What are OSHA’s Top 10 Violations?April 22, 2021
Recently, safety leaders at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) presented preliminary data concerning the Top 10 workplace safety standard violations for fiscal year 2020. The preliminary Top 10 list was presented during a webinar in conjunction with representatives of Safety+Health magazine. The webinar gave an opportunity to discuss how the revelation of safety trends offers a way to stress the importance of perennial safety efforts and to address today’s emerging safety challenges.
The same workplace risks cited in this year’s round-up of most common violations were at the top of last year’s list. OSHA recently outlined the Top 10 workplace safety standard violations for fiscal year 2020.
Although the standards that made the list address perennial safety risks that make the list repeatedly, there was a bit of shuffling and some new workplace threats behind the reordering since fiscal year 2019.
Not surprising, during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the standards for respiratory protection became more prominent, rising to third on the list from fifth in 2019. Violations involving ladders also moved up the list as well. However, topping OSHA’s list for the 10th year in a row is the standard for general fall protection requirements.
Workers who are injured on the job are urged to contact a seasoned Workers’ Compensation lawyer for assistance.
OSHA’s Top 10 Safety Standard Violations for Fiscal Year 2020
Fall protection: general requirements, 1926.501. With 5,424 violations, fall protection comes in at the top of the list by a significant margin. Falls are a serious problem that accounts for about 700 workplace deaths every year, according to the National Safety Council (NSC), which also reports that almost another 50,000 workers are injured in serious falls at work. When it comes to OSHA’s standards for fall protection, the general requirements call for the employer to provide fall protection, such as rails, guards, safety nets, or personal fall arrest systems. Fall protection should include necessary defense from heights, unsafe edges, and walking surface holes, among other threats. Also included in the standard is the practice of restricting access to areas that present dangerous fall hazards.
Hazard communication, 1910.1200. Accounting for 3,199 incidents, hazard communication violations include incidents in which an employer fails to ensure that dangerous chemicals are properly labeled to enable workers to clearly understand the danger they pose. The communication should instruct workers on appropriate protective equipment necessary as well as safe handling techniques. This communication should include notices of chemicals present in the workplace as well as labeling containers that hold dangerous chemicals. Safety data sheets are a good way to provide this information for any worker who might encounter the substances. Thorough training is also important.
Respiratory protection, 1910.134. Most certainly exacerbated by the safety threats associated with the pandemic, respiratory protection complaints came in at 2,649 violations in 2020. Protective respirators and other devices keep workers safe from many other airborne hazards, beyond the threats of infectious COVID-19 virus particles, but only if they are supplied and used properly. The OSHA standard at the heart of the 2020 violations in this area calls for employers to provide respiratory personal protective equipment that will guard against exposure to dangerous or infectious materials that workers may encounter doing their specific job. Employers are also called to ensure that the respiratory protection program be implemented with the help of a certified official who can identify specific airborne threats and how they should be mitigated.
Scaffolding, 1926.451. Safety violations involving scaffolding made up 2,538 reported incidents. The OSHA standard that sets the rules for use of scaffolds states that the scaffold and scaffold component should be able to support its own weight and a minimum of four times the load it is intended to hold. The standard also talks about the requirements for connections to roofs, floors, and counterweights as well as the use of suspension ropes and hoists, and the appropriate width of walkways and platforms.
Ladders, 1926.1053. Ladders were involved in 2,129 safety breaches in fiscal year 2020. Ladder failures create dangerous situations when official standards are evaded. The standard for stairways and ladders requires that the structure be able to support the load it is being used to hold. The official standard explains the conditions for what load-support ratio is necessary for various types of ladders, stating, for example, that self-supporting ladders should be able to handle at least four times the maximum intended weight. The standard also lays out the requirement that rungs, cleats, and steps must be parallel, level, and uniformly spaced.
Lockout/tagout, 1910.147. Another 2,065 violations involved lockout/tagout protocols. These procedures are meant to ensure that dangerous power controls are turned off before a worker attempts to perform service on a machine. The standard makes it a requirement that employers put in place a plan for how to implement effective lockout/tagout procedures that will work in their situation. Without such a plan, mistakes are more likely to result in injury or death from an active power source.
Powered industrial trucks, 1910.178. Violations that occurred while using powered industrial trucks accounted for 1,932 incidents. Workers have been injured while operating industrial vehicles. Others have been hurt after being struck by one of these vehicles, or by being in the way when a heavy load falls from one. The only way to avoid these types of accidents is to ensure that the truck operators are trained properly to sufficiently adhere to the safety protocols for the machines they use.
Fall protection: training requirements, 1926.503. Distinct from the general requirements for fall safety, as mentioned earlier, the training requirements for fall protection fell short 1,621 times in fiscal year 2020, according to OSHA data. The standard calls for the employer to provide a training program on fall prevention to any employee who will be working in an area or on equipment that presents a danger of a serious fall. The training requirement calls for each such employee to become familiar with the hazards of falling as well as the procedures established to prevent fall accidents, including the installing and maintaining safety equipment used to prevent falls.
Personal protective and life-saving equipment: eye and face protection, 1926.102. In 1,369 adverse safety incidents in the workplace, proper eye and face protection was lacking. According to OSHA’s standard, employers are required to provide eye and face protection that is appropriate for the hazards on the jobsite. Hazards mentioned in the standard that endanger workers’ eyes and faces include flying particles, molten metal, liquid chemicals, acids or caustic liquids, chemical gasses or vapors, and potentially injurious light radiation. The protection device or shield should include appropriate side protection if there is a risk of flying debris or particles. Furthermore, workers who wear glasses must be accommodated in such a way that they have protection that does not interfere with the proper use and function of their prescription lenses.
Machine guarding, 1910.212. Finally, rounding out the Top 10 list, infractions for missing or deficient machine guards amounted to 1,313 reported violations. Machine guards create a barrier that keeps workers away from dangerous machine parts on tools or equipment that can cause injury to fingers; burns to skin; or contact with hot, sharp, or moving parts.
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