Workers’ compensation claims can result directly from worksite conditions, whether in construction, manufacturing, distribution, office or other environments. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) tracks violations of safety and health standards, which can lead to workers’ comp claims.
OSHA tracks the top 10 workplace safety standards violations for each fiscal year, providing a window into which safety issues are getting the most enforcement attention ― and thus might be in need of employer attention.
For the 2021 fiscal year (Oct. 1, 2020, through Aug. 31, 2021), OSHA reported the most common violations, as published by the National Safety Council. During the ongoing pandemic of fiscal year 2021, OSHA used remote inspections and complaint responses.
This information is valuable for independent agents to share with their workers’ compensation clients, along with a perspective of the issues involved based on information from the National Safety’s Council’s Safety + Health Magazine as well as OSHA. Helping workers’ compensation policyholders to better their workplace safety can lower their experience modifications.
- 1. Fall protection was the most-cited safety issue for the 11th year in a row in 2021, reports the National Safety Council. Some 5,271 violations were issued to framing contractors, roofing contractors, masonry firms and housing construction contractors. The main cause for citations was a lack of protection near unprotected edges or sides and on steep roofs or lesser-sloped surfaces. OSHA points out that fall protection issues exist across many work areas such as stairways, ladders, scaffolding, floor holes, wall openings and elevated areas.
- 2. Respiratory protection violation citations totaled 2,521. The chief culprits were auto body refinishing companies, painting contractors, wall covering contractors and masonry contractors. They were cited for absence of a protection program, failure to perform required fit testing, and/or a lack of medical evaluations.
- 3. Ladders drew 2,018 violations. The primarily offenders were among framing, siding, roofing and painting contractors. Violations included structurally deficient ladders, a lack of siderails extending three feet beyond a landing surface, and the use of ladders for purposes for which they’re not designed. Another issue: allowing workers to use the top step of a stepladder.
- 4. Scaffolds were the cause of 1,943 violations. The primary firms cited by OSHA were siding, roofing, framing and masonry contractors. The causes included improper or inadequate decking, failure to provide adequate scaffold support on a solid foundation, and lack of safety guardrails.
- 5. Hazard communication, while not necessarily the responsibility of on-the-job workers, was the fifth-most-cited OSHA safety issue in 2021. Auto repair facilities and painting contractors received most of the 1,939 citations. The main causes were lack of a written hazard communication program as well as inadequate training and/or failure to develop and maintain data safety sheets.
- 6. Lockout/tagout is a category of safety related to the control of hazardous energy such as electrical, mechanical, hydraulic, pneumatic, chemical, thermal, or other sources in machines and equipment. Chief targets of the 1,670 citations were plastic manufacturers, sawmills and machine shops. Violations included not providing adequate training, a lack of established energy control procedures, failure to use lockout/tagout equipment and failure to conduct evaluations of procedures.
- 7. Fall protection training requirements (as distinct from fall protection) led to 1,660 violations. Causes included faulty training that trainees were unable to retain and failure to retrain those employees. Additional causes were failure to give required fall protection training and failure to certify fall protection training in writing.
- 8. Eye and face protection, in the category of personal protective and lifesaving equipment, resulted in 1,451 violations. Most citations were for failure to use appropriate eye or face protection by employees who were exposed to flying objects, molten metal, liquid chemicals, acids or caustic liquids. Another cause of violations was a lack of side protection.
- 9. Powered industrial trucks, including forklifts and motorized hand trucks, resulted in 1,404 violations. Warehousing and storage facilities, fabricated and structural metal manufacturing and framing contractors received most of the citations. Main causes were failure to operate safely, lack of refresher training and evaluation, absence of certification of training and evaluation, and failure to examine equipment for adverse conditions.
- 10. Machine guarding standards, which covers guarding of machinery to protect operators and other workers from hazards, led to 1,105 violations in fiscal year 2021. Most often cited were firms in the machine shop and fabricated metal manufacturing fields. Main causes were violations of the types of required guards, lack of guarding at point of operation, not properly anchoring machinery, a lack of secure attachment of guards to machinery, and improper guarding of fan blades.
OSHA regulators advise employers to review work processes in light of the top safety violations to determine the hazards in their workplace. They noted that top ways for employers to avoid safety issues are job hazard analyses, employees’ reporting of hazards and unsafe conditions, and employee training.
OSHA offers small and mid-sized firms confidential, no-cost assistance with identifying and fixing hazards through OSHA’s consultation program at osha.gov/consultation. This program is separate from OSHA’s enforcement program and does not result in citations.