Top Ten Workplace Safety Issues

No. 1 violation has remained in the same spot for 11 years

June 14, 2022

For the 11th year in a row, fall protection was the most-cited workplace safety issue during the 2021 fiscal year, Insurance Journal reports. Every year the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) tracks the most reported violations of safety and health standards, which lead to workers’ compensation claims.

OSHA issued 5,271 fall protection violations in 2021. Although most commonly associated with construction jobs, fall protection issues exist in many work areas and include injuries from stairways, ladders, scaffolding, floor holes, wall openings, and other elevated areas.

Among the other top safety violation issues:

  • Respiratory protection citations totaled 2,521. The chief culprits were auto body refinishing companies, painting contractors, wall covering contractors and masonry contractors. OSHA cited violators for absence of a protection program, failure to perform required fit testing, and/or a lack of medical evaluations.
  • Ladders drew 2,018 violations. Violations included structurally deficient ladders, a lack of siderails extending three feet beyond a landing surface, the use of ladders for purposes for which they’re not designed, and allowing workers to use the top step of a stepladder.
  • Scaffolds were the cause of 1,943 violations. The causes included improper or inadequate decking, failure to provide adequate scaffold support on a solid foundation, and lack of safety guardrails.
  • Hazard communication was the fifth-most-cited OSHA safety issue with 1,939 citations in 2021. 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.
  • Lockout/tagout violations totaled 1,670 for 2021. 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.
  • Fall protection training requirements (distinct from fall protection) led to 1,660 violations. Causes included faulty training, failure to give required fall protection training, and failure to certify fall protection training in writing.
  • Eye and face protection 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.
  • Powered industrial trucks, including forklifts and motorized hand trucks, resulted in 1,404 violations. Main causes were failure to operate trucks safely, lack of refresher training and evaluation, absence of certification of training and evaluation, and failure to examine equipment for adverse conditions.
  • Machine guarding standards led to 1,105 violations in fiscal year 2021. Main causes included 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.


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