While any worker in any field could be injured on the job, there are some industries and occupations that are more dangerous than others. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the government agency responsible for creating and enforcing safety standards to protect workers from occupational injuries, tracks the number of citations it issues for various violations of these standards. Reviewing the most common OSHA violations gives one a clear picture of which workers are at risk and why.
Each year, OSHA releases a list of the 10 most common citations given by its inspectors for workplace safety code violations. OSHA releases this list of citations because the administration hopes that employers make changes in the workplace to protect their employees from serious injuries and death.
The most recent list of top OSHA violations applies to the fiscal year 2021, from October 1, 2020, to September 30, 2021.
The top 10 OSHA citations in 2021 were:
- Fall protection, general requirements (5,295 violations)
- Respiratory protection (2,527 violations)
- Ladders (2,026 violations)
- Scaffolding (1,948 violations)
- Improper hazard communications (1,947 violations)
- Lockout/tagout citations (1,698 violations)
- Fall protection, training requirements (1,666 violations)
- Personal protective equipment, eye and face protection (1,452 violations)
- Forklifts/powered industrial trucks (1,420 violations)
- Machine guarding (1,113 violations)
Year to year, the top workplace safety violations reported by OSHA are generally quite similar. Some will move higher on the list than others from one year to the next, but the top 10 usually remain somewhat the same.
For 2020 (from October 1, 2019, to September 30, 2020), the most common citations handed out by OSHA were:
- Fall protection, general requirements (5,424 violations)
- Improper hazard communications (3,199 violations)
- Respiratory protection (2,649 violations)
- Scaffolding (2,538 violations)
- Ladders (2,129 violations)
- Lockout/tagout citations (2,065 violations)
- Forklifts/powered industrial trucks (1,932 violations)
- Fall protection training (1,621 violations)
- Personal protective equipment, eye and face protection (1,369 violations)
- Machine guarding (1,313 violations)
Top Three OSHA Violations: Taking a Closer Look
Every year, fall protection is at the top of the list of most common OSHA violations. Falls are also the leading cause of death in construction in the United States each year. Citations for fall protection in this category relate to employers failing to provide sufficient safety measures to prevent workers from falling from heights.
Millions of American workers wear respirators on the job. They are meant to provide protection from harmful substances and environments where workers would not get enough oxygen without them. Violations occur when employers do not provide the right type of respirator, use defective respirators, or do not properly train employees on respirator use.
While they are valuable pieces of equipment in many industries, ladders can cause serious injuries or even death if they are used improperly. Employers have an obligation to properly train employees on ladder safety and to ensure ladders are in proper working order. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 836 people were killed in ladder falls at work from 2011 to 2016.
Why OSHA Is Vital to Reducing Workplace Fatalities
While some employers may view OSHA requirements as tedious and expensive, they exist for valid reasons. Before the government created OSHA in 1970, the American workplace was facing a health crisis. After nearly 100 years of industrial growth, government leaders realized that the integrity of the massive United States economy depends on the well-being of the workers who made it so successful.
While worker fatalities have improved since the earliest days of the 19th century’s Industrial Revolution, serious injuries and fatalities are still occurring at an alarming rate. In 1970, about 38 workers died each day in the United States. As of the most recent statistics, OSHA estimates that its regulations have helped lower the fatality rate at American jobs to about 14 each day. The organization also advertises that it has lowered the injury and illness rate of United States workers from 10.9 per 100 to 2.8 per 100 over the last four decades of its existence.