Sometimes we get caught up in the hustle and bustle of everyday tasks including working our tails off to get the job done in a timely manner. However, sometimes that means we forget about implementing the safety protocols put in place. And, those safety protocols are there for a reason… to protect our biggest asset, our employees! When those protocols aren’t met, the employer can be cited with OSHA violations.

Are you worried you’re missing some of the regulations put in place and not even knowing it? Or, maybe you know but can’t pin point what it is or how to remedy the situation. Conversely, maybe you just need a refresher or good reason to start implementing those safety protocols again. I’m writing today to both inform and remind you. The safety to both you and your crew is worth a few extra minutes and dollars to implement. Here are the top 10 most frequently cited workplace safety OSHA violations in 2021.

OSHA Violations - Fall Protection

1. Fall Protection – General Requirements (1926.501):

First, is the citation that just keeps topping the list. A few years running topping the list is fall protection. Fall protection had a shocking 5,295 OSHA violations cited in 2021. What is fall protection? Fall protection means you are eliminating the risk of a worker falling from a dangerous height. For example, this can be using a lanyard if your on a rooftop or scaling a building. Or, by installing guard rails to signal a fall risk from a rooftop or around a hole in the ground such as a trench or sewer. There are many types of fall protection, including passive fall protection measures, you can learn more about that here.

The general rule of thumb for fall protection is employers must set up the work place to prevent employees from falling off of overhead platforms, elevated work stations or into holes. OSHA requires that fall protection be provided at elevations of four feet in general industry workplaces, five feet in shipyards, six feet in the construction industry and eight feet in longshoring operations. In addition, OSHA requires that fall protection be provided when working over dangerous equipment and machinery, regardless of the fall distance.

To prevent employees from being injured from falls, employers must:
  • Guard every floor hole where a worker can accidentally walk (using a railing and toe-board or a floor hole cover).
  • Provide a guard rail and toe-board around every elevated open sided platform, floor or runway.
  • Regardless of height, if a worker can fall into or onto dangerous machines or equipment (such as a vat of acid or a conveyor belt) employers must provide guardrails and toe-boards to prevent workers from falling and getting injured.
  • Other means of fall protection that may be required on certain jobs include safety harness and line, safety nets, stair railings and hand rails.



2. Respiratory Protection (1910.134):

Second, is the category of respiratory protection which had a staggering 2,527 citations in 2021. Looking a little closer, respiratory protection is the use of masks in hazardous environments such as (but not limited to):

  • Ventilation system maintenance
  • Cement work creating dust
  • Paint sanding &/or scraping
  • Paint stripping
  • Wood sanding, cutting & grinding
  • Healthcare workers (N95 only)

Respiratory masks often require fit testing to ensure the mask is sealing properly around your face. If you need fit testing done, we can provide that service for you & your staff. We can come out to you or you are welcome to come to our office. Read more about fit testing importance here.

3. Ladders (1926.1053):

Third, is the proper use of ladders. According to OSHA requirements, ladders shall be used only on stable and level surfaces unless secured to prevent accidental displacement. As well as, ladders shall not be used on slippery surfaces unless secured or provided with slip-resistant feet to prevent accidental displacement. Even with these regulations in place there were still 2,026 cited violations in 2021. Furthermore, the most common ladder injuries’ stem from falls. This can happen when the ladder is placed on a slippery surface, under measurement/proper placement of the ladder and misuse of a step ladder.  Oftentimes, these misuses are unintentional. However sometimes it’s simply a worker or supervisor choosing to ignore basic safety precautions due to being in a rush or belief that the rules are unnecessary.

One thing to keep in mind when using a ladder to reach something out of height is proper side rail height. The general rule is when a portable ladder is used to access an area out of reach, the side rails must extend at least three feet above the upper landing surface. Too often, this is overlooked because the ladder “looks” tall enough.

Another common violation is with the use of a step ladder; some thinking they can use the top of a stepladder as a step. No one should ever sit, stand, or climb on the top platform of a stepladder. Furthermore, do not use ladders for unintended purposes such as, as scaffolding, bracing, or as a work platform.

Finally, never use a ladder that is structurally unsound. For example, don’t use a ladder that is rusty, dented or cracked. Even if it looks okay, those are hazardous signs telling you it’s structurally unfit to support weight and should not be used.

If you’re in the market of a new ladder, check out the selection we carry. We have options for various jobs at varying heights!

Shop Ladders

Read more about ladder safety and read co-owner, Ken’s story about his fall here.

4. Scaffolding (1926.451):

Fourth, is improper scaffolding use. OSHA states that all suspension scaffolds must be tied or otherwise secured to prevent them from swaying, as determined by a competent person. [29 CFR 1926.451(d)(18)] Guardrails, a personal fall-arrest system, or both must protect your employees that are more than 10 feet above a lower level from falling. In 2021, there were 1,948 citations of this requirement not being met.

There are 6 OSHA scaffolding safety requirements that must be met to ensure the safety of your crew:

  1. Platform. The platform must be able to support it’s own weight plus 4x the maximum expected load. Walkways must be 18″ wide, if it’s narrower than 18″ fall protection must be used.
  2. Support Structure. Components of the support structure must be able to support their weight plus 4x their maximum anticipated load without failure. The support structure should never be modified.
  3. Base. Scaffolding must be build on solid stable foundation as well as it needs to be square and level. Scaffolding frames must be plumbed and braced to prevent swaying and movement.
  4. Fall Protection. When you’re working on scaffolding that is 10 feet or more above ground level fall arrest safety needs to be implemented. Fall arrest may consist of personal fall arrest systems such as a harness or a guardrail system may be used.
  5. Access. This means safe access must be provided for the worker(s) to access the top and well as climb back down. Access can vary from ladders and stair towers to ramps and walkways.
  6. Stability. Scaffoldings become unstable once it’s height is 4x it’s base dimension. Weather and damage to the structure can also affect the stability.



Hazard Communication Tag

5. Hazard Communication (1910.1200):

Fifth, is hazard communication which had 1,947 violations in 2021. All employers with hazardous chemicals in their workplaces must have labels and safety data sheets for their exposed workers, and train them to handle the chemicals appropriately. Furthermore, chemical manufacturers and importers are required to provide a label that includes a harmonized signal word, pictogram, and hazard statement for each hazard class and category. As well as precautionary statements must also be provided. In addition, employers are required to train workers on the new labels elements and safety data sheets format to facilitate recognition and understanding.


OSHA Violations - Lockout Tagout

6. Lockout/Tagout (1910.147):

Lock out, tag .. what??
Procedures for Lockout/tagout (LOTO) are crucial to protect workers from an unexpected release of hazardous energy during machinery maintenance, servicing, and use. However, this is not always completed either because employees are unwilling to follow protocol or just don’t deem the situation necessary. As a result, there were 1,698 violation citations in 2021.
A lock out tagout tag should be attached by the employee whose job responsibilities include operating, servicing or maintaining a machine or equipment that outputs hazardous energy. This also includes employees who have job tasks that may be in areas that lockout or tagout is being performed.
The fatal five main causes of lockout/tagout injuries are nothing to ignore, it can save you or your co-workers life:
  • Failure to stop equipment.
  • Not disconnecting from the power source.
  • Failure to dissipate (bleed, neutralize) residual energy.
  • Accidental restarting of equipment.


7. Fall Protection – Training Requirements (1926.503):

Stemming from the #1 citation in 2021 comes #7. Not only do you need to provide your crew with fall protection but they need training on how to properly use the gear. With that said, before an employee is exposed to a fall hazard, you as the employer must provide training for each employee. Training must be completed for all employees who will use personal fall protection systems. (OSHA)

Combined, these two violations accounted for nearly 7,000 OSHA citations in 2021. Additionally, OSHA estimates that falls account for approximately 36% of all fatal injuries. As a result of improper training there were 1,666 OSHA violations cited in 2021 for failing the training requirements. Similarly to many other OSHA violations, one leading cause of citations is inadequate training. Every employee who could be exposed to fall hazards needs to undergo comprehensive training to identify hazards, use PPE correctly, and install fall protection systems when necessary.

Read more about fall protection and most importantly, have a rescue plan for fall arrest. 


OSHA Violations - PPE

8. Personal Protective and Lifesaving Equipment – Eye and Face Protection (1926.102):

Eight, is proper PPE for your eyes and face. This is a bit shocking as eye and face protection is probably one of the easiest and least cost invasive there is to your safety. Yet it’s consistently listed on the annual top 10 OSHA violations list. Considering you can purchase a pair of safety glasses for a few bucks it’s hard to believe there were 1,452 OSHA violations in 2021 for safety glasses & face protection. On the other hand, maybe they were overwhelmed by all the options out on the market. Choosing the right pair of safety glasses can be daunting, but it’s also the piece of PPE that protects your eyesight.

The general requirements for eye protection is an employer shall ensure that each employee uses appropriate eye or face protection when exposed to eye or face hazards. Hazards include flying particles, molten metal, liquid chemicals, acids or caustic liquids, chemical gases or vapors, or potentially injurious light radiation.

9. Powered Industrial Trucks (1910.178):

Another OSHA violation that shows up in the top 10 year after year is powered industrial trucks, fork lifts. Although forklift violations fell to 1,420 in 2021 from 1,920 in 2020 there’s still a ways to go to ensure the safety of our employees!

The top 5 forklift violations:

  1. Unsafe operation. Driving with an elevated load, driving too fast, driving too close to platform edges and not following loading dock safety procedures are some of the most common reasons for a citation.
  2. Failure to provide refresher training. Every forklift operator must receive refresher training every three years – sooner if they are involved in an accident, near-miss, or when reported for reckless behavior. Forklift operators may also require additional training when they are asked to operate a different class of forklift, or if a change in the workplace has created a new hazard.
  3. Missing/inadequate operator certification. All forklift operators must have an OSHA-approved forklift certification for the class of forklift they utilize.
  4. Not removing unsafe trucks from service. Whenever a forklift is found to be defective, in need of repair, or in any way unsafe, the truck must be taken out of service until it is restored to a safe operating condition.
  5. No pre-operation inspection. 


10. Machine Guarding (1910.212):

Machine guarding is deemed necessary when a machine in use can cause injury to a crew member. According to OSHA requirements 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. In 2021 there were 1,113 OSHA violations for improper & failure to machine guard.


No business wants to become a negative statistic. We can help you maintain your commitment to safety.


To get everyone home safe, give us a call now at 763-786-5350, or toll-free at 888-206-2569.

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