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OSHA's Top 10 Violations of 2020

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Deputy Director, Directorate of Enforcement Programs Patrick Kapust recently unveiled its preliminary Top 10 list of the most cited violations for the fiscal year 2020. Moderated by Safety+Health Associate Editor Kevin Druley, Kapust presented the preliminary data via an exclusive webinar organized by the National Safety Council’s (NSC) Safety+Health magazine on Feb. 26, 2021.

Once again, Fall Protection – General Requirements maintained its No. 1 position, which is the tenth consecutive year it has held that spot, according to the NSC. Notable changes include Ladders (No. 5) making its way into the Top 5 most-cited violations; Lockout/Tagout (No. 6) falling two positions from No. 4 in 2019; and Respiratory Protection (No. 3) rising two spots from No. 5 in 2019.

In reviewing the data from 2020, it is important to note that the overall number of citations from the Top 10 list decreased from 2019 to 2020.

No. 1: Fall Protection – General Requirements

For the tenth consecutive year, according to the NSC, Fall Protection — General Requirements has held its position as the most frequently cited violation. Associated with 1926.501, which sets requirements for employers to provide fall protection systems for their employees, this category did see a drop from 6,010 violations in 2019 to 5,424 citations in 2020. That count makes it the lowest total count of fall-related violations since 2014, according to past data.

No. 2: Hazard Communication

Hazard Communication maintained its No. 2 position from 2019. However, this category saw 472 fewer citations in 2020 than it did in 2019 for a total of 3,199 violations. As of March 2012, its requirements, based on 1910.1200, have been updated to align with the UN Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS), Revision 3. The standards dictate that the hazards of all chemicals produced or imported are classified and the information concerning them is communicated to employers and their employees.

No. 3: Respiratory Protection

Respiratory Protection moved up two positions to No. 3, with a total of 2,649 violations. This is 199 more violations than 2019 witnessed. Affecting many different industries, including General Industry (part 1910), Shipyards (part 1915), Marine Terminals (part 1917), Longshoring (part 1918), and Construction (part 1926), this category follows the rules laid out in 1910.134. Its primary goal is to prevent workers from atmospheric contamination of harmful dusts, fogs, fumes, mists, gases, smokes, sprays, or vapors.

No. 4: Scaffolding

Scaffolding dropped from its No. 3 position in 2019 to No. 4 in 2020. The category saw a total of 2,538 violations compared to 2,813 citations in the previous year. The requirements of 1926.451 lay the groundwork for scaffolding-related safety measures; in most scenarios, each scaffold and scaffold component must be able to support, without failure, its own weight and at least four times the maximum intended load applied or transmitted to it. It is important to note that the standard does not apply to aerial lifts, the criteria for which are laid out exclusively in 1926.453.

No. 5: Ladders

This past year, Ladders, a category that is typically ranked in the lower half of this annual list based on past data, moved into the No. 5 spot from No. 6 in 2019. Despite moving up in ranking, however, the category saw 216 fewer citations in 2020 than in 2019, for a total of 2,129 violations. The Ladders category follows the requirements laid out in 1926.1053, which applies to all ladders, including job-made ones, at various types of job sites and locations.

No. 6: Lockout/Tagout

Lockout/Tagout dropped two rankings in 2020 to take the No. 6 position, making it one of the biggest changes to this year's rankings. It witnessed a total of 2,065 total violations compared to 2,606 in 2019 when it held the No. 4 spot. The 1910.147 standard covers the servicing and maintenance of machines and equipment in which the unexpected energization or start up of the machines or equipment, or releases of stored energy, could harm employees. Additionally, it establishes minimum performance requirements for the control of such hazardous energy.

No. 7: Powered Industrial Trucks

Maintaining the same spot from 2019, the Powered Industrial Trucks category ranks No. 7 with a total of 1,932 violations in 2020, which is 161 fewer citations than the previous year. Standard 1910.178 describes the safety requirements related to fire protection, design, maintenance, and use of fork trucks, tractors, platform lift trucks, motorized hand trucks, and other specialized industrial trucks powered by electric motors or internal combustion engines.

No. 8: Fall Protection — Training Requirements

Fall Protection — Training Requirements also held steady at the No. 8 position. While 2019 saw 1,773 total citations in this category, 2020 saw 152 less citations for a total of 1,621. The requirements of this category are described in 1926.503, which states that employers shall provide a training program for each employee who might be exposed to fall hazards to enable each employee to recognize the hazards of falling and the procedures to be followed to minimize those hazards.

No. 9: Personal Protective and Lifesaving Equipment – Eye and Face Protection

Moving up one position from 2019 to No. 9, Personal Protective and Lifesaving Equipment – Eye and Face Protection had a total of 1,369 violations in 2020, only 42 less than the year before. This category is based on standard 1926.102, which requires that employers ensure each affected employee uses appropriate eye or face protection when exposed to eye or face hazards from flying particles, molten metal, liquid chemicals, acids or caustic liquids, chemical gases or vapors, or potentially injurious light radiation.

No. 10: Machine Guarding

Lastly, Machine Guarding moved down one spot in 2020 to No. 10. Standard 1910.212 requires that one or more methods of machine guarding shall be provided to protect the operator and other employees in the machine area form hazards such as those created by point of operation, ingoing nip points, rotating parts, flying chips, and sparks. Moving in a positive direction, 2020 only saw 1,313 total citations in this category, down 430 from 2019.


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