Top 10 OSHA violations of 2021

OSHA unveiled its preliminary list of the top 10 most-cited workplace safety violations for the fiscal year 2021 last week. The annual Top 10 list from OSHA doesn’t cover every important workplace hazard but it provides an overview of the most common and costly violations for American employers.

The list of the most commonly cited violations does not change much from year to year but remains an informative tool that safety professionals can use to identify hazards at their own facilities.

In addition to broadly applicable general industry and construction safety Standards like hazard communication, machine guarding, and fall protection, OSHA continued to emphasize COVID-19 exposure prevention in 2021.

OSHA issued 592 coronavirus-related citations totaling $7.5 million in penalties for employers between October 1, 2020 and October 1, 2021.

10. Machine Guarding (29 CFR 1910.212)

OSHA requires employers to identify workplace machinery that can cause injury to an employeeMachine injuries can occur at the point of operation, from rotating and/or moving parts, or from flying chips or sparks

Total violations cited: 1,113

9. Powered Industrial Trucks (29 CFR 1910.178)

Failure to properly train, certify, and re-certify forklift drivers is typically the most common reason employers are cited under OSHA’s 29 CFR 1910.178 Standard for Powered Industrial Trucks.

Total violations cited: 1,420

8. Eye and Face Protection (29 CFR 1926.102)

Under OSHA’s Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Standard for the construction industry at 29 CFR 1926.102, employers must ensure that employees use eye and face protection to protect them against flying objects, splashes or drops of hazardous chemicals, and other workplace hazards that can injure the eyes and face.

Total violations cited: 1,452 

7. Fall Protection—Training Requirements (29 CFR 1926.503)

Construction industry employers are required to provide fall protection training to each employee who might be exposed to fall hazards—and required re-training when necessary.

Total violations cited: 1,666 

6. Lockout/Tagout (29 CFR 1910.147)

Lockout/Tagout is crucial in facilities where machine maintenance and servicing occur. The unexpected release of hazardous energy—“Control of Hazardous Energy” is the 29 CFR 1910.147 Standard’s proper title—can result in severe injuries, amputations, crushing, and death.

Again, in this case, employee training is a stumbling block for employers. Failure to train employees on proper lockout/tagout procedures is one of the most common reasons OSHA issues citations—and why lockout/Tagout appears on this list year after year.

Total violations cited: 1,698

5. Hazard Communication (HazCom) (29 CFR 1910.1200)

Hazard Communication fell from 2nd to 5th place in 2021. OSHA’s HazCom Standard requires all employers to provide workers with information about hazardous chemicals in the workplace. Chemical hazards—from toxic gases to everyday cleaning products—are communicated using written HazCom programs, hazard labels/warnings, Safety Data Sheets (SDS), and HazCom training.

Total violations cited: 1,947

Lion offers online OSHA HazCom training in English and Spanish.

4. Scaffolding (29 CFR 1926.451)

OSHA requirements for scaffolds in the construction industry are found at 29 CFR 1926.451 and include specific weight limitations, construction requirements, and rules for planking and decking scaffold platforms correctly.

Total violations cited: 1,948

3. Ladders (29 CFR 1926.1053)

OSHA issued more citations under its Ladder Standard than the previous year. Ladders rose on the Top 10 List from 5th to 3rd place. Frequent violations of OSHA’s Ladder Safety Standard for the construction industry include broken or poorly maintained ladders and standing on the top step of a ladder (prohibited by §1926.1053(b)(13)).

Total violations cited: 2,026

2. Respiratory Protection (29 CFR 1910.134)

Under OSHA’s Respiratory Protection Standard for the general industry, employers must complete medical evaluations, perform fit-testing to ensure respirators function properly, and train employees on proper use and maintenance.

While respiratory protection rose from #3 on last year’s list to #2 for 2021, OSHA issued fewer total citations for violations of this Standard (2,527) than they did during the previous fiscal year (2,649).

Total violations cited: 2,527

1. Fall Protection—General Requirements (29 CFR 1926.501)

Topping the list once again this year is OSHA’s Fall Protection Standard. Common violations of this safety standard include failure to provide proper PPE and fall arrest systems for employees.

Total violations cited: 5,295

Announcement from National Safety Council (NSC):
OSHA Reveals Top 10 Safety Violations for Fiscal year 2021 at NSC Safety Congress & Expo

OSHA Safety, Hazmat, and HAZWOPER Training Anytime, Anywhere

From respirators and PPE to hazard communication and lithium batteries, find safety training you need to protect your staff and maintain compliance with OSHA safety standards in 29 CFR at Lion.com/OSHA.

Courses are interactive and self-paced, and employees can stop and start as needed to fit training into their day-to-day work schedules.

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