This has been a very different year for the occupational safety and health profession because of COVID-19. Among the changes: The pandemic has affected the top violations OSHA issues to employers.
One thing is back to normal this year: OSHA released its preliminary numbers at the National Safety Council’s Congress and Expo.
OSHA Director of Enforcement, Patrick Kapust, provided the list and some details on the exact violation inspectors are seeing and in which types of employment:
- Fall protection, general requirements, 1926.501, 5,295 violations. This standard has been No. 1 for 11 years. Inspectors are finding unprotected sides, and failure to use fall protection on low-slope roofs, steep roofs, and around poles. Industries most affected: Roofing, framing and siding contractors, new single family housing construction, and commercial and institutional construction.
- Respiratory protection, 1910.134, 2,527 violations. This general industry standard rises from No. 3 last year. Inspectors are finding failure to do medical evaluations, fit testing not being done before use, failure to have a written program, failure to train employees about wearing respirators properly, and employers aren’t selecting the right type of respirator for the workplace. Industries: nursing care; medical and surgical hospitals; stone cutting and manufacturing; assisted living facilities; and automotive paint, repair and maintenance. Kapust says a lot of these violations were due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Ladders, 1926.1053, 2,026 violations. Violators were not using ladders for the purpose they were designed for, allowing employees to stand on the top ladder step, using them on unstable or unlevel ground, and allowing employees to climb while carrying objects or loads that may cause a loss of balance. Industries: Roofing, framing and siding contractors; single family home construction; and residential remodeling.
- Scaffolding, 1926.451, 1,948 violations. Violators were not providing fall protection, not preventing scaffolds from tipping, not fully planking or decking platforms, and not installing guard rails. Industries: Masonry, framing, roofing and siding contractors.
- Hazard communication, 1910.1200, 1,947 violations. Violators didn’t implement a written hazards communication program, failed to provide information and training to employees, didn’t use labels properly, and didn’t have safety data sheets readily available. Industries: Masonry and roofing contractors, commercial and institutional building construction, and machine shops.
- Lockout/tagout, 1910.147, 1,698 violations. Violators failed to have procedures, didn’t conduct training, didn’t perform periodic inspections, didn’t have a complete LO/TO program, and didn’t use LO devices. Industries: plastic product manufacturing, poultry processing, saw mills and fabricated product manufacturing.
- Fall protection, training requirements, 1926.503, 1,666 violations. Violators didn’t have written certification of training; training wasn’t being done by a competent person; and retraining wasn’t done when required. Industries: Roofing and framing contractors, new home construction, and residential remodeling.
- Personal protection and lifesaving equipment, eye and face protection, 1926.102, 1,452 violations. Violators didn’t provide eye side protection and didn’t use appropriate prescription lenses. Industries: Framing, masonry and roofing contractors.
- Powered industrial trucks, 1910.178, 1,420 violations. Violators didn’t ensure safe operation of the truck, provide refresher training and evaluation, certify training, require truck maintenance was done by a qualified person, and implement an operator training program. Industries: General warehousing and storage, recyclable material dealers, stone product manufacturing and machine shops.
- Machine guarding, 1910.212, 1,113 violations. Violators didn’t use the right types of guards, point of operation wasn’t guarded, machinery wasn’t anchored properly, and guarding allowed exposure to lathes. Industries: plastic manufacturing, miscellaneous manufacturing, machine shops and sheet metal shops.
Takeaways for 2021 and beyond
Kapust said due to the pandemic there were more respiratory protection violations in healthcare-related industries, which pushed that violation higher on the list than in previous years.
Industries where silica exposure is more prevalent have also been susceptible to respiratory protection violations.
“There are still air contaminants out there other than biological hazards that employers need to make sure employees are protected against,” Kapust said.
Overall, the number of inspections and violations issued by OSHA in FY 2021 decreased compared to the previous year. Kapust says that’s also due to the pandemic, but he cautions that “We are still on the job, we still do inspections.” He did add that inspection resources have shifted to workplaces where COVID-19 hazards are more likely to exist.
Kapust says the best way for employers to use the Top 10 violations list is as a starting-point tool to assess hazards in your own workplace.
The top 10 tells what OSHA is finding over and over again, according to Kapust.
He also reminds employers that industry-specific top violation lists, by industry code, are available on OSHA’s website.
These numbers are for FY 2021 which ran Oct. 1, 2020, to Sept. 30, 2021. The figures are preliminary and will be updated later this year.