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Risk Management

Tactics to Prevent OSHA’s Most Frequently Cited Safety Standards

Each year, OSHA releases its most commonly occurring safety violations across all industries. We review what topped the list for 2023 and risk management strategies to mitigate these hazards.

March 12, 2024

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently released its top 10 list of cited safety standards for 2023, with the top requirement, fall protection, incurring over 7,000 total violations. This list provides valuable insight into their enforcement activities and safety trends for risk management leaders to have on their radar.

“Not only do these violations put workers in harm’s way, but repeat offenses can carry hefty fines of up to $161,000 per violation,” said Matt McDonough, Assistant Vice President – Risk Services at Safety National. “Each of these safety standards has its own set of nuanced requirements, but they all have one manageable prevention method: training. It starts with onboarding and is followed by consistent communication and accountability.”

Here, we outline the most cited violations of 2023 and how employers can mitigate their risks.

1. Fall Protection

This standard sets requirements for guardrail systems, safety nets, or personal fall arrest systems for employees working six feet or higher. It also includes extensive protections for walking and working surfaces and supervision of employees in preventing accidents.

Simple techniques like assessing for hazards before starting a job and proper training can prevent these occurrences. There are new prevention technologies that are proving to be beneficial in this area. This tech includes capabilities to help companies record accident details, determine hazards, and possibly incorporate corrective actions to prevent someone from slipping and falling.

2. Hazard Communication

This measure addresses classifying the potential hazards of chemicals and provisions for communication. This can include developing and maintaining a written hazard communication program, chemical labeling, and distribution of safety data sheets.

Employers should keep a running inventory of all onsite chemicals, ensure they are all labeled with hazard statements, and assess the exposure to employees. Consider how often the chemical is used and who is using it. Elimination or substitution options can help control chemical risks in addition to proper engineering controls, training, personal protective equipment (PPE), and housekeeping.

3. Ladders

This standard covers general requirements for all ladders, including self-supporting portable ladders and fixed ladders. It also includes specifics regarding rung spacing, obstructions, cages, and mountings.

Employees should maintain three points of contact, two hands and a foot or two feet and a hand, while climbing and descending. Barricades should also be used to keep traffic away from the ladder.

4. Scaffolding

This section outlines requirements for scaffolding, including parameters for the design to be created by a qualified person. It also details how construction and loading should abide by that design. Additionally, employees on scaffolding above 10 feet require fall protection and protection from any falling objects.

PPE, like personal fall arrest systems, are vital for preventing falls from scaffolding. Employers should also follow the 3-to-1 rule in the design of any scaffolding, which sets the total working height of a freestanding scaffolding tower at three times the distance of the narrowest side of the base.

5. Powered Industrial Trucks

This measure addresses requirements relating to fire protection, design, maintenance, and use of fork trucks, tractors, platform lift trucks, motorized hand trucks, and other specialized industrial trucks powered by electric or gas motors.

Forklift safety starts with proper operation training, particularly pertaining to blind spots, intersections, and other dangerous areas. Employees should never exceed the rated load and ensure that it is stable and balanced. Maintaining visibility at all times is key in incident prevention.