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OSHA’s Top 10 for 2019


Every year, OSHA publishes a list of the Top 10 Most Cited Violations from the fiscal year across general industry and construction standards. Even with increased attention to health and safety in the workplace, the Top 10 has many constants year after year. Complex standards lead to a direct relationship between the Top 10 Most Cited and the top 10 highest penalties from the year (ranging from $530,592 to $1.792 Million in FY 2019). As was the case in 2018, the 2019 list was split down the middle with five standards for construction and five standards for general industry. Whether you are a large scale operation or a small business, these standards may apply to you.

  1. In the number one spot with 7,014 violations, is the construction industry standard for Fall Protection (1926.501) – the corresponding general industry standard would be 1910.28. Though the citations fall primarily within the construction industry, the general industry standard could also be cited at your facility. Employers are responsible for the following:
    • Assessing their facilities to ensure employees are not exposed to unprotected open-sided floors, leading edges, floor holes or runways
    • Evaluating facility tasks to ensure employees are not exposed to a risk of falling when performing service at an elevation
    • Protecting employees from the risk of falling from surfaces above 48 inches (4 feet) in height through the use of approved guard rails where feasible
    • Incorporating the use of personal fall arrest systems when working at elevated heights outside of an approved railing or guard rail system
    • Training employees on the proper use and care of the personal fall arrest systems used at your facility
    • Inspecting all personal fall arrest systems prior to each use
  1. Second on the list – but first on the minds of many of our general industry partners and clients – is Hazard Communication (1910.1200). One of the older standards, Hazard Communication or HazCom/GHS/Right-to-Know/WHMIS (Canada), is how we communicate chemical and non-chemical hazards to our employees and visitors. As we think about Hazard Communication, we can envision a wagon wheel with spokes touching many other standards, including Personal Protective Equipment and Respiratory Protection. It is easy to see how important hazard communication can be. As a general industry employer, it is the employer’s job to:
    • Inform and train their employees on the hazardous chemicals in their area (1,087 violations)
    • Have a site-specific written program (1,521 violations)
    • Establish a labeling system (352 violations)
    • Ensure that safety data sheets (SDS, formerly MSDS) are accessible (740 violations)
  1. Closely related to the #1 most cited standard, the construction standard that is third on the list is Scaffolding with 2,813 violations. The general industry standard that is most closely related to the Scaffolding standard is the Walking-Working Surfaces Standard. Standard 1910.22 requires that the employer:
    • Ensure all places of employment are kept clean, orderly and in a sanitary condition
    • Ensure that walking-working surfaces are maintained free of hazards such as sharp or protruding objects, loose boards, corrosion, leaks, spill, snow, and ice
    • Ensure that walking-working surfaces can support the maximum intended load for that surface
    • Ensure that each means of access and egress to and from all walking-working surfaces are safe
    • Ensure that walking-working surfaces are inspected regularly and as necessary to maintain a safe condition
    • Ensure that hazardous conditions are corrected or repaired before an employee uses the walking-working surface again
    • Ensure that when any correction or repair involves the structural integrity of the walking-working surface, a qualified person performs or supervises the correction or repair
  1. Number four on the OSHA Top 10 of FY 2019 was Lockout/Tagout (1910.147), also known as the Control of Hazardous Energy. As one of the standards with the highest applicability across all of our clients, this standard had 2,606 violations. As an employer, you must do the following:
    • Formalize a Lockout/Tagout (LOTO) program for use when maintaining, cleaning, or adjusting machinery where unexpected equipment activation could cause injury (300 violations)
    • Develop machine-specific procedures (1,063 violations)
    • Complete periodic inspections of authorized employees (500 violations)
    • Provide initial and periodic training to their employees (572 violations)
  1. Dropping one spot from the FY 2017 and FY 2018 list is the Respiratory Protection standard (1910.134). With 2,450 companies failing to meet the requirements of this standard, it is a consistent pillar of the OSHA Top 10. With citations including failure to establish a program, failure to perform fit testing and medical evaluations, this standard requires you to complete the following:
    • Quantify the chemical concentration level to which employees are exposed
    • Implement engineering or administrative controls where air contaminant levels exceed required thresholds
    • Develop, implement and maintain a Respiratory Protection program where respirators are used (449 violations)
    • Provide annual training and fit testing (446 violations)
    • Provide a medical evaluation to determine an employee’s ability to use a respirator (518 violations)
  1. At 2,345 violations, Ladders take the 6th spot on the list of the Top 10 Most Cited Violations. While the specific standard reference is the construction standard, Ladders in general industry (1910.23), it is also included in the fall protection standard. Standard 1910.23 requires that employers in general industry:
    • Provide ladders and step stools that have uniformly spaced rungs, steps, and cleats that are parallel, level and uniformly spaced
    • Ensure ladders are inspected before initial use in each work shift and more frequently as necessary to identify any visible defects that could cause employee injury
    • Ensure any ladder with structural or other defects is immediately tagged “Dangerous: Do Not Use” or with similar language in accordance with 1910.145
  1. At number seven on the list, there were 2,093 companies in general industry that did not follow the standard requirements that govern one of the biggest pieces of equipment in their facility in both size and quantity – Powered Industrial Trucks (or forklifts). Standard 29 CFR 1910.178 requires that the employer completes the following:
    • Ensure that each operator has successfully completed operator training before operating a powered industrial truck on the job (592 violations)
    • Conduct pre-use inspections prior to every shift (357 violations)
    • Practice safe operations in accordance with 1910.178(l)(1)
  1. Not to be confused with the standards in the first, third, or sixth spot, the construction industry standard for Fall Protection (1926.503) comes in at number eight with 1,773 violations. Having moved up two spots from the 2017 and 2018 ranking, this portion of the fall protection standard from construction focuses specifically on the training requirements. One of the biggest groups out of the 1,773 violations was the failure to certify training in writing. Always remember – if it didn’t get documented, it didn’t happen.
  1. The last general industry standard within the Top 10 is OSHA’s Machine Guarding Standard (1910.212) with a total of 1,743 violations. Often tied in closely with its cousin in the number four spot, the machine guarding standard requires that employers:
    • Affix guards and secure them to machines that do not introduce a new hazard (1,880 violations)
    • Anchor fixed machinery to prevent walking or moving during operation (101 violations)
  1. Finally, rounding off the Top 10 is Personal Protective and Lifesaving Equipment for the construction side with a focus on eye and face protection. At 1,411 violations and in the same position as last year, employers were commonly cited for failure to provide eye protection with side protection and failure to provide protection from causative hazards, such as gases and vapors. A common misconception within general industry when dealing with tasks like grinding and working with chemicals like battery acid is the idea that once an employee has safety glasses on, they are fully protected. That couldn’t be further from the truth. PPE only works if you’re wearing it and wearing the correct type. Safety glasses by themselves do not prevent acid splash or flying projectiles from hitting an employee’s mouth, forehead or ear.


The OSHA Top 10 list is a helpful guide for understanding just how adept businesses are in complying with the basic rules of workplace safety. By being able to take these items and apply them to your facilities, you can move your company in the right direction towards compliance and safety.   Some starting points to consider are to take these topics and ensure that you have developed site-specific programs. You will also want to complete authorized and awareness level training, making sure to document it and begin implementing these changes on your plant floor. We also recommend reviewing your programs on a regular basis; due to the ever-changing environment of a manufacturing facility, you need to make sure our safety programs are current and accurate. If you haven’t already, make sure to check out our blog on OSHA Inspection protocols and ensure your employees know what to do when OSHA comes knocking!

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