Each October, the preliminary findings for the year’s most frequently cited health and safety violations is released by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). As anticipated, this year’s list has remained essentially unchanged; year after year, OSHA inspectors see thousands of the same on-the-job hazards, many of which result in fatalities or severe injuries.
With roughly three million work-related injuries and approximately 4,500 job fatalities occurring every year, this list is created to support employers in their efforts to ensure employee safety. By reviewing the list, and making necessary changes as a result, millions of injuries and thousands of deaths in the workplace can be avoided.
Of the 32,000 inspections by federal OSHA staff members, the top ten safety violations for 2016 are as follows:
- Fall protection (6,929 violations) – Did you know 39.9 percent of deaths in the construction industry are fall-related? For the sixth year in a row, fall protection is the most frequently cited OSHA standard.
- Hazard communication (5,677 violations) – During investigations, OSHA found numerous instances of inadequate training, lack of updated data sheets, and nonexistent programs to address hazard chemical exposure.
- Scaffolds (3,906 violations) – Roofing, siding, framing and masonry contractors were some of the most commonly cited employers for this violation. Of note, improper assembly and access to scaffolding were observed.
- Respiratory protection (3,585 violations) – Companies were cited after employees wore respirators that were not medically evaluated, were placed in situations with overexposure to contaminants or were not properly fit-tested for respiratory protection.
- Lockout/tagout (3,414 violations) – The top three instances where companies were given citations for improper lockout/tagout were employees that were not trained in proper lockout/tagout procedures, nonexistent lockout/tagout procedures and employers that did not perform periodic inspections of lockout/tagout procedures.
- Powered industrial trucks (2,860 violations) – Notably, the agency found operators that lacked certification, were not trained on the hazards associated with the facility, as well as workers that did not maintain safe use when operating the vehicle.
- Ladders (2,639 violations) – The most common hazards associated with ladder use involved improper use of portable ladders. As summed up by Patrick Kapust, a deputy director at OSHA’s Directorate of Enforcement programs, "If a ladder is defective, take it out of service.”
- Machine guarding (2,451 violations) – In addition to machine guarding, OSHA investigators noticed machinery that was not anchored/fixed as it should be, as well as the improper use of tools to operate machinery, which can cause hazards.
- Electrical wiring (1,940 violations) – OSHA investigators noted unsafe substitutes for permanent wiring and incorrect use of extension cords.
- Electrical, general requirements (1,704 violations) – The most common offenses in this category included wrongly installed or improper use of electrical equipment.
Notably, “fall protection” has been at the top of OSHA’s list for six years in a row. A trip over an uneven surface, a stumble down a stairway or even a slip on ice, can all lead to a variety of regrettable events.
To drive elimination of fall protection-related citations off the list in 2017, we must ensure adequate tools are provided, to those at risk. Tools include but not limited to training, inspection, proper fall arrest or restraint systems, oversight and assurance.
We can all help to make workplaces safer. To reduce these violations, and in turn, injuries and fatalities, employers simply must adhere to the necessary guidelines and requirements. At Avetta, it is our goal to help ensure employees come home to their families safely each and every day.