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The Top 10 OSHA Violations

It happens at the end of each fiscal year; the 10 most cited OSHA violations are released. The hope is that industries will use this data to avoid citations and improve compliance. Remarkably, despite these efforts, not much has changed in recent years. The ten most common OSHA violations remain nearly identical, year after year.

Consider the following data from the fiscal year 2016:

  • Greater than 32,000 inspections were conducted.
  • 10 OSHA violations accounted for over 35,000 citations
  • These OSHA citations totaled up to $500 million in fines


The Importance of Compliance in Construction

Although worker injury is on the decline, there are still 3 million injuries and nearly 4,500 deaths each year.

In the calendar year 2015, the construction industry accounted for 973 deaths (21.4 percent). OSHA violations aren’t the only thing you need to worry about. Businesses face serious liability in the case of serious injury or death.

Let’s take a look at the most common OSHA violations, along with some practical solutions that will help your business remain compliant. Let’s take compliance seriously in an effort to decrease the number of construction-related injuries and deaths.


The 10 Most Common OSHA Violations & How-To Prevent Them

Height-Related Violations:

Fall Protection (No. 1), Scaffolds (No. 3) and Ladders (No. 7)

This is the sixth consecutive year that fall protection tops the list of OSHA violations.

With 13,474 OSHA violations and over $32 million in related fines, height-related violations were the most prevalent in 2016.

Part of the “Fatal Four,” falls accounted for 38.8 percent of construction deaths in 2015. Though preventable, faulty equipment and lack of fall protection are to blame for many these incidents.


While the specific type of fall protection needed varies from job to job, OSHA standards require some type of fall protection when working at six feet or higher.

The following potential violations are relatively easy to spot and have recorded the highest number of violations:

  • Lack of on-site fall protection
  • Defective ladders
  • Scaffolds with inadequate platforms

Make sure everything is up to code for your specific job site. Ensure all safety inspection tags are visible and up to date.

Dangerous Materials/Inhalants Violations:

Hazard Communication (No. 2) and Respiratory Protection (No. 4)

Working with hazardous materials requires proper notification and the right Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Yet, these tend to be significant problems within the construction industry.

How significant?

Well, in 2016 there were over 9,000 HazMat violations.

But even worse is the potential health problems associated with these materials.

Inhaling asbestos, silica and other similarly harmful materials cause both short-term and long-term problems;  leading to cancer, mesothelioma, and numerous other respiratory diseases.


Make sure all hazardous materials are properly labeled, identifying the potential hazards.

Be sure to keep a chemical inventory, as a lack of written records is one of the most cited OSHA violations.

Silica and beryllium both have updated regulations, for example, so it’s crucial to read up on specific details and implementation deadlines. Minimize lung-related issues by providing adequate respiratory protection and proper ventilation.


Machinery Violations: Lockout/Tagout (#5), Powered Industrial Trucks (#6) and Machine Guarding (#8)

Accounting for 8700+ OSHA violations, machinery citations carry the highest fines. and require more employee training than other issues. Aside from violations, machinery malfunctions account for multiple amputations, serious injuries, and deaths. A lack of adequate training coupled with underdeveloped lockout procedures and poor machine guarding have landed these violations in the top 10, year after year.

Moreso, they require a larger amount of employee training, as compared to other issues.

Aside from violations, machinery malfunctions account for multiple amputations, serious injuries, and deaths. A lack of adequate training – coupled with underdeveloped lockout procedures and poor machine guarding – have landed these common OSHA violations in the top 10, year after year.


Properly train all employees before they begin utilizing machines and continue to host training sessions throughout the duration of the job. Make sure that all your lockout/tagout devices are properly affixed and are accompanied by a detailed written procedure. Conduct daily inspections on all powered industrial trucks to avoid safety hazards, and don’t make any vehicle modifications without written approval from the manufacturer. If an employee gets injured, make sure you have the appropriate first aid kits on hand.


Electrical Violations: Electrical Wiring (#9) and Electrical, General Requirements (#10)

Rounding out the list, faulty wiring, unmarked panels, missing covers and other electrical issues have led to over $4 million in fines.

Also part of the “Fatal Four,” electrocutions accounted for 8.6 percent of construction deaths in 2015.

Aside from personal injury, electricity is also one of the top causes of workplace fires. The dangers associated with electricity are well-known, yet electrical violations make the list of top OSHA citations year after year.


When operating machinery that needs to be plugged in, be sure to comply with the manufacturer’s instructions.

If a piece of equipment is marked for personal use, understand that it cannot be used on a job site. Ensure that the both the job site and all equipment is properly marked to protect both workers and civilians.

If working with live wires or other high voltage machines, make sure proper gloves, shoes, and clothing are worn to prevent injury.

If you are unsure about your compliance level, contact OSHA to schedule an On-Site Consultation.

Separate from inspections that result in violations and fines, this program is designed to improve job sites for the well-being of workers. The consultation is free, and there is no penalty for infractions.

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