OSHA Cites the Most Common Safety Violations in 2021
Federal law authorizes the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to enforce workplace safety standards to ensure that working men and women have safe workplaces.
OSHA conducts on-site inspections of worksites to enforce federal laws that are intended to prevent workplace accidents and protect workers. Inspections occur without advance notice, and violations of standards may lead to citations and fines.
Each year, OSHA publishes a list of the top 10 most frequently violated safety standards based on federal OSHA worksite inspections. OSHA says the list is meant to alert employers about these commonly cited standards so they can take steps to identify and correct safety hazards before OSHA shows up.
Patrick Kapust, deputy director of OSHA’s Enforcement Programs, presented the 2021 top 10 OSHA violations to the National Safety Council Safety Congress & Expo in October.
OSHA Top Violations
- Fall Protection – General Requirements (Standard 1926.501) This was OSHA’s most frequently cited safety violation for the eleventh year in a row in 2021. The fall protection standard outlines working conditions in which fall protection is required, which systems are appropriate for given situations, and the proper supervision of employees to prevent falls. The standard is designed to protect employees while they are on work platforms or walking surfaces 6 feet or higher above the ground that has unprotected sides.
“Fall hazard violations continue to top the list because they are present in so many workplaces, whether from the use of stairways, ladders, scaffolding, unprotected floor holes, wall openings or any activity carried out on an elevated work surface,” Kapust told the NSC’s Safety + Health magazine. “Employers need to evaluate their workplaces to identify and abate fall hazards on a continual basis – not just once at the beginning of a job or process.”
- Respiratory Protection (1910.134). These standards include directions for establishing or maintaining a respiratory protection program, including respirator selection, worksite-specific procedures, training, and rules for use, cleaning, maintenance, and repair of equipment. Kapust said the COVID-19 pandemic had a slight influence on Respiratory Protection violations, with the rate of Respiratory Protection violations per inspection increasing from 5.3% in FY 2020 to 6.5% in FY 2021.
- Ladders (1926.1053). This standard covers general safety requirements for use of ladders. Most violations were related to the setup and use of portable ladders, using ladders for purposes they were not designed for, standing on the top or top step, and carrying improper loads on ladders.
- Scaffolding (1926.451). This standard addresses general safety requirements for scaffolding and employers’ responsibility to protect construction workers from falls and falling objects while they work on or near scaffolding at heights of 10 feet or higher.
- Hazard Communication (1910.1200). This standard addresses chemical hazards – whether produced in the workplace or imported to the workplace – and requirements for advising workers of these hazards. It includes requirements to maintain Safety Data Sheets for each hazardous chemical at a worksite.
- Lockout/Tagout (1910.147). The standard outlines requirements for controlling hazardous energy as high voltage machines are serviced and maintained to prevent unexpected energization or startup of machines or equipment, or the release of stored energy, which could harm employees.
- Fall Protection, Training Requirements (1926.503). The standard requires a training program to teach workers to recognize and minimize fall hazards and with written certification of employees who have completed the training program.
- Personal Protective and Lifesaving Equipment, Eye and Face Protection (1926.102). The standard addresses the requirement for appropriate eye protection and personal protective equipment for workers exposed to eye or face hazards, such as flying particles or gases or vapor, and the availability of PPE to workers.
- Powered Industrial Trucks (1910.178). The standard addresses the design, maintenance, and operation of powered industrial trucks and operator training requirements, including for forklifts and motorized hand trucks.
- Machine Guarding (1910.212). The standard addresses how machinery should be guarded to protect operators and other workers from hazards created by point of operation, ingoing nip points, rotating parts, flying chips, and sparks.
“Employers should review their work processes and determine the hazards in their workplace by completing job hazard analyses,” Kapust said. He said employers should encourage workers to report unsafe conditions and should train employees to recognize hazards related to the Top 10 list. “Employers should also review their injury and illness logs and implement measures to eliminate identified hazards,” Kapust said.
Do You Know a Company Violating OSHA Standards?
West Virginia residents are familiar with the explosion at the Optima Belle chemical plant in Belle, WV, which killed one worker and left two others hospitalized in December 2020. OSHA proposed a $12,288 fine against the chemical company. “Employees were exposed to over-pressurization and explosion hazards while operating a chemical drying process” because “(t)he employer failed to take steps to prevent decomposition and over-pressurization / explosion during the drying process,” the OSHA citation says. Optima Belle LLC has contested the fine.
You don’t have to wait for a tragedy to occur at your workplace. If you know of unsafe work practices or an unsafe work environment, you have the right to report it to OSHA. The Occupational Safety and Health Act prohibits employers from retaliating against you for reporting unsafe work conditions.
You have the right to file a confidential safety and health complaint and request an OSHA inspection of your workplace if you believe there is a serious hazard or if you think your employer is not following OSHA standards.
You have the right to whistleblower protection if you believe your employer has retaliated against you for exercising your rights as an employee to contact and report conditions to OSHA.
Contact a Workplace Injury Lawyer If You Need Legal Help in WV
Workplace accidents occur in many ways. The workplace injury attorneys at Jividen Law Offices, PLLC in Wheeling, WV, can advise you about your eligibility for workers’ compensation benefits if you have been injured at work. We can help you seek the full benefits available by law and appeal a denied workers’ compensation claim.
Contact Jividen Law Offices today by phone or online for a free legal consultation with one of our experienced West Virginia work injury lawyers.