OSHA top 10 violations

Fall Protection Continues to be the Top Cited OSHA Violation… By a Large Margin

Those of us in the manufacturing safety industry don’t need a statistic to be reminded of the importance of proper fall protection at work. But it is reassuring to be reminded of the widespread need for proper safety education and appropriate safety equipment use for operators across vertical markets. The National Safety Council reported the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recent top 10-most cited standards violations in 2020 and fall protection hit the top of the charts for the 10th year in a row. Even with an unprecedented number of facility closures and reduced operations during the pandemic, a whopping 5,424 violations were cited in the General Requirements category last year and 1,621 for inadequate Fall Protection Training.


OSHA standard 1926.501 states that employers provide fall protection systems to protect workers while working at heights. Industrial metal stairs, guard rails, bulk loading safety cages, handrails, modular work platforms, marine gangways, mobile work platforms, and safety gates are just a few of the systems that can be put in place to keep facilities efficient and employees safe while at work.

SafeRack’s complete line of fall protection solutions always meet or exceed OSHA standards for compliance so you’ll never have to wonder if your facility will be at risk for a violation. There’s never been a better time to assess your fall prevention and fall protection risk at your facility. When you’re ready to improve safety without compromising productivity, we’re here to help. If you are adding new industrial stair crossovers, raised work platforms, safety stairs, or fixed ladders our instant OSHA compliance keeps your operations productive with no second-guessing about whether the equipment meets current OSHA standards. Call SafeRack today to see how we can help keep your facility safe, productive, and compliant.

Top 10 OSHA Violations

For the tenth year in a row, Fall Protection tops the list as OSHA’s most frequently cited standard, with Hazard Communication and Scaffolding once again both landing in the top five. The rest of the top 10 rankings are also similar to previous years, with Respiratory Protection (up from #5 to #3) and Eye and Face Protection (up from #10 to #9) both moving up since last year’s rankings — presumably due to increased concerns and scrutiny regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here are the top 10 most frequently cited OSHA standards for 2020, along with the section codes, previous fiscal year rankings, and descriptions of each:

1. Fall Protection (1926.501)
5,424 violations
2019 Ranking: 1
Title: Duty to have fall protection
Fall protection requirements, use of appropriate systems for given situations, proper construction and installation of safety systems, and proper supervision of employees. Designed to protect employees on walking/working surfaces (horizontal or vertical) with unprotected sides or edges above 6 feet.

2. Hazard Communication (1910.1200)
3,199 violations
2019 Ranking: 2
Title: Hazard Communication
Chemical hazards due to chemicals produced in the workplace and imported into the workplace. Also governs the communication of hazards to workers.

3. Respiratory Protection (1910.134)
2,649 violations
2019 Ranking: 5
Title: Respiratory protection
Employer procedures for establishing or maintaining respiratory protection programs. Includes requirements for program administration, worksite-specific procedures, respirator selection, employee training, fit testing, and medical evaluation, as well as respirator use, cleaning, maintenance, and repair.

4. Scaffolding (1926.451)
2,538 violations
2019 Ranking: 3
Title: General requirements
General safety requirements for designing, constructing, and loading scaffolding. Employers are obligated to protect construction workers from falls and falling objects while working on or near scaffolding 10 feet high or higher.

5. Ladders (1926.1053)
2,129 violations
2019 Ranking: 6
Title: Ladders
General requirements for all ladders.

6. The Control of Hazardous Energy (Lockout/Tagout) (1910.147)
2,065 violations
2019 Ranking: 4
Title: The control of hazardous energy (lockout/tagout)
Minimum performance requirements for hazardous energy control during servicing and maintenance of machines and equipment.

7. Powered Industrial Trucks (1910.178)
1,932 violations
2019 Ranking: 7
Title: Powered industrial trucks
Design, maintenance, and operation of powered industrial trucks, including forklifts and motorized hand trucks. Also covers operator training requirements.

8. Fall Protection (1926.503)
1,621 violations
2019 Ranking: 8
Title: Training requirements
Training requirements for employers regarding fall protection.

9. Personal Protective and Lifesaving Equipment (1926.102)
1,369 violations
2019 Ranking: 10
Title: Eye and face protection
Appropriate personal protective equipment for workers exposed to eye or face hazards, such as flying particles and chemical gases or vapors.

10. Machine Guarding (1910.212)
1,313 violations
2019 Ranking: 9
Title: General requirements for all machines
Guarding of machinery to protect operators and other employees from hazards, including those created by point of operation, ingoing nip points, rotating parts, flying chips, and sparks.

Source: Safety + Health Magazine Webinar presented by Patrick Kapust, deputy director of OSHA’s Directorate of Enforcement Programs

What are the OSHA Penalties and Fines?

Penalties for citations start at $13,260 per violation. Failure to act can lead to additional fines of $13,260 per violation per day past the deadline to fix the issue. Finally, failure to address OSHA citations can result in a $132,598 penalty.

Type of ViolationPenalty
Posting Requirements
$13,653 per violation
Failure to Abate$13,653 per day beyond the abatement date
Willful or Repeated$136,532 per violation

Source: OSHA

The trend of six-figure fines continues

Fall protection in construction has been OSHA’s most violated standard for many years, and roofing contractors receive approximately half of all the citations issued under this standard. As the cases below illustrate, these patterns show no sign of changing any time soon:

  • An Ohio roofing contractor was cited with one willful violation and two serious violations for exposing workers to fall hazards while they installed shingles on a sloped roof at a Cincinnati worksite. According to OSHA, the employer failed to provide and install a fall protection system and failed to have a competent person inspect the work site daily. The company has been cited for fall protection violations five times since 2014.
    Penalty: $159,118 fine
  • OSHA cited an Illinois roofing contractor for exposing employees to fall hazards at a commercial building site. The company received five serious violations, one willful violation, and five repeat violations for failing to provide head, eye, face, and fall protection; improper use of warning lines during low-sloped roof construction; lack of guards on belts and pulleys; unsafe use of ladders; and failing to designate a safety monitor. According to OSHA, employees were exposed to fall hazards of more than 17 ft.
    Penalty: $220,249 fine
  • OSHA cited two Florida construction contractors for failing to protect employees from fall hazards after an employee was fatally injured after falling from an elevated work platform. Inspectors determined that workers at the site were exposed to fall, struck-by, and impalement hazards. The employers were cited for failing to provide fall protection, failing to conduct regular inspections of the worksite, and permitting workers to use an unsecured extension ladder.
    Penalty: $82,327 fine

Source: Safety BLR