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OSHA’s Top 10 List of Citations for 2021

EH&S Compliance, EH&S News, Health & Safety Training

Numbers for the 2021 OSHA Top 10 List Confirmed

Federal OSHA’s Top 10 list of frequently cited violations for fiscal year 2021 was recently confirmed. While several standards have swapped positions, the 2021 list did not see any new entries compared to 2020. 2021 marks the eleventh successive fiscal year that Fall Protection has topped the list.

Preliminary numbers were announced earlier this year, but the finalized list with official numbers was delayed. The delay was ultimately due to the COVID-19 pandemic slowing down the agency’s process – a struggle familiar to most business owners operating in the past year. The final list was recently released on OSHA’s website.

Check out the following NES graphic for a complete listing of the 2021 OSHA Top 10 categories of violations, including the associated standards, the number of citations given, and the respective decreases as compared to 2020.


The above list portrays the OSHA regulations and statistics for 2021. The fiscal year ran from October 1, 2020 to September 30, 2021.


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. Instead, OSHA deputy director Patrick Kapust recommends employers use the OSHA Top 10 list as a guide: “It’s a good place to start if you don’t know where to start. Look at what OSHA is finding. Look at the things that are applicable to your particular industry as well.

Missed last year’s Top 10 list? For more information, see the NES article OSHA’s Top 10 List of Citations for 2020.

How to Prepare for an Inspection

No employers want their workplace to be unsafe. But sometimes, despite the best of intentions, employers can find themselves on the receiving end of an OSHA violation. The best way to prepare for an OSHA inspection is to seriously dedicate yourself to developing, training, and upholding good workplace practices. However, there are some broad steps that employers and their workers can take in order to prepare for OSHA inspections.

  • Identify the roles needed for a smooth inspection. Roles may include employee(s) who may greet an inspector upon arrival as well as a company liaison(s) who will check inspector identification cards and notify management. Each role will have specific assigned duties for when an inspection takes place. By identifying these roles well before an inspection takes place, specific duties will become easier to implement and inspections will run smoother.
  • Know what to expect during an inspection. The Certified Safety and Health Official (CSHO) will often disclose the reason(s) for conducting an inspection during an opening conference. Following the conference is the inspection walk-through, in which the accompanied CSHO tours the facility and documents any observations or citations. The inspector may conduct one-on-one interviews with specific employees. After the walk-through and interviews is a closing conference, which is the opportunity to clarify anything taken into consideration by the inspector. This is the typical structure for an inspection. Knowing the structure for an inspection before one takes place will cause less confusion and fewer problems in general.
  • Participate in regular hazard training or consulting. Regular training will boost employers’ and their workers’ understanding of what possible violations look like and how to deal with them before an inspection takes place.


When employees are treated with the respect for safety and health that is built into the regulations, everyone benefits.

Violations are often the products of willful negligence. In order to avoid costly violations, employers must always be proactive, rather than reactive, when it comes to establishing and maintaining workplace safety. While the 2021 OSHA Top 10 list 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 may continue to decrease in 2022.

NES: Helping Employers Stay Off OSHA’s Top 10 List for 2022

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. Ultimately, there is no substitute for training and consulting that can keep employers and employees safe and off the OSHA violations list. 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


Federal OSHA Top 10 Most Frequently Cited Standards for Fiscal Year 2021 (Oct. 1, 2020, to Sept. 30, 2021)

Fall Protection 29 CFR 1926.501 [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]

Respiratory Protection 29 CFR 1910.134 [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]

Ladders 29 CFR 1926.1053 [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]

Scaffolding 29 CFR 1926.451 [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]

Hazard Communication 29 CFR 1910.1200 [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]

Lockout/Tagout 29 CFR 1910.147 [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]

Fall Protection – Training 29 CFR 1926.503 [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]

Eye and Face Protection 29 CFR 1926.102 [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]

Powered Industrial Trucks 29 CFR 1910.178 [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]

Machinery, Machine Guarding 29 CFR 1910.212 [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]