by Staff Writer

Top 10 Serious OSHA Violations

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, commonly referred to as OSHA, is in charge of assuring safe and healthy working conditions through established standards, education, training and assistance. Each year, OSHA releases reports about the most cited violations, the most serious violations and willful violations committed with disregard or indifference to OSHA requirements.

Serious violations in the workplace are especially concerning to OSHA, as they often result in severe physical injury or death. Below, the top 10 serious OSHA violations reported in fiscal year 2023 are listed, including some statistics and tips for minimizing each type of potential hazard.

#1 - Fall Protection: Construction

The highest cited serious violation last year was fall protection. There were 7,188 fall protection violations cited. OSHA standards require employers to construct and install safety systems to prevent falls in the workplace. These regulations are specifically designed for employees working on surfaces with an unprotected edge more than six feet in the air.

For more information on fall protection standards, you can visit OSHA's website. If you own or work for a construction business and need training, consider taking a Fall Protection Certificate Course for the Construction Industry found here.

Safety & Prevention Tips

  • Provide employee supervision to prevent falls
  • Protect sides and edges with a barrier
  • Test the stability of surfaces to prevent falling through
  • Use extra caution on steep and low-slope roofs

#2 - Hazard Communication: General Industry

Hazard communication, which had 3,227 serious hazard communications violations cited, involves chemical hazards that appear in the workplace. This includes chemicals produced at the job site and ones brought in for use on the job. OSHA requires employers to properly train and communicate with employees about these hazards.

More information regarding Hazard Communication can be found here. You can also receive training on OSHA Hazard Communication Standards here.

Safety & Prevention Tips

  • Improve employee training and provide continuing education about chemicals
  • Maintain safety data sheets
  • Ensure that informative labels are placed on all chemical containers

#3 - Ladders: Construction

Ladders are used in a variety of workplaces and continue to be one of the top safety hazards, reaching 2,950 cited violations in last year alone.

You can read the general ladder requirements on OSHA's website here or take a detailed class regarding specific ladder and stairway regulations here to earn a certificate of completion.

Safety & Prevention Tips

  • Ensure ladder side rails extend at least 3 feet above upper surface
  • Only use ladders for their intended purpose
  • Remove defective ladders from the workplace
  • Only use ladders on stable and level surfaces

#4 - Scaffolding: Construction

Scaffolding poses serious safety risks for workers. There were 2,835 total serious violations cited last year. To ensure worker safety, a qualified person must design, construct, and load scaffolding using a tested layout. This OSHA regulation is especially important for construction workers who are working at heights greater than 10 feet.

For more information on scaffolding regulations, visit OSHA's "A Guide to Scaffold Use in the Construction Industry". For training on OSHA's scaffolding regulations, you can earn a certificate of completion here.

Safety & Prevention Tips

  • Provide barriers around edges to prevent falls
  • Use guardrail supports on platforms
  • Limit worker access to scaffolding areas
  • Pay attention to the weight capacity on scaffolding structures

#5 - Powered Industrial Trucks

Powered industrial trucks include forklifts and motorized hand trucks used in the workplace. There were 2,550 of these serious violations cited last year.

Go to OSHA's website to learn more about the regulations regarding Powered Industrial Trucks.

Safety & Prevention Tips

  • Train operators according to OSHA standards
  • Ensure the competency of truck operators
  • Remove unsafe trucks until they are repaired

#6 - Lockout/Tagout: General Industry

OSHA lockout/tagout violations are related to the standards for controlling hazardous energy during the maintenance and servicing of workplace equipment. There were 2,539 serious lockout/tagout violations cited last year.

Learn more about the regulations here, and you can receive official OSHA training here.

Safety & Prevention Tips

  • Ensure proper testing and positioning of equipment and machines
  • Inspect work areas to remove unnecessary items and verify that the equipment is intact
  • Train employees about energy control procedures

#7 - Respiratory Protection: General Industry

Industries that handle toxic chemicals can put their employees at risk of respiratory conditions. There were 2,493 serious respiratory protection violations cited last year.

For more information on OSHA's Respiratory Protection standards, you can visit the website here.

Safety & Prevention Tips

  • Adhere to medical evaluation requirements
  • Incorporate respirator use and cleaning
  • Provide employees with respiratory protection training and information

#8 - Fall Protection: Training Requirements

Not to be confused with the number-one category, these citations are for failure to train employees properly regarding fall hazards in the workplace. The administration issued 2,109 citations last year for training failures related to fall protection.

OSHA is specific about the training employers must offer to workers who work around raised surfaces, scaffolds, ladders or other fall hazards. You can read them here.

Safety & Prevention Tips

  • Invest in quality fall protection training for all employees
  • Designate a competent person to identify opportunities for improvement
  • Keep a record of all training and ensure all workers are up to date

#9 - Eye and Face Protection: Construction

Thousands of people suffer serious facial injuries each year, including blindness. Those tragedies could have been prevented with proper eye and face protection. Last year saw 2,064 citations for improper use of face or eye personal protective equipment (PPE).

If you're not sure whether the PPE in your workplace meets OSHA standards, read the regulations here.

Safety & Prevention Tips

  • Frequently inventory your PPE to make sure you have enough
  • Enforce the use of provided equipment at all times to prevent accidents
  • Ensure that face and eye protection meets standards for chemical, environmental, radiological, mechanical and other hazards

#10 - Machine Guarding: General Industry

Machine guarding helps protect machine operators and employees in the vicinity from potential hazards, which include rotating parts, flying chips and sparks. Last year, 1,635 serious machine guarding incidents were cited.

More information on the OSHA's Machine Guarding regulations is available here. If you or your employees need Machine Guarding training, you can receive an official OSHA Machine Guarding Certificate through this class.

Safety & Prevention Tips

  • Properly anchor fixed machinery
  • Use extreme caution with blades
  • Monitor all points of operation