OSHA’s Top 10 Workplace Hazards and How to Prevent Them.
Towards the end of every year OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration) releases its list of the top 10 safety violations, which includes the specific number of violations reported in each category. Why is this list essential? In a word, guidance.
1. Fall Protection – General Requirements (1926.501): 5,260 violations
(#1 in 2021 with 5,271 violations reported)
For 2022, and for the 12th year in succession, Fall Protection - General Requirements tops the OSHA safety violations list. The construction industry is the most commonly cited sector here, including roofing, framing, and masonry contractors.
Falls are the most common cause of serious work-related deaths and injuries, and the tragedy is that most are entirely preventable if employers follow the guidelines provided by OSHA, and have the necessary safety measures in place.
OSHA requires that fall protection should be provided 4 feet in general industry workplaces, 5 feet in shipyards, 6 feet in construction, and 8 feet in longshoring operations. As an employer you should use railings, toe-boards and floor hole covers, provide guard rails around every elevated open-sided platform, floor or runway, and employ safety harnesses and lines, safety nets, stair railings, safety gates and handrails where appropriate.
2. Hazard Communication (1910.1200): 2,424 violations
(Up 3 places from #5 in 2021 with 1,947 violations reported)
Rising to the #2 spot this year is Hazard Communication (HazCom), with violations up a staggering 24% from last year. HazCom governs the handling of chemicals in the workplace, with a focus on effectively communicating the hazards associated with their handling, shipping, and any form of exposure.
Any industry that requires employees to handle hazardous chemicals must follow OSHA standards, providing staff with available and easily understandable information on just what they’re working with. This includes hazard classification, labels, safety data sheets, and the required training and information. Alongside that, proper PPE should be given to employees, along with equipment to contain and clean up spills and first-aid kits for any chemical burns and exposure.
3. Respiratory Protection (1910.134): 2,185 violations
(Down 1 place from #2 in 2021 with 2,527 violations reported)
Dropping to the #3 spot for 2022 is Respiratory Protection, with reported incidents down 15% from the prior year. Clearly the 2020 pandemic has had an impact on safety standards associated with respiration, and even with supply shortages the numbers have dropped off significantly.
Respirators are essential in protecting workers from harmful dusts, fogs, smokes, mists, gasses, vapors, and sprays. While some of these are mild irritants, others can cause cancer, lung impairment, diseases, or even death. If your workplace is exposing your employees to these kinds of oxygen-limited environments, it’s essential to provide the appropriate respirators that provide the maximum protection for the health and well-being of your staff.
4. Ladders (1926.1053): 2,143 violations
(Down 1 place from #3 in 2021 with 2,026 violations reported)
As you’d expect, most of the cited sub standards for ladder violations come from the construction industry, with an emphasis on roofing, framing, siding and masonry contractors. Improper use of portable ladders is the primary offender here, although incorrect use of fixed ladders, stepladders and employees not following correct load-carrying procedures also make the list.
Whether you’re in construction, warehousing, or any other industry that required your employees to regularly use ladders, make sure you provide correct training and always err on the side of caution with ladder usage. That includes safety cage ladders, tie-down anchor kits, and hard hat usage.
5. Scaffolding (1926.451): 2,058 violations
(Down 1 place from #5 in 2021 with 1,948 violations reported)
In the same zone as ladders is scaffolding, which again requires you to protect workers that are performing jobs in high and dangerous areas. Fall protection violations are often paired with scaffolding errors, and partially planked/decked platforms are often to blame.
Aside from the compulsory training you need to supply in both the construction and use of scaffolding, you should employ fall protection systems (including falling object protection) with your scaffolding, and also hard hats, safety harnesses, body belts, and restraint lanyards.
6. Lockout/Tagout (1910.147): 1,977 violations
(#6 in 2021 with 1,698 violations reported)
Also known as The Control of Hazardous Energy, this category addresses the practices and procedures that must be followed to disable machinery or equipment, thereby preventing the release of hazardous energy while employees perform servicing and maintenance activities. In a nutshell, making sure the machines are off, and stay off, so that employees don’t lose fingers, hands, feet, or even their lives.
Avoiding these violations requires employers to post notices/safety instructions by machines reminding employees to lockout/tagout the equipment. There should also be lockout/tagout equipment at hand, including lockout stations, hasps, gate valves, and toolkits.
7. Powered Industrial Trucks (1910.178): 1,749 violations
(Up 2 places from #9 in 2021 with 1,420 violations reported)
In layman's terms this is primarily about forklift truck usage and safety procedures, and this has moved up on the list with a 23% increase in violations. Mostly applicable to the warehousing and storage, cut stone, and shipyard industries, the big issues here stem from inadequate training (including refresher training and certification) and the appropriate repairs needed to keep the forklifts in top operating condition.
If your business requires the regular use of forklift trucks, remember that poor forklift truck training can lead to serious accidents and deaths. Make sure strobe lights and safety mirrors are used, and put regular maintenance schedules in place. Prevention is way better than the alternative.
8. Fall Protection – Training Requirements (1926.503): 1,556 violations
(Down 1 place from #7 in 2021 with 1,666 violations reported)
It’s interesting to see that while general requirements for fall protection consistently top the list, training requirements are much further down with roughly 70% fewer incidents being reported.
Obviously, the violations cited here all revolve around inadequate incorrect training (and retraining) programs, and most of the incidents on file at OSHA come from the construction industry. There are valuable CD-ROM and DVD training guides available for you to both study and provide to employees, as well as emblems that can be displayed.
9. Personal Protective & Lifesaving Equipment – Eye & Face Protection (1926.102): 1,401 violations
(Down 1 place from #8 in 2021 with 1,452 violations reported)
Eye and face protection is crucial in so many industries, from roofing and construction to chemical plants and medical facilities. If your employees are working in environments that make them more vulnerable to injuries of the face and eyes, it is your responsibility to supply them with excellent protection. This means having a stock of safety glasses and goggles, safety helmets with visors, and concealer goggles.
10. Machine Guarding (1910.212): 1,370
(#10 in 2021 with 1,113 violations reported)
Last on the list (as usual) is machine guarding, which sets the standards for protecting employees when they’re using anything from lathes and table saws to forging machines, mills, printing presses, and industrial guillotines. If you have machines that can cause serious injury and death to employees, ensure those pieces of equipment come with adequate protection. That includes guard doors, rack guards, rubber bummmers and warning labels.
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