OSHA Standards: Top 10 Violations, Their Meanings & How to Prevent Them

If you work in utilities, you’re probably familiar with OSHA standards and regulations. These are federally adopted guidelines designed to keep employees safe and healthy. If your company breaks these rules, tickets and fines or worse are sure to follow.

As part of its efforts to raise awareness about workplace safety, OSHA reveals the top 10 violations that occurred each year. The announcement took place in February via webinar with the National Safety Council’s Safety+Health magazine. Read on as we recap the fiscal year 2020’s top 10 list and provide a simplified summary of each standard.

1. Fall Protection – General Requirements: 5,424 violations

Titled “Duty to have fall protection,” this standard is all about fall protection systems. Employers should not put workers in a position where they encounter surfaces that are weak or lack structural integrity. This could include unprotected sides, edges, or weak platforms. Other protective measures include the use of a guardrail system, safety net system, and/or personal fall arrest systems. Workers on the ground must be protected from falling objects as well.

2. Hazard Communication: 3,199 violations

This standard ensures that all chemicals produced or imported are classified. Additionally, relay information about the chemicals to employees. Make sure that they understand the risks of working with potentially hazardous materials. No labels describing the chemicals shall be removed or altered.

3. Respiratory Protection: 2,649 violations

We know that breathing in contaminated air with harmful dust, gases, and smoke can be detrimental to our health. This standard aims at negating any sort of atmospheric contamination. In the event it’s needed to ensure the worker stays safe, a respirator should be provided.

Related: OSHA and Beyond: Keep Employees Safe in the Field

4. Scaffolding: 2,538 violations

Each scaffold and scaffold component must be capable of supporting its own weight. That is at least four times the maximum intended load either applied or transmitted to it without fail. There is also specific language about scaffold size. For instance, each end of a platform 10 feet or less must not extend over its support by more than 12 inches without tipping.

5. Ladders: 2,129 violations

There are unique requirements for different types of ladders. This standard covers them all, including different styles of portable and fixed ladders.

6. Lockout/Tagout: 2,065 violations

This standard explicitly establishes minimum performance requirements for machines and equipment. Starting up a device or releasing its energy could injure the employee. Interestingly, this standard does not cover oil and gas well drilling and servicing.

7. Powered Industrial Trucks: 1,932 violations

Just as it sounds, this standard relates to industrial trucks powered by an electric motor. Specifically, it’s about safety requirements of those vehicles as related to fire protection and maintenance. One critical part of the standard is that powered industrial trucks must meet design and construction requirements. The American National Standard for Powered Industrial Trucks, Part II, ANSI B56.1-1969 covers this.

8. Fall Protection – Training Requirements: 1,621 violations

There are a few fall protection standards, but there’s a key point for employers. Providing an adequate fall hazard awareness training program for workers. This general rule should cover both employers and employees when it comes to fall hazards.

Related: 3 Keys to Lineworker Safety

9. Personal Protective and Life Saving Equipment: 1,369 violations

In a year punctuated by the pandemic, it comes as no surprise to see PPE in the top 10. OSHA standards require that employees use appropriate eye/face protection. This prevents exposure to hazards like flying particles or liquid chemicals that harm the eyes or face.

10. Machine Guarding: 1,313 violations

Written with those in mind who operate machines, one or more methods of machine guarding must be provided to protect employees from hazards like rotating parts, flying chips, and sparks.

For more information on OSHA standards, click here for a list by industry or here for a list by standard number.

Related: On Board With a Safety Culture? 5 Tips To Make it Stick

UPA Knows Safety!

Want to know more about safety on the job? Utility Partners of America can help. UPA has worked with utilities for more than two decades and supply industry-leading training and equipment, among other utility construction and utility services. Contact us today to learn more.