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Are You in Compliance? OSHA's 10 Most Cited Violations

Each year, OSHA names the most cited violations it encountered during its workplace safety inspections that year. The seminar, “Avoiding OSHA’s Top 10 Safety Violations,” provided insight on the most frequently issued citations and industry best practices for reducing the hazards.

No matter the industry, learning and following safety techniques is crucial in protecting your business and your employees — and the manufacturing sector is definitely no exception.

As part of my experience at the 2015 Grainger Show in Orlando last month, I was fortunate enough to take part in a seminar focused around maintaining a safe and healthy workplace.

By staying in compliance of the many regulations, manufacturers can be sure to reduce or even eliminate hazardous scenarios.

Each year, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, names the most cited violations it encountered during its workplace safety inspections that year. The seminar, “Avoiding OSHA’s Top 10 Safety Violations,” provided insight on the most frequently issued citations and industry best practices for reducing the hazards.

Fun Facts:

  • The average penalty per serious violation costs around $2,000?
  • OSHA finds an average of 3.1 violations per inspection.
  • 81 percent of violations are in categories that result in higher fines.
  • Of the 63 states (including all U.S. territories), there are 25 “state-plan states.” These states allow individual plants to submit a personal safety plan to follow instead of the federal plan.

When OSHA got its start in 1970, businesses were not a fan of Big Brother telling them what to do. Plant managers didn’t want to be told how to run their company, but alas the health agency is dedicated to the basic proposition that no worker should have to choose between their life and their job.

In helping shine a light on the importance of safety, the Grainger Show included a variety of offerings on the show floor, such as the “shoe mobile” trailer that was filled with protective footwear and the “spot the hazard” game located inside Grainger Town.

The safety seminar, though, really brought it home by providing the top 10 safety violations of 2014. Starting from 10 and working our way to number one:

#10 Electrical Systems

Last year, OSHA cited 2,427 federal violations in electrical systems. This area includes knowing regulations like“Do you have 36 inches of space in front of a cabinet?” and “When is it appropriate to use temporary electrical wire?”

What you can do:

Employees should be following the factory instructions when designing, installing and using electrical equipment to help stay in compliance and avoid workplace incidents.

#9 Machine Guarding

OSHA cited 2,520 federal violations last year inmachine guarding. Moving machine parts create major workplace hazards and potential machine-related injuries, making machine guards vitally important. Incorporating safeguards can help you protect your workers from preventable injuries.

What you can do:

Guard your machinery to help protect operators and others from hazards such as rotating parts, flying chips, sparks and other dangers.

#8 Electrical Wiring

OSHA found 2,907 violations last year in electrical wiring. According to the Grainger site, it only takes 50 milliamperes to cause death. It is important to realize that an electrical shock may not be strong enough to cause a fatality, but it could cause you to fall or jolt to dangerous surroundings.

What you can do:

To help avoid wiring violations, make sure to inspect wiring and insulation. Also, you should be taking the extra steps to ensure your electrical equipment is properly grounded.

#7 Ladders

There were 2,967 violations in 2014 involving ladders in construction. Ladders come in a variety of shapes, sizes and materials, and OSHA has separate regulations for both portable wood ladders and portable metal ladders. No matter the type of ladder, it’s important to be in compliance.

What you can do: When selecting a ladder, consider the length needed, the ladder’s duty rating and the environment in which the work will be performed.

#6 Lockout/Tagout

OSHA cited 3,117 violations last year in lockout/tagout procedures. These violations not only included electrical, but also gravity, pneumatic and any other level of energy that is used.

What you can do:

Follow proper lockout/tagout procedures, get the products needed to help prevent the accidental startup of your machinery, and ensure that you lock, tag and try before you commence work.

A horrific example given during the seminar was that of a gentleman who worked for a company for 35 years. He was days away from retirement and he decided to take a shortcut by not locking up the machine. It happened to be shift change and when he went back to flip the switch on the mixer, he didn’t know there was someone in there. The person was ground up in to pieces.

#5 Powered Industrial Trucks

OSHA cited 3,147 violations in 2014 in powered industrial/maintenance trucks. This standard covers the design, maintenance and operation of powered industrial trucks, including forklifts and motorized hand trucks. It also covers operator training requirements.

What you can do:

Maintain your trucks and keeping up to date in operator training, certification on forklifts, motorized hand trucks and pallet trucks is a crucial component in keeping your facility safe.

#4 Respiratory Protection

Last year, there were 3,843 violations found by OSHA in respiratory protection. The standard now specifies what needs fit testing, the kinds of fit tests allowed and the procedures for conducting them.

What you can do:

Be sure to use proper NIOSH-certified respirators to help protect your employees from air contaminants such as dust, fumes, gases, mist, sprays and vapors.

#3 Scaffolding

OSHA cited 4,968 violations last year in scaffolding. The very presence of scaffolding at a job site creates a hazardous work environment. Falls, falling objects and structure instability are all dangerous possibilities.

What you can do:

Follow established guidelines to help protect your employees who are working on or near scaffolding at heights of 10 feet or higher.

#2 Hazard Communication

OSHA cited 6,148 violations last year in Hazard Communication. Also known as “Right-to-Know Law,” this has been in the top OSHA violations for many years. With the incorporation of GHS, labeling is changing, so it’s crucial that every single employee is trained in hazard communication.

What you can do:

Identify and evaluate all chemical hazards in the workplace and then share that critical information with all of your employees.

#1 Fall Protection

In 2014, OSHA cited 7,516 violations in fall protection. Any time a worker is at a height of six feet or more, the worker is at risk and needs to be protected.

What you can do:

Equip all of your employees who are working at heights with the appropriate fall protection gear that complies with the ANSI-Z359 safety standard and OSHA 29 CFR.

Stay Safe

“Bad things can and do happen when you least expect them to,” Dr. W.E. Scott, MPH, PE, Director of Consulting Services at the National Safety Council, said during the seminar.

Scott added that staying in compliance with OSHA is important, but you shouldn’t stop there. Safety is a journey and you should always be doing more for your employees, he said.

“Forget the fines,” Scott said. “What really matters is doing the best for your employees so everyone can go home safe.”