Top 10 OSHA Violations for 2020 & 3 Key Takeaways

Every year, OSHA publishes a list of its most-cited violations from the past financial year. Most years, it appears during the National Safety Council Congress & Expo, when the two organizations traditionally launch the list together.

The year 2020 was an outlier. Like the rest of us, the team at OSHA had a few other things going on beyond their general duties, namely the global pandemic. So, it’s no surprise that the list of top citations for 2020 only arrived at the end of February 2021.

So, without further ado, let’s talk about what OSHA violations topped the list, what’s changed since 2019, and what you can expect as we work through 2021.

What are the Most Frequently Cited OSHA Violations?

  1. Fall protection – general requirements (1926.501): 5,424 violations
  2. Hazard communication (1910.1200): 3,199
  3. Respiratory protection (1910.134): 2,649
  4. Scaffolding (1926.451): 2,538
  5. Ladders (1926.1053): 2,129
  6. Control of hazardous energy (Lockout/Tagout or LOTO) (1910.147): 2,065
  7. Powered industrial trucks (1910.178): 1,932
  8. Fall protection – training requirements (1926.503): 1,621
  9. Personal protective and life saving equipment – eye and face protection (1926.102): 1,369 
  10. Machinery and machine guarding (1910.212): 1,313

If you check the list every year, these results won’t surprise you. Most of the most frequently cited OSHA violations come up year-after-year. Fall protection and hazard communication are always near the top of the list. Powered industrial trucks, ladders, and scaffolding are also regular compliance bugbears. 

A big change this year was the increase in respiratory protection citations at spot #3. The citation claimed the number five spot in the 2019 list of top OSHA violations.

What You Can Learn from The Top 10 OSHA Citations

The most useful aspect of this top ten list is the direction it provides. Fall protection, scaffolding, LOTO, and forklifts are areas of real weakness: violations can easily lead to incidents. So, it’s smart to look for ways to not only improve compliance and prevent violations but also to make those aspects of your safety program more robust.

A few tips based on the top 10 OSHA citations for 2020 include:

  • Deploy OSHA compliance checklists as part of daily safety workflows. Run forklift checklists to ensure you perform all daily inspections and keep every operators’ training current. Do the same thing for ladders, LOTO, PPE, and other common citations related to everyday tasks.
  • Use safety observations to figure out what’s happening in the field and track the consistency of positive and corrective safety behaviors. Be sure to log them consistently and at all levels. Then, use your findings to strengthen your safety program through meetings, training, and audits.
  • Manage PPE effectively and put a renewed focus on respiratory protection when the standards call for it. Keep in mind that OSHA is now considering adopting ATSM standards for face coverings as a requirement. Even if OSHA goes in another direction, it could still be a good idea for your organization.

3 Things You Need to Know for 2021

With an idea of the most frequently cited citations, now is a good time to focus on high-risk programs with a corresponding standard. 

  1. Hazard communication, in particular, will be a big issue again in 2021. Remember that OSHA promised to provide an update to the Hazard Communication Standard later in 2021. The update will match standard to the seventh revision of the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS).
  2. PPE could also become an even bigger target, courtesy of OSHA’s considered COVID-19 emergency standard. OSHA has until March 15 publish its potential ETS. However, the Cal/OSHA COVID-19 ETS requires CA businesses to include PPE in COVID-19 emergency plans. So, you could see a similar requirement from federal OSHA.
  3. The General Duty Clause could play a bigger role in citations. Although the General Duty Clause doesn’t typically make the top 10 list, it’s possible that OSHA may use it to issue COVID-19 related citations. As OSHA ramps up its inspector program from a historic 45-year low, General Duty Clause citations could become more prominent next year.

OSHA Enforcement Will Increase, So Get Ready

The top ten OSHA violations rarely change much year-on-year, but changes within OSHA itself could spark an increase in citations, hefty fines, and cause a minor shakeup of the typical table.

Streamlining OSHA compliance has never been more important. And Safesite can help. Book a demo to see how Safesite can help you not only achieve OSHA compliance but go beyond it.

Nikki Olson

By Nikki Olson

Nikki Olson is a former commercial archaeologist and current Content Marketing Manager at Safesite, the only forever free safety solution. When Nikki’s not waist-deep in writing and editing, she’s in over her head surfing and kayaking around Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way.

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