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OSHA’s top 10 most cited violations

Year after year, OSHA’s top ten most frequently cited standards remain relatively unchanged. While enforcement efforts focus on these standards, in 2008 the number of Top 10 violations increased almost 30% over the same period in 2008.

One exception to the consistency is ladders. Ladders have gone from not appearing on the list five years ago to #6 this year. While there is no hard data to explain why, OSHA’s Directorate of Enforcement Programs, Richard Fairfax, suggested in an interview with the National Safety Council that employers might be doing more work off ladders that should be done off scaffolding. “Instead of taking the time to erect scaffolding, put up guardrails around scaffolding and then do the work, what they’re doing is putting up a ladder and the person is trying to do the work off the ladder – they lean too far or there’s too much weight on it, and they end up falling off.”

Here is the 2009 top ten:

  1. Scaffolding - 9,444 violations - Scaffold accidents most often result from inadequate fall protection, the planking or support giving way, or from the employee slipping or being struck by a falling object.
  2. Fall Protection – 7,087 violations - Any time a worker is at a height of four feet or more, the worker is at risk and needs to be protected. Fall protection must be provided at four feet in general industry, five feet in maritime and six feet in construction. However, regardless of the fall distance, fall protection must be provided when working over dangerous equipment and machinery. Common violations are failure to provide fall protection in residential construction and failure to provide a guardrail, safety net or personal fall arrest system.
  3. Hazard Communication - 6,728 violations –Chemical manufacturers or importers must assess the hazards of chemicals which they produce or import, and all employers must provide information to their employees about the hazardous chemicals to which they are exposed, by means of a hazard communication program, labels and other forms of warning, material safety data sheets, and information and training. Over a third of the violations relate to failure to develop and maintain a written program.
  4. Respiratory Protection - 4011 violations - Respirators protect workers against insufficient oxygen environments, harmful dusts, fogs, smokes, mists, gases, vapors and sprays. These hazards may cause cancer, lung impairment, other diseases or death. Common violations are failure to establish a written respiratory program, failure to provide medical evaluation to determine employee’s ability to use a respirator and failure to provide respirators to employees.
  5. Lockout-Tag out - 3,431 violations - "Lockout-Tag out" refers to specific practices and procedures to safeguard employees from the unexpected startup of machinery and equipment, or the release of hazardous energy during service or maintenance activities. Common violations are failure to develop, document and utilize procedures as well as conduct periodic inspections.
  6. Ladders - 3,227 violations – Falls remain one of the highest causes of workplace death. Failure to extend a portable ladder at least three feet above the landing surface is the most cited violation.
  7. Electrical (Wiring) - 3,220 violations - This standard covers the grounding of electrical equipment, wiring and insulation. Most common violations include: failure to effectively close conductors entering boxed, cabinets or fitting and protect from abrasion and failure to use flexible cords and cable properly,
  8. Powered Industrial Trucks – 3,071 violations –This standard covers the design, maintenance and operation of powered industrial trucks. Inadequate training and evaluation are the most frequent cited violations that lead to tens of thousands of injuries.
  9. Electrical - 2,661 violations - OSHA's electrical standards are designed to protect employees exposed to dangers such as electric shock, electrocution, fires, and explosions. Common violations include failure to install or use equipment in accordance with factory instructions, insufficient access or working space provided to permit safe operation of equipment and failure to guard live parts.
  10. Machine Guarding - 2,476 violations - Any machine part, function, or process that may cause injury must be safeguarded. When the operation of a machine or accidental contact injures the operator or others in the vicinity, the hazards must be eliminated or controlled. More than one-half the violations stem from failure to provide one or more methods of machine guarding.