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Exposed: OSHA's Top 10 Workplace Safety Violations

OSHA's Top 10 Workplace Safety Violations Every Year


Every year OSHA releases the infamous Top 10 list and every year there is little change. Why is this list important and why should top management quit ignoring it?

Caution Sign on Wall, OSHA Top 10 Violations

At the National Safety Council 2019 Congress & Expo, OSHA released the results of the Top 10 standards most frequently cited for violations across all industries for which OSHA standards apply. OSHA issued nearly 27,000 citations in its Top 10 categories during 2019.

Knowing how workers are hurt can go a long way toward keeping them safe,” said National Safety Council President and CEO Deborah A.P. Hersman. “The OSHA Top 10 list calls out areas that require increased vigilance to ensure everyone goes home safely each day.”

Deputy director of OSHA'S Directorate of Enforcement Programs, Patrick Kapust, said that the results haven’t changed much over the years. While it may feel like a broken record playing over and over again, it's really an opportunity for employers to change their tune about workplace safety by proactively identifying hazards and training employees to work safely.

Kapust recommends business owners and employers take a simple approach when reviewing this list of violations. “Take the list,” Kapust said, “and look at your own workplace off of that list. ‘These are the things OSHA is finding. Would they find these at my workplace?’ It’s a good place to start.”

Hazard Sign, Exclamation Point

Here are the top OSHA standards most often cited for violations during 2019. This list doesn’t vary greatly from year to year and this list always includes both Construction (1926) and General Industry (1910) standards.

There was only one minor difference from last year's list. Lockout/Tagout, which ranked fifth in 2018, climbed one spot to No. 4, trading places with Respiratory Protection.

1.      Fall Protection 1926.501

Fall Protection has been the number one most cited violation for the past several years. The fall protection standard is designed to prevent falls, which, according to statistics, account for just about 40 percent of deaths in the construction industry. Not surprisingly, most fall accidents happen on residential work sites where there is little oversight given to fall protection requirements.

To prevent fall injuries and fatalities, it is critical that employers supply their workers with guardrail systems, safety net systems or personal fall arrest systems when working at heights is required. In addition to just providing proper fall protection, the employer is also responsible for ensuring that all employees are trained on how to properly use fall protection and know when to use it.

Worker Using Fall Protection

OSHA has set requirements for employers to provide fall protection for their workers that are working on unstable surfaces or work sites that have unprotected sides and edges. Employers can provide fall prevention training by a competent person or they may prefer that their workers complete construction training courses that cover fall hazards and prevention at regional OSHA Training Institute Education Centers.

The sections of the Fall Protection standard that are most often cited for violations include residential construction, unprotected sides or edges, roofing work and floor holes including skylights.

2.      Hazard Communication 1910.1200

The Hazard Communication standard addresses chemical hazards produced or used in the workplace. OSHA’s standard for hazard communication is in line with the international standard but this is still the #2 most cited OSHA violation. The hazard communication rule has not been properly implemented by a large percentage of businesses and it’s clear that many workers are not being trained on the new standards that went into effect in 2013.

Hazardous Materials in Workplace

The sections of the Hazard Communication standard that are most often cited for violations by OSHA include implementation of the hazcom program, training on hazardous materials, and requirements to develop and maintain Safety Data Sheets.

3.      Scaffolding 1926.451

The OSHA Scaffolding standard covers safety requirements for scaffolding, which should be designed by a qualified person and constructed exactly in accordance with that design. Employers are required to protect all workers that use scaffolding from falls and falling objects. In addition, all scaffolds should be inspected by a competent person before use by the workers. The workers affected the most by scaffolding hazards include those in charge of framing, roofing, siding, and masonry.


The sections of the Scaffolding standard that are most often cited for OSHA violations include fall protection including guardrail systems, use of cross-braces for access, and planking/decking.

4.      Lockout/Tag out 1910.147

Lockout/Tagout (LOTO) affects workers that service, repair and maintain equipment or machines. Hazards exist if the equipment being handled can suddenly become energized or started during work.

Lockout Tagout on Industrial Equipment

For companies that require LOTO procedures, these are the sections of the LOTO standard that OSHA has cited most often for violations: general procedures, energy control program, periodic inspections, and training.

5.      Respiratory Protection 1910.134

OSHA’s Respiratory Protection standard directs employers on establishing and maintaining a respiratory protection program in the workplace. All aspects of respiratory protection are covered in this standard including procedures, administration, selection, training, fit testing, evaluation, use, cleaning, maintenance and repair. Employers should be familiar with OSHA’s requirements for voluntary use of respirator dust masks too!.

Painter wearing Respiratory Protection

The sections of the Respiratory Protection standard that are most often cited for violations by OSHA include medical evaluations, respiratory protection requirements, fit testing, failure to establish a necessary respiratory protection program and identifying respiratory hazards in the workplace.

To round out the Top 10 list, standards with the most cited OSHA violations in 2019 were:

6.     Ladders 1926.1053

7.      Powered Industrial Trucks 1910.178

8.      Fall Protection - Training Requirements 1926.503

9.      Machine Guarding 1910.212

10.     Eye and Face Protection 1926.102

"As an employer, what this list can do is give you a place to start," Kapust says. "You can take a look at this list, identify root causes, perform analysis and stop an injury before it occurs."

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