Knowing and Understanding the Top 10 OSHA Violations

In industries like construction that are very physically demanding, OSHA violations are more likely than in other industries.  However, violations are indeed hard to avoid especially if you don’t know what they are.  In the blue collar industries violations are more common.  Therefore, it is even more important for all workers to know and understand OSHA regulations.

There are several safety measures that OSHA regulates.  However, here are the top 10 so that you can know what is most common to avoid when on the job.  As safe as we try to make job sites, there is always the possibility for danger or accidents.  Familiarizing yourself with the top 10 violations will help both employees and employers recognize potential hazards and more importantly avoid them!

Here are the top 10 OSHA violations.


  1. Fall Protection – Duty to have fall protection – Standard # 1926.501

The number of citations for this violation are nearly twice amount as the #2 spot on this list.  With 5,590 citations in FY2016 (October 2015 – September 2016), this violation is the biggest offender.  When working at heights off the ground, fall protection gear is a requirement, regardless of how experienced the worker may be.  Over confidence, lack of equipment, or just failure to use the equipment will land you with a costly OSHA citation.  Some examples of fall protection are guardrails, safety net systems, and personal fall arrest systems.  One or all of these are required when a worker is working or walking on surfaces with unprotected edges or sides that are 6ft above a lower level.


  1. Scaffolding – General requirements – Standard # 1926.451

About 65% of all construction workers do work on scaffolds, bringing this common violation in at #2.  Those working with and around scaffolds are potentially exposed to falls, electrocutions, or falling objects.  Hard hats should be worn at all times.  As well, gear such as proper work boots and wearing lanyards when working on scaffolds helps to prevent slips and falls and helps protect the workers below them.  One aspect some workers may not think about are weight limits.  The maximum load for the scaffold should be known to all workers and adhered to when loading and unloading materials.


  1. Ladders – Standard # 1926.1053

Almost as frequently as scaffolding, construction jobs sites utilize ladders.  Citations for ladders usually comes from improper use resulting in injury or death.  OSHA recommends maintaining 3 points of contact when ascending or descending a ladder, that being both feet and at least one hand. Furthermore, ladders should be on a stable and solid surface and be secure at the top and at the bottom.  Tools and materials should be carried up using a tool belt or a rope to pull the items up once you’ve finished climbing.  Also, like with scaffolds, adhering to maximum weight limits is crucial.  To check for functionality and for any degradation inspect ladders daily.


  1. Fall Protection – Training requirements – Standard # 1926.503

In addition to the “Duty to have fall protection” workers and employers must understand fall protection.  Training is a must for all workers who work in conditions that require fall protection under OSHA regulation.  Falls make up nearly 40% of all worker deaths.  It is the responsibility of the employer to offer and require fall protection training where applicable.  More importantly maintaining certification records of fall protection planning for all employees is a requirement for employers.


  1. Personal Protective & Life Saving Equipment – Eye and face protection – Standard #1926.102

OSHA has recently updated their standard on eye and face protection that went into effect April 2016.  When working with flying particles, molten metal, liquid chemicals, acids or caustic liquids, chemical gasses or vapors, or potentially injurious light radiation eye and face protection is very important.  When working in any of these conditions employers must provide eye and face protection to workers free of charge.


  1. Toxic & Hazardous Substances – Hazard Communication – Standard #1910.1200

In addition to wearing proper protection when working with hazardous materials understanding its presence and reading labels is just as important.  Implementing a written hazard communication program is a requirement for employers.  Employers should have and employees should be able to read and understand Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS).


  1. General Safety & Health Provisions – Standard #1926.20

These violations are a more general nature and relate to workers knowing that there are protections in place for their safety while working on a job site.  This includes proper training for specific duties and being provided with personal protection equipment (PPE).  On the part of employers, implementing safety programs is a requirement.


  1. Personal Protective & Life Saving Equipment – Head protection – Standard #1926.100

Although these particular violations have gone down by 36% in just one year, they still remain one of the most common.  Workers are required to wear head protection wherever there is a chance for anything falling from above.  The best general rule is to wear hard hats on all construction sites.


  1. Scaffolds – Aerial lifts – Standard #1926.453

Aerial lifts fall under scaffolding.  Workers must be trained and authorized to operate an aerial lift.  Possible hazards with aerial lifts include falling and ejections from the lift platform, tip-overs and structural failures of the lift, electric shock, and contact with overhead objects.  Employers are responsible for training and authorizing workers to operate the equipment as well as ensuring aerial lifts are in good operating condition.


  1. Fall Protection – Systems criteria and practices – Standard #1926.502

The third time on this list, violations falling under fall protection are the most frequent.  This aspect relates to the requirements and provisions for the different types of fall protection.  This covers everything from minimum tensile strength for components of personal fall arrest systems to guardrail height requirements.  Employers must ensure they install fall protection systems before any employees begin work.  Employers should also monitor these requirements and be able to identify fall hazards and warn workers.



Awareness and knowledge of these common violations will help both employers and employees avoid them in the future.  This will also help the downward trend in yearly reported violations.  While the types of violations are usually the same year over year, there are less and less each year.  This means workers and employers are taking note of these hazards and working to stay within OSHA regulations for a safe work environment.

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