OSHA’s Top Ten Workplace Safety Violations for 2020
March 31, 2021
Each year, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) publishes a list of the top ten most frequently cited workplace safety and health violations. Year in and year out the same violations top the list, indicating just how badly employers need to improve when it comes to protecting employees from preventable hazards and substandard, unsafe working conditions. You can read more about last year’s top ten safety violations below.
2020’s Top Ten
The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH) report that more than 50,000 workers die in work incidents each year. According to the council, the majority of these incidents result from long-term occupational illnesses (like ones that develop after exposure to hazardous chemicals and substances or from breathing in dangerous particles) and acute traumatic injuries (like falls, being struck by or caught between incidents and electrocution). Although most incidents are preventable, workers will continue to sustain fatal and non-fatal injuries until employers commit to safe and ethical work practices.
Here are a few key changes – and similarities – to take note of from this year’s list: ladders jumped up into a top five spot, respiratory protection moved from the fifth to third and yet again, fall protection (general requirements) was the number one most frequently cited safety violation in American workplaces. There is no question that reducing fall rates needs to be a priority. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), approximately 700 workers die from falls annually and nearly 50,000 others sustain fall-related injuries that are so serious they require time away from work to recover.
According to OSHA, the agency’s top ten most frequently cited workplace safety violations for the fiscal year 2020 were:
- Fall protection (general requirements). General requirements for fall protection include requiring that the employer provide protective measures at heights above four feet. One exception to the rule is that employers must provide fall protection to employees who are working above hazardous machinery or equipment, regardless of how many feet above it they are
- Hazard communication. The goal of hazard communication is to maintain chemical safety in the workplace. Per OSHA’s hazard communication guidelines, employers must give workers information about what chemicals they will be working with (as well as what their associated hazards are) and provide training on safe handling. Failure to maintain hazard communication can lead to catastrophic illnesses and injuries in workers, like reactive airways syndrome (RADS), silicosis, asthma, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), and different types of toxic inhalation injuries
- Respiratory protection. Employees in work environments with a lack of oxygen or where they will be exposed to harmful fogs, dusts, fumes, vapors, sprays, smokes, or mists need respiratory protection to stay safe and limit dangerous exposures
- Scaffolding violations. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that there are approximately 60 deaths and 4,500 injuries that involve scaffolding each year. To mitigate scaffold-related risks, employers must perform OSHA-mandated safety checklists and utilize proven control methods that reduce dangers
- OSHA has numerous standards in place to promote ladder safety and prevent avoidable incidents from happening. Just a few examples of OSHA’s requirements are an agency-wide standard on the design for rungs and steps, instructions for how workers can climb ladders safely, rules on how to inspect ladders and how often to do so, and certain requirements that pertain to fixed, mobile, and portable ladders
- Lockout/Tagout. Lockout/tagout procedures are in place to ensure that industrial equipment is fully powered down and inoperable while someone is servicing, repairing, or inspecting it. Employers must establish effective energy control programs based on the equipment that workers will be using. The failure to maintain appropriate lockout/tagout procedures can result in dangerous and deadly injuries
- Powered industrial trucks. There are several hazards associated with powered industrial trucks, such as pedestrian safety issues, collisions, and falling load accidents. Employers need to train powered industrial truck operators on how to competently – and safely – operate these vehicles. Powered truck operators must also successfully complete OSHA’s powered industrial truck training and evaluation procedures
- Fall protection (training requirements). Just like with other workplace safety issues, employers must provide training on how to recognize and minimize certain hazards, like those associated with falls
- Personal protective and life saving equipment (eye and face protection). Employers must provide personal protective equipment (PPE) for the eyes and face to workers exposed to hazards like flying particles, caustic or acidic liquids, dangerous levels of light radiation, chemical gases and vapors, molten metal, and liquid chemicals
- Machine guarding. Machine guarding is one of the best ways to prevent workers from coming into dangerous contact with machinery and industrial equipment. Safeguarding machinery protects workers from crushed fingers, amputations, burns, blindness, and a variety of other life-changing injuries. Employers have to safeguard machinery and provide training on how to use and inspect machinery as well
Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim
Every year, countless workplace injuries are the result of employers’ failures to uphold federal health and safety guidelines. Some injured workers are eligible to collect workers’ compensation, which is a type of insurance that provides medical benefits and wage replacement. Filing a worker’s compensation claim can be a complicated and confusing process, but an experienced attorney can help.
At Galfand Berger, our attorneys have a longstanding history of representing injured workers and tirelessly fighting on their behalf to secure their legal rights. In one case, we represented a client who suffered injuries due to an explosion caused by a leak in a natural gas pipe near his worksite. The worker’s injuries were so extensive that he had to undergo three separate surgical procedures. Not only were we able to secure our client the maximum amount of workers’ compensation benefits allowable by law, but we also achieved an $800,000 settlement. You can read about the recovery here: https://www.galfandberger.com/verdicts/workers-compensation/800000-settlement-for-natural-gas-explosion-injuries/.
If you would like to learn more about filing a workers’ compensation claim, contact a representative at our firm online now.
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Galfand Berger LLP has offices located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Reading and Lancaster, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. To schedule a consultation, call us at 800-222-8792 or complete our online contact form.