The Top 10 Most Commonly Cited Workplace Safety Violations for 2021 December 2, 2021
OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration) just released its updated list of the top ten most commonly cited workplace safety violations for this calendar year. Again, the same safety violations (hazard communication, fall protection, and others) top the list, indicating a significant need for a major safety overhaul aimed at protecting workers from preventable injuries. Despite the ongoing demand for occupational safety and health improvements, OSHA’s most recent report illustrates the significant hazards that American workers encounter on the job every day.
According to the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), 5,333 working individuals died on the job and another 95,000 died from occupational illnesses and diseases in 2019. Those numbers mean that 275 workers lose their lives from dangerous working conditions each day. Acute traumatic injuries like falls, electrocution, and being struck by or caught between incidents and occupational illnesses that develop after long-term exposure to hazardous chemicals and substances or from breathing in dangerous particles account for the majority of preventable workplace injuries.
Though there are a few changes to OSHA’s list this year, the violations largely maintained the same positions. Some changes to take note of, however, include Hazard Communication falling from second to fifth place, Respiratory Protection moving up a spot from third to second, and Powered Industrial Trucks moving back two spots from seventh to ninth on the list. Here is a complete breakdown of OSHA’s list of the most cited workplace safety violations for 2021:
- Fall Protection – General Requirements. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), 880 workers died in falls and 244,000 others sustained injuries serious enough to require days off from work in 2019. Falls have remained one of the top contributing factors behind workplace injuries year in and year out. General requirements for fall protection require employers to provide protective measures for workers who are working at heights of 4 feet and above. There is one exception to this rule, though: employers must provide fall protection to workers at any height when they are working above hazardous machinery or equipment.
- Respiratory Protection. Workers can encounter a variety of respiratory hazards in the workplace, including gases like ammonia and carbon monoxide, vapors like chloroform and gasoline, mists like spray paint and chemical steam, dusts like coal and grain particles, and more. Without adequate protection to these dusts, mists, vapors, gases, and other harmful inhalants, workers can develop an array of extensive fatal and nonfatal health problems alike.
- According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), ladder-related occupational incidents contribute to approximately 150 deaths and 20,000 injuries each year. OSHA has numerous standards in place to promote ladder safety, like an agency-wide standard on the design for rungs and steps, rules on how to inspect ladders and how often to do so, and various training and safety requirements for employees.
- Similar to ladders, scaffolding too is a culprit in thousands of preventable injuries every year. Scaffolding violations and defective equipment are also responsible for approximately 60 deaths annually. Employers must perform certain OSHA-mandated safety checklists in addition to utilizing proven control methods to reduce scaffold-related hazards in the workplace.
- Hazard Communication. The primary goal of hazard communication is to maintain chemical safety at work. Per OSHA’s hazard communication standards, employers must give workers information on what chemicals they will be working with and provide training on how to handle the chemicals safely. When employers fail to uphold OSHA’s hazard communication standards, workers can develop catastrophic injuries and illnesses like reactive airways syndrome (RADS), silicosis, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and different types of inhalation injuries.
- Lockout/Tagout. Lockout/tagout procedures are in place to ensure that industrial equipment is fully powered down and inoperable when a person is servicing, inspecting, or repairing it. The failure to maintain effective lockout/tagout procedures can result in deadly incidents.
- Fall Protection – Training Requirements. Employers must provide workers with training on fall protection just as if they must provide training on other critical workplace safety topics. Federal data proves that training minimizes injury risks and promotes a useful safety culture in the workplace.
- Personal Protective and Lifesaving Equipment – Eye and Face Protection. Employers must provide eye and face protection, a form of personal protective equipment (PPE), to workers in order to prevent exposure to hazards like flying particles, dangerous levels of light radiation, chemical gases and vapors, molten metal, liquid chemicals, and other caustic and acidic liquids.
- Powered Industrial Trucks. Powered industrial checks pose a variety of risks in the workplace. Employers must provide powered industrial truck operators with rigorous training on how to safely operate these vehicles and ways to reduce collision and falling load accident risks.
- Machine Guarding. Unintentionally coming into contact with machinery and industrial equipment causes thousands of catastrophic injuries in workers every year. Safeguarding machines or installing guards that protect workers from coming into contact with moving parts or getting pulled into pinch points is the most effective way to prevent these incidents from occurring. Not only do employers need to ensure that all equipment and machines are adequately safeguarded, but they also must provide training to workers on how to operate these machines.
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