Written by: Virginia McCormick, NES, Inc.
OSHA’s top 10 list of citations for 2019 has been released, and it looks very similar to the previous year.
OSHA’s Top 10 List Nearly Identical to 2018 List – With One Exception
OSHA’s Top 10 list of frequently cited violations for fiscal year 2019 was announced in September at the 2019 National Safety Council Congress & Expo in San Diego, CA. Almost the entirety of the list remains unchanged from 2018; however, there is one major difference. For the first time since 2014, the order of the top five violations has changed.
Check out the following NES graphic for a complete listing of the federal OSHA top 10 categories of violations in 2019, including the associated standards, the number of citations given, and the respective increases/decreases as compared to 2018.
The above list portrays the federal OSHA regulations and statistics for 2019. The fiscal year ran from October 1, 2018 to September 30, 2019.
Federal OSHA publishes the top 10 list annually to, “alert employers about these commonly cited standards so they can take steps to find and fix recognized hazards addressed in these and other standards.” However, the list should never be the only resource for an employer to consider when striving to ensure a safe and healthful workplace.
In a 2019 Q&A with Safety+Health Magazine, Patrick Kapust, deputy director of OSHA’s Directorate of Enforcement Programs, stated that, “the Top 10 cited hazards are a good place to start when looking for hazards in your own workplace. But it’s important for everyone to remember that a good safety and health program will have a long-term impact on your worksite’s overall safety and health performance.”
Missed last year’s top 10 list? For more information, see the NES article OSHA’s Top 10 List of Citations for 2018.
Trading Places on OSHA’s Top 10: Lockout/Tagout & Respiratory Protection
The order of the top five spots in OSHA’s annual top 10 list had been unchanged for the past four years. While the number of citations for each standard would rise and fall over the years, there was never enough of a change to cause the five spots to shift. However, OSHA’s top 10 list for 2019 has broken this streak, with the usual fourth and fifth positions switching spots.
Lockout/Tagout (29 CFR 1910.147) refers to the, “minimum performance requirements for the control of hazardous energy during servicing and maintenance of machines and equipment” or any activity that requires an employee to bypass a safety device. Engaging in improper lockout/tagout procedures is a very common problem. In fact, OSHA estimates that nearly 10% of serious injuries in many industries are the result of failure to properly control hazardous energy. Lockout/Tagout, which ranked fifth in 2018, now sits at fourth.
Respiratory Protection (29 CFR 1910.134) sets expectations for control measures, respirator use, cleaning and repair, written programs, and worker medical evaluations. Citations related to this standard are typically issued for medical evaluation requirements, implementation of a written respiratory protection program, and fit testing. Respiratory Protection, which was fourth in 2018, now occupies the fifth spot.
While Lockout/Tagout saw an increase of 52 violations compared to last year, Respiratory Protection violations decreased by 286. The two standards are now sitting at a difference of only 149 between them, so their new positions could easily switch again in the future.
Respiratory Protection and Lockout/Tagout represent two of the most cited standards and are likely to return next year.
Some Violation Counts Down on OSHA’s Top 10
While the large decrease in Respiratory Protection violations caused the mix-up of the typical fourth and fifth list spots, it was not the standard with the biggest decrease of violations on this year’s list.
Hazard Communication (29 CFR 1910.1200) saw the largest decrease in the number of violations as compared to last year’s list – an encouraging decrease of 367 violations. The standard addresses chemical hazards both produced and imported into the workplace as well as the communication of those hazards to workers.
According to the OSHA, the Hazard Communication standard provides employees with important knowledge regarding the chemicals they are exposed to and the steps they must take in order to protect themselves. The standard also provides employers the information they need to design an effective hazard communication program.
Fall Protection – General Requirements (29 CFR 1926.501) has headed up the list for the past nine years. While this remains the case for 2019, the number of violations has decreased by 202. OSHA phrases fall protection as, “any equipment, device, or system that prevents a worker from falling from an elevation or mitigates the effect of such a fall.”
Falls are the leading cause of death in the construction industry. In 2017, there were 366 fatal falls to a lower level out of 971 construction fatalities, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. The decrease from last year is a welcome change. However, falls still lead the list by nearly 3,000 citations over second place.
Fall Protection once again led the 2019 OSHA top 10 list, but the category also saw a large decrease in the number of citations in comparison to 2018.
Other Violation Counts Up on OSHA’s Top 10
Eye and Face Protection (29 CFR 1926.102) had the biggest increase for 2019, up 102 violations since last year. Interestingly, this standard is also the newest addition to the list, having secured tenth place in 2018. According to the OSHA overview page on eye and face protection, thousands of employees are blinded each year from work-related injuries that could have been prevented with the proper selection and use of eye and face protection.
Much of the Eye and Face Protection violations were the result of employers not enforcing the use of appropriate eye or face protection when employees were exposed to hazards, such as flying particles, liquid chemicals, and potentially harmful light radiation.
Fall Protection – Training Requirements (29 CFR 1926.503) was also a recent addition to OSHA’s top 10 list, first appearing as the ninth on the 2017 list. In 2018, the standard rose to eighth, which is where it remains on the 2019 list. The number of violations has increased by 81 since last year.
Employers are required to provide a complete, relevant training program for each employee who might be exposed to fall hazards in the workplace. According to the standard, the program must enable each employee to recognize the hazards of falling and must train each employee on how to minimize these hazards.
A recently released U.S. Department of Labor report on 2018’s occupational fatalities seems to support this line of thinking, as 2018 saw a 14% decline in work-related fatal falls from heights. While comparable data for 2019 has not yet been released, some may see this as supporting the idea of a connection between increased Fall Protection – Training Requirements citations and the big drop in Fall Protection – General Requirements citations.
Violations are often the products of willful negligence. When employees are treated with the respect for safety and health that is built into the regulations, everyone benefits.
Knowledge Gained from OSHA’s List
Federal OSHA publishes the top 10 list annually to, “alert employers about these commonly cited standards so they can take steps to find and fix recognized hazards addressed in these and other standards.” When a business receives an OSHA violation, a penalty is incurred. The penalty amount varies depending on the type and/or amount of violations. Penalties for 2019 citations start at $13,260 per violation. Failure to act past the mandated deadline to fix a cited issue can lead to additional fines of $13,260 per violation per day. Finally, failure to address OSHA citations can result in a $132,598 penalty.
In order to avoid these costly violations, employers must always be proactive, rather than reactive, when it comes to establishing and maintaining workplace safety. While the top 10 list of cited violations is a good place for employers to start when considering workplace hazards, it is highly advised that employers resolve citable issues before a citation – or worse, an injury or fatality – occurs at their business.
With greater emphasis by employers on establishing and maintaining company safety and health programs and providing regular, job-specific training to employees, citation numbers can decrease in 2020.
NES: Helping Employers Stay Off OSHA’s List for 2020
“From OSHA’s perspective, targeted enforcement and outreach are two critical tools in getting employers to identify and correct hazards in the workplace,” said Kapust to Safety+Health Magazine. “Occupational safety and health professionals are encouraged to continue in their systematic approach of developing and promoting strong safety and health programs.”
When it comes to staying off OSHA’s top 10 list and out of trouble, the bottom line for employers is to be informed of all required safety measures and to dispense the information to employees through regular training conducted by qualified training providers. NES can help achieve this goal.
If your business or agency requires assistance with its training or consulting needs to help educate employees, prepare for inspections, and remain in compliance with applicable rules and regulations, NES can provide experienced environmental, health & safety professionals to get your operations on the right track (view our open enrollment training page by clicking here). For more information about our environmental, health & safety training and consulting capabilities, contact NES at 916-353-2360 / 1-800-NES-ADVISE (1-800-637-2384) or firstname.lastname@example.org.