The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has published its top ten violation categories for fiscal year 2016 (October through September).  The list, published each October and resulting from over 32,000 federal OSHA inspections, contains three electrical and energy-related items, including lockout/tagout.  Fall protection tops the list with more than four times the number of 2016 violations than the tenth highest category, general electrical requirements.  The second most commonly cited regulation in 2016 was hazard communication, which is not surprising as many organizations are still working to come into compliance with the new hazard communication regulations that are closely aligned with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) requirements.

Table 1.  2016 Top 10 OSHA Violations

No.Violation CategoryCitationNumber of Violations in 2016
1Fall Protection1926.501 – Construction6,929
2Hazard Communication1910.1200 – General Industry5,677
3Scaffolding1926.451 – Construction3,906
4Respiratory Protection1910.134 – General Industry3,585
5Lockout/Tagout1910.147 – General Industry3,414
6Powered Industrial Trucks1910.178 – General Industry2,860
7Ladders1926.153 – Construction2,639
8Machine Guarding1910.212 – General Industry2,451
9Electrical Wiring1910.305 – General Industry1,940
10Electrical, General Requirements1910.303 – General Industry1,704

A Focus on the 2016 Top Five Violations in 2016

The fifth most common violation category, and one that is highly noted by organizations for its association with possible injury or fatality, is lockout/tagout with these three most cited violations under 29 CFR 1910.147:

  • Nonexistent lockout/tagout procedures
  • Failure to perform periodic inspections of lockout/tagout procedures
  • Employees not trained in proper lockout/tagout procedures

The requirement for periodic inspections of lockout/tagout procedures is more rigorous than some organizations realize.  Per OSHA guidance, periodic inspections are required annually, with documented certification for each inspection.  Each lockout/tagout procedure must be inspected, although procedures may be grouped in cases for machines and/or equipment with the same type and magnitude of hazardous energy as well as the same or similar type of controls.  Each authorized employee must be involved in periodic inspections.

The fourth most-cited violations pertain to respiratory protection, including citations for employees who were not medically evaluated prior to wearing respirators.  Citations were also commonly issued for overexposure of employees to contaminants and for failure to properly fit-test respiratory protection equipment.  Notably, in October 2016, OSHA proposed amendments to existing respiratory protection regulations to add two additional fit-testing protocols which would allow greater flexibility for employers choosing fit-testing methods for employees.

The third most commonly cited violation category by OSHA in 2016 was scaffolding, under the construction regulations (29 CFR 1926).  OSHA inspectors cited roofing, siding, framing, and masonry contractors for improper scaffold assembly and inappropriate access to scaffolding.

Hazard communication was the second most commonly cited violation for OSHA inspectors in 2016, with approximately 1,000 fewer citations than for fall protection.  Often-noted violations included inadequate training, not having a program to address chemical exposure, and lack of updated safety data sheets.  Employers were required to train workers by December 1, 2013 on the new label elements and safety data sheet format to facilitate recognition and understanding.  Employers must also show an effort to obtain new safety data sheets when they were not provided by chemical manufacturers, distributors, or importers.

For OSHA's fiscal year 2016, fall protection under the 29 CFR 1926 construction standard was the most commonly cited violation with nearly 7,000 violations.  Statistics show that 39.9% of deaths in the construction industry are fall-related.  The violators most often cited for this regulation are framing, roofing, and single family building contractors.  OSHA requires that fall protection be provided at elevations of four feet or greater in general industry workplaces, five feet or greater in shipyards, six feet or greater in the construction industry, and eight feet or greater in longshoring operations.  In addition, OSHA requires that fall protection be provided when working over dangerous equipment and machinery regardless of the fall distance.

Beginning August 1, 2016, OSHA increased its penalties to account for inflation.  OSHA's maximum penalties, which were last adjusted in 1990, have increased by 78%.  Experiencing a surprise inspection from OSHA may be stressful and could potentially end up being very costly, depending on a site's compliance status with applicable regulations.  Implementation of a routine voluntary safety compliance audit program is the most efficient and proactive way to ensure that a site is in compliance.  It also provides the site the opportunity to correct any instances of noncompliance before a potential OSHA inspection occurs, potentially saving thousands of dollars and bad publicity that can result from negative inspection results.  Contact Jamie White, CPEA, CESCO, for assistance with an audit or to begin development of an audit program.