A Safety Manager’s Guide to the Most Common OSHA Violations

October 21, 2022

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Key Takeaways

Any employer’s number one priority is to keep their employees safe and healthy, and OSHA helps define general requirements for workplace safety and safety training. When worksite standards are not met, OSHA issues citations for safety violations—here are the top 10 violations to know about.

Every year, OSHA issues tens of thousands of citations at workplaces across all industries for health and safety conditions that violate OSHA’s standards. These penalties are costly to businesses—generally beginning around $7,000, the average citation issued is actually over $14,000. Citations can also be disruptive to operations with forced downtime if a site is deemed too hazardous to work in. To help keep your workforce safe and operating costs down, a smart camera system allows safety managers to remotely monitor worksites and identify potential hazards before there is a problem. 

This guide focuses on the top 10 most common OSHA violations, the penalties that occur for different types of violations, and how camera software assists with keeping worksites safe and compliant. 

What is OSHA? 

OSHA is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration under the United States Department of Labor. Founded in 1970, OSHA ensures that working conditions are safe and healthful through enforced standards and related resources for training and education. Employers operating under hazardous conditions, working with unsound equipment, or using poor practices are subject to citations and must take corrective action. 

Your company probably has safety policies in place, but every safety manager should be aware of OSHA's regulatory guidelines, in particular how they protect workers. In addition to a workplace free of health and safety hazards, workers' rights include: 

  • The ability to confidentially file a complaint with OSHA to have your workplace inspected, and to speak privately with the inspector during inspections.

  • Proper training and resources provided about workplace hazards and how to prevent them, along with knowledge of applicable OSHA standards.

  • Access to records of injuries and illnesses related to the workplace as well as results from testing to identify hazards in the workplace.

The 10 most common OSHA violations 

Implementing and evolving a health and safety program is the responsibility of the safety manager—when thinking about your new or existing safety program, it’s helpful to be aware of the most common OSHA violations. Being proactive against the most common violations not only keeps your team safe and efficient, but also compliant. 

Each fiscal year OSHA publishes their top 10 list of safety violations related to safety training and workplace safety across all industries—here are the most common OSHA violations and how to avoid them.

  1. Fall Protection: Employers must protect employees from fall hazards and falling objects, and ensure elevated working surfaces have structural integrity. Fall protection systems include guardrails, fences, safety nets, and personal fall arrest systems.

  2. Respiratory Protection: The goal of a respiratory protection program is to prevent air contamination from harmful dusts, fumes, mists, gases, smokes, or vapors via engineering controls such as confinement, ventilation, or use of less toxic substances. If contaminated air is impossible to avoid, respirators and personal protective equipment should be used to prevent or minimize inhalation.

  3. Ladders: Ladder safety includes several elements including minimum supporting load, non-slip steps, and clearance between rungs as well as specific standards depending on the type of ladder such as portable, fixed, and step ladders. In general, a ladder should support a minimum of 3.3x its intended load and be free of slippery surfaces.

  4. Hazard Communication: Hazard communication refers to the standard set by the United Nations Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals that requires the production and transportation of hazardous chemicals to be classified. It also requires employers and employees to be trained on the nature of the classified hazards, including safety precautions and processes. 

  5. Scaffolding: The requirements for scaffolding safety are highly detailed around the capacity, construction, accessibility, and fall protection for both supported and suspension scaffolding. When erecting scaffolding, precise standards such as the width of planking and type of guardrail supports should be followed.

  6. Fall Protection Training: Fall protection training is essential in preventing worker falls and is defined in three stages— initial safety training program, certification of successful program completion, and retraining when workplace conditions change or employee refreshers are needed. 

  7. Control of Hazardous Energy(lockout/tagout): This specific standard applies to the protective procedures for hazardous energy outside of regular operation. Appropriate lockout/tagout devices must be connected to energy-isolating devices to disable the machinery or equipment in the event of unexpected start-up, energization, or release of energy to prevent employee injury.

  8. Eye and Face Protection: In the construction industry, employees exposed to flying particles, chemicals, harmful liquids, and radiation should use personal protective equipment for their eyes and face. PPE must meet additional criteria when encountering radiant energy while welding or using lasers.

  9. Powered Industrial Trucks: This includes precise requirements for powered industrial trucks–such as forklifts or tractors–for fire protection, design, proper use, and maintenance. These standards do not apply to compressed gas-powered trucks, farm vehicles, over-the-road vehicles, or earth-moving vehicles.

  10. Machinery and Machine Guarding: Machine guarding ensures machine operators and other employees are protected from injuries that could be caused by flying particles, rotating parts, and point of operation via guards such as barriers or electronic safety devices.

Types of violations and the resulting penalties

Citation Name

Violation Description

Citation Penalty

Willful

Employer demonstrated intentional disregard for OSHA requirements and employee health and safety

$5,000-$70,000

Serious

Workplace conditions where serious physical harm or fatalities are likely to result

$7,000

Other-than-serious

Workplace conditions where accidents or illnesses are likely to result, but would not cause death or serious harm

$7,000

De minimis

Incorrect health or safety standard implemented

No penalty

Failure to abate

Previously cited hazardous condition that has not been brought into compliance since last inspection

$7,000 per day of violation

Repeated

Final order for a previously cited hazardous condition that has occurred within the last five years

Up to $70,000

Benefits of worksite camera software 

Installing smart camera software, like Samsara Site Visibility, across your warehouse floor, yard, or construction site provides complete visibility into the safety of your operations and people. For example, if a job injury does occur, the ability to quickly retrieve video data of the accident not only saves you time viewing footage, but allows you to verify the incident to expedite the workers' comp claim process and implement new safety trainings to prevent future incidents. 

Smart site cameras also help keep your workplace compliant—cameras can be used to remotely and visually confirm certain OSHA standards are being upheld such as the proper use of PPE or personal fall arrest systems. 

Site Visibility features include: 

  • Intelligent search: Proactively identify and fix conditions that could result in OSHA citations before a violation or incident occurs. 

  • Real-time alerts: Use inactivity alerts to be notified if there is a lack of motion detected during custom time frames to reduce the risk of lone worker injuries.

  • AI features: Set up custom notifications from your cameras that fit your specific OSHA mandates based on motion and people detection.

  • Connected Video: Consolidate video footage from all of your worksites for complete visibility into your operations to ensure the safest possible experience for employees. 

Learn more about Site Visibility for workplace safety.

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