Turning the page on a new year is a good time to take a closer look at OSHA's top 10 most cited standards for 2015 with an eye towards planning to improve workplace safety.
OSHA suggests that employers consider the list as a resource to help identify safety risks and perform mitigation.
Here, then, is OSHA’s 2015 list of the top cited standards and each category’s total number of violations for the fiscal year ending on September 30, 2015.
1. Fall Protection in Construction (29 CFR 1926.501), 7,402 total violations:
Fall safety violations, although a lower number than in 2014, once again topped OSHA’s list to no one’s surprise. To assist those tasked with compliance, OSHA offers industry-specific information on fall protection, which may be accessed from this page.
- Covering or guarding floor holes
- On roofs and elevated platforms, guarding edges and sides
- Wearing fall protection gear
2. Hazard Communication Standard (29 CFR 1910.1200), 5,681 total violations:
Key employer violations included no written program and inadequate training, labeling, and access to safety data sheets.
OSHA's revised standards became effective June 1, 2015 and include:
- Applying the updated hazard classification — health and physical hazards and classifying mixtures
- Maintaining current labeling, which now must include “a harmonized signal word, pictogram, and hazard statement for each hazard class and category,” as well as stated precautions
- Using safety data sheets that have the new 16-section format
- Keeping worker training current, to include familiarity with the new types of labels and safety data sheets
One significant change is that the revised standard now shares an approach to hazard communication with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS), with the goal of lowering barriers to trade and reducing costs associated with maintaining up-to-date hazardous materials information.
3. Scaffolding in Construction (29 CFR 1926.451), 4,681 total violations:
The violations in this category were topped by scaffold construction, guardrail, and worker access violations.
OSHA cites BLS data results which show that most (72 percent) workers injured in scaffold accidents identified the planking or support giving way or slipping, or being struck by a falling object as the cause.
- Using guardrails and personal fall arrest systems
- Preventing overloads
- Experienced personnel checking the construction on the scaffold itself
- Building barricades against falling objects and below the scaffold area
- In a power line area, apply recommended precautions
4. Respiratory Protection (29 CFR 1910.134), 3,626 total violations:
OSHA recorded a slight downturn in the number of violations in this category, led by a lack of medical evaluations for workers affected by this category, the lack of a written respiratory protection program, poorly fitted equipment, and inadequate identification of respiratory hazards.
- Selecting the appropriate respiratory protection for each contaminant
- Using the equipment effectively
- Fitting the equipment correctly
- Applying cautions and limitations, as needed, with respirators
- Improving workers’ ability to identify respiratory hazards
In addition to general respiratory protection guidelines, OSHA provides a separate related guidebook for small enterprises, as well as two new publications:
- NIOSH/OSHA/CDC Toolkit. Hospital Respiratory Protection Program Toolkit: Resources for Respirator Program Administrators (EPUB** | MOBI**). (2015).
- OSHA Infosheet: Respirator Medical Evaluation Questionnaire Infosheet. Publication No. 3789, (2015, May).
Respiratory protection is a particularly complex issue. For example, according to NIOSH, respirators ought not to be seen as a replacement for adequate engineering control systems: “Respirators should only be used when engineering control systems are not feasible.”
5. Control of Hazardous Energy (Lockout/Tagout) (29 CFR 1910.147), 3,308 total violations:
The number of violations in this category grew by 5.7 percent, moving it up a notch from its perch at number six last year — an indication that this is an area in need of improvement in 2016. Peak numbers of violations occurred, owing to a lack of energy control procedures and related training for workers.
According to OSHA, some three million workers face injury in this category and, if injured, lose an average of twenty-four injury-related days on the job. NIOSH offers a quick-view prevention poster available for easy download here.
- Update procedures, as needed, to ensure application of OSHA’s best practices to disable machinery or equipment (found here)
- Effective training on those best practices and on the purpose on energy control procedures
- Training on recognizing all workplace hazardous energy sources
- Offer regular refresher training
6. Powered Industrial Trucks, General Industry (29 CFR 1910.178), 3,004 total violations:
Forklift violations garnered more violations this year, pointing to another area ripe for improved safety. Key risks included operator training and certification, along with a lack of operator evaluation at the three-year mark.
- Effective training and three-year evaluation of every operator of a powered industrial truck
- Maintaining pedestrian safety, particularly in retail environments
- Preventing accidental driving of trucks off loading docks and lift falls
- Ensuring that workers near trucks are safe
As an aid, OSHA offers sample safety checklists for powered industrial trucks here.
7. Ladders in Construction (29 CFR 1926.1053), 2,732 total violations:
Most violations in this category were ladder side rail problems, stepping onto the ladder top, ladder overloads, and choosing the wrong ladder for the job.
- Using the right ladder for the right job
- Checking portable ladder safety (see OSHA’s portable ladder safety e-tool here)
- Training on best practices for ladder use
Consider, too, NIOSH’s ladder safety app for mobile devices, available here.
8. Electrical (Wiring) (29 CFR 1910.305), 2,624 total violations:
Fortunately, incidences of violations were lower for this category in 2015 than in 2014. Violations occurred primarily with the misuse of flexible cord and cables, uninsulated wiring, and extension cords.
OSHA is revising its 40-year-old standard for this category. News and updated standard information are available here.
9. Machine Guarding (29 CFR 1910.212), 2,540 total violations:
Machine guarding violations stayed nearly at the same level as in the prior year. Violations in 2015 occurred most often as a result of inadequate types of point of operation guarding, poor anchoring of fixed machinery, and exposure to blades.
As they did with their hazard communication standard, OSHA revised its National Emphasis Program on amputations. The new standard became effective in June, 2015.
- Protecting point of operation exposures
- Improved anchoring of fixed machinery
OSHA has made available here information on advantages and limitations of commonly used guards.
10. Electrical, General (29 CFR 1910.303), 2,181 total violations:
As with the electrical wiring category, 2015 saw fewer violations in this category than in the prior year. Blocked electrical panels and improper installation and use of equipment topped the list of 2015 violations.
OSHA currently is revising this standard. News and updates will be available here.
Questions? How to Access Answers
The BLS’s FAQ page covers a wealth of information to address related questions that you or other senior executives at your company may have.
Your workers’ safety and your company’s regulatory compliance — and associated expenses of both — are always on the line. 2016 is a good time to review your company’s safety program, in the light of OSHA's top 10 safety violations for 2015. OSHA inspection priorities for 2016:
- Imminent danger
- Worker complaints and referrals
- Targeted inspections - high injury/illness rates, severe violators
- Follow-up inspections.