Common Yet Costly OSHA Violations You Can’t Afford to Ignore

Most Common Citations OSHA

What are the most common violations of occupational safety and health standards? What will OSHA look for in an organization if and when someone visits your company? What is the best way to protect your workers today, tomorrow and long into the future? All this and more in the latest Optimum Safety Management article featuring the most cited occupational safety and health standards.

Each year, OSHA releases its top violations, and Safety+Health Magazine analyzes the data to develop an in-depth look at the top citations and sections violated, as well as the top offenders and more.

Most Frequently Cited OSHA Standards (FY 2014)

Each year, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) releases its ‘Top 10’ list of most commonly cited standards from its year of inspections. The goal of course is to help warn employers what inspectors will be looking for during an inspection.

Note: Data current of November 4, 2014

1. Fall Protection (29 CFR 1926.501)

“The employer shall determine if the walking/working surfaces on which its employees are to work have the strength and structural integrity to support employees safely. Employees shall be allowed to work on those surfaces only when the surfaces have the requisite strength and structural integrity.” (29 CFR 1926.501(a)(2))

  • Number of Violations (FY 2014): 7,516
  • Number of Violations (FY 2013): 8,739
  • Number of Violations (FY 2012): 7,250

Top Five Fall Protection Sections Cited

  1. Residential Construction—1926.501(b)(13)
  2. Unprotected sides and edges—1926.501 (b)(1)
  3. Roofing work on low-slope roofs—1926.501(b)(10)
  4. Steep roofs—1926.501(b)(11)
  5. Protection from Falling Through Holes—1926.501(b)(4)(i)

2. Hazard Communication (29 CFR 1910.501)

“The purpose of this section is to ensure that the hazards of all chemicals produced or imported are classified, and that information concerning the classified hazards is transmitted to employers and employees.” (29 CFR 1910.1200(a)(1))

  • Number of Violations (FY 2014): 6,148
  • Number of Violations (FY 2013): 6,556
  • Number of Violations (FY 2012): 4,696

Top Five Hazard Communication Sections Cited

  1. Providing employees with information and training–1910.501(h)(1)
  2. Maintaining a written hazard communication program–1910.501(e)(1)
  3. Maintaining Safety Data Sheets–1910.501(g)(8)
  4. Chemical container labeling–1910.501(f)(5)
  5. Employee Training on New Label Elements and Safety Data Sheet Formats by December 1, 2013–1910.501(g)(1)

3. Scaffolding (29 CFR 1926.451)

“Each scaffold and scaffold component shall be capable of supporting, without failure, its own weight and at least 4 times the maximum intended load applied or transmitted to it.” (1926.451 (a)(1))

  • Number of Violations (FY 2014): 4,968
  • Number of Violations (FY 2013): 5,724
  • Number of Violations (FY 2012): 3,814

Top Five Scaffolding Violations Cited

  1. Fall Protection—1926.451(g)
  2. Planking or decking requirements—1926.451(b)(1)
  3. Point of access for scaffold platforms—1926.451(e)
  4. Criteria for Supported Scaffolds—1926.451(c)
  5. Use of Scaffolds and Components not to exceed rated capabilities—1926.451(f)(1)

4. Respiratory Protection (29 CFR 1910.134)

“In the control of those occupational diseases caused by breathing air contaminated with harmful dusts, fogs, fumes, mists, gases, smokes, sprays, or vapors, the primary objective shall be to prevent atmospheric contamination. This shall be accomplished as far as feasible by accepted engineering control measures (for example, enclosure or confinement of the operation, general and local ventilation, and substitution of less toxic materials).” (1910.134(a)(1))

  • Number of Violations (FY 2014): 3,843
  • Number of Violations (FY 2013): 4,153
  • Number of Violations (FY 2012): 2,371

Top Five Respiratory Protection Violations Cited

  1. Establishing and implementing written respirator protection program—1910.134(c)(1)
  2. Medical evaluation general requirements—1910.134(e)(1)
  3. Ensuring employer used respirators are fit tested—1910.134(f)
  4. Training and Information—1910.134(k)
  5. Selection of Respirators—1910.134(d)

5. Powered Industrial Trucks (29 CFR 1910.178)

Definition: This section contains safety requirements relating 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. This section does not apply to compressed air or nonflammable compressed gas-operated industrial trucks, nor to farm vehicles, nor to vehicles intended primarily for earth moving or over-the-road hauling. (1910.178(a)(1))

  • Number of Violations (FY 2014): 3,147
  • Number of Violations (FY 2013): 3,544
  • Number of Violations (FY 2012): 1,993

Top Five Violations Cited

  1. Ensuring Competency of Powered Industrial Truck Operators—1910.178(l)(1)(i)
  2. Removal from Service of Any Power-Operated Industrial Truck Not in Safe Working Condition—1910.178(q)(1)
  3. Taking truck out of service when repairs are necessary—1910.178(p)(1)
  4. General Requirements—1910.178(a)
  5. Trucks Shall Not be Driven Up to Anyone Standing in Front of a Bench or Other Fixed Object—1910.178(m)(1)

6. Lockout/Tagout (29 CFR 1910.147)

“This standard covers the servicing and maintenance of machines and equipment in which the unexpected energization or start-up of the machines or equipment, or release of stored energy, could harm employees. This standard establishes minimum performance requirements for the control of such hazardous energy.” (1910.147(a)(1)(i))

  • Number of Violations (FY 2014): 3,117
  • Number of Violations (FY 2013): 3,505
  • Number of Violations (FY 2012): 1,572

Top Five Violations Cited

  1. Energy control program—1910.147(c)(1)
  2. Application of Control—1910.147(d)
  3. Testing or Positioning of Machines, Equipment, or Components—1910.147(f)(1)
  4. The work area shall be inspected to ensure that nonessential items have been removed and to ensure that machine or equipment components are operationally intact—1910.147(e)(1)
  5. Scope, Application, and Purpose for Hazardous Energy Control—1910.147(a)

7. Ladders (29 CFR 1926.1053)

  • Number of Violations (FY 2014): 2,967
  • Number of Violations (FY 2013): 3,524
  • Number of Violations (FY 2012): 2,310

Top Five Ladder Violations Cited

  1. Requirements for portable ladders used for accessing upper landing surfaces—1926.1053(b)(1)
  2. Ladder use only for its design purpose—1926.1053(b)(4)
  3. Not using the top or top step of stepladder as a step—1926.1053(b)(13)
  4. Marking portable ladders with structural defects with tags noting them as defective—1926.1053 (b)(16)
  5. Ladders Shall be Used only on Stable and Level Surfaces unless Secured–1926.1053(b)(6)

8. Electrical—Wiring Methods (29 CFR 1910.305)

“Metal raceways, cable trays, cable armor, cable sheath, enclosures, frames, fittings, and other metal noncurrent-carrying parts that are to serve as grounding conductors, with or without the use of supplementary equipment grounding conductors, shall be effectively bonded where necessary to ensure electrical continuity and the capacity to conduct safely any fault current likely to be imposed on them. Any nonconductive paint, enamel, or similar coating shall be removed at threads, contact points, and contact surfaces or be connected by means of fittings designed so as to make such removal unnecessary.” (1910.305(a)(1)(i))

  • Number of Violations (FY 2014): 2,907
  • Number of Violations (FY 2013): 3,709
  • Number of Violations (FY 2012): 1,744

Top Five Wiring Methods Violations Cited

  1. Flexible cords and cables shall be approved for conditions of use and location–1910.305(g)(1)(i)
  2. Conductors entering boxes, cabinets or fittings are protected from abrasion—1910.305(b)(1)(i)
  3. Effective bonding of Metal raceways, cable trays, cable armor, cable sheath, enclosures, frames, fittings, and other metal noncurrent-carrying parts that are to serve as grounding conductors —1910.305(a)(1)(i)
  4. Fixtures, lampholders, lamps, rosettes, and receptacles may have no live parts normally exposed to employee contact—1910.305(j)(1)(i)
  5. Cabinets, cutout boxes, fittings, boxes and panelboard enclosures shall be fitted to prevent moisture or water accumulations within enclosures—1910.305(e)(1)

9. Machine Guarding (29 CFR 1910.212)

“One or more methods of machine guarding shall be provided to protect the operator and other employees in the machine area from hazards such as those created by point of operation, ingoing nip points, rotating parts, flying chips and sparks. Examples of guarding methods are-barrier guards, two-hand tripping devices, electronic safety devices, etc.” (1910.212(a)(1))

  • Number of Violations (FY 2014): 2,520
  • Number of Violations (FY 2013): 2,852
  • Number of Violations (FY 2012): 2,097

Top Five Machine Guarding Violations Cited

  1. Types of guarding—1910.212(a)(1)
  2. Point of operation guarding—1910.212(a)(3)(ii)
  3. Anchoring fixed machinery—1910.212(b)
  4. General Machine Guard requirements—1910.212(a)(2)
  5. Exposure of blades—1910.212(a)(5)

10. Electrical: General Requirements (29 CFR 1910.303)

“Electric equipment shall be free from recognized hazards that are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees.” (1910.303(b)(1))

  • Number of Violations (FY 2013): 2,427
  • Number of Violations (FY 2013): 2,932
  • Number of Violations (FY 2012): 1,332

Top Five Electrical Violations Cited

  1. Examination of equipment—1910.303(b)(1)
  2. Space around electric equipment—1910.303(g)(1)
  3. Disconnecting Means and Circuits—1910.303(f)
  4. Identification of Manufacturer and Ratings—1910.303(e)(1)
  5. Devices such as pressure terminal or pressure slicing connectors and soldering lugs shall be identified for the material of the conductor and shall be properly installed and used—1910.303(c)(1)(i)


Even if citations are down doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be ever-vigilant. If you’re looking for tips and tricks to learn the true return on safety that your organization can recognize, sign up for the Optimum Safety Management mailing list.

If you’re ready to take the next steps not only to ensure a culture of safety, but recognize the ongoing improvements to profitability and productivity that come with it; contact Optimum Safety Management today.


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