The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) revealed its Top 10 Most Cited Standards for FY 2023 (Oct. 1, 2022-Sept. 30, 2023). For the 13th consecutive year, “Fall Protection-General Requirements” topped the list, and all of this year’s top 10 cited violations also made the top 10 last year, though the order shifted slightly. Notably, all 10 violations were cited significantly more often in FY 2023 than in the prior year – indicating robust enforcement activity by OSHA.
1) Fall Protection – General Requirements
There were 7,271 cited violations for the Fall Protection-General Requirements standard in FY 2023, more than twice as many as the runner-up and significantly more than the 5,260 citations recorded for this standard in 2022. In addition, the Fall Protection category had the highest number of serious violations as well as willful violations. OSHA requires that fall protection be provided at elevations of 4 feet in general industry workplaces, 5 feet in shipyards, 6 feet in the construction industry and 8 feet in longshoring operations. Fall protection must also be provided when people are working over dangerous equipment and machinery, regardless of the distance. OSHA cautions employers to guard every floor hole and provide guard rails and toe boards around every elevated open-sided platform, floor or runway. In some cases, safety harnesses and lines, safety nets, stair railings and hand rails may be required.
2) Hazard Communication
Hazard Communication is once again the first runner-up, with 3,213 cited violations – an increase of 789 violations versus last year. Under this general industry standard, employers are required to classify and appropriately label the potential hazards in chemicals and train workers on safe handling and transport of hazardous materials and first aid measures. This standard provides guidelines for establishing a Hazard Communication (HazCom) program and proper usage of Safety Data Sheets (SDSs).
Ladders went up a rung in the rankings, from 4th to 3rd, with 2,978 violations in FY 2023 – significantly more than the prior year’s 2,143 violations. Roofing contractors are cited for ladder violations more than any other industry. OSHA’s Ladders standard provides guidelines for safe usage for different types of ladders. Employers must avoid overloading ladders beyond their recommended capacity, keep ladders free of slipping hazards such as oil, fix or take defected ladders out of service, and ensure workers properly use ladders – including facing the ladder while ascending or descending and keeping at least one hand on the ladder at all times.
Employers racked up 2,859 violations of the Scaffolding standard, up from No. 5 and 2,058 violations in FY 2022, and masonry contractors had the dubious distinction of being the most cited industry in this area. The Scaffolding standard mandates that every scaffold and its components be able to bear its own weight plus at least four times the maximum intended load. The standard also includes specifications for putting up and taking down scaffolds, platform size, the installation of guardrails or personal safety arrest systems, and training employees on safe scaffold usage.
5) Powered Industrial Trucks
Powered Industrial Trucks is No. 5 this year, up from No. 7, with violations ballooning to 2,561 from 1,749 the prior year. Plastic product manufacturing was the industry cited most for this violating this standard, which pertains to the safe usage of powered industrial trucks such as fork trucks, tractors, platform lift trucks, motorized hand trucks and other specialized vehicles powered by electric motors or internal combustion engines. This standard focuses on safe usage of these vehicles, including operator training and certification, pre-shift inspections and operating environment restrictions.
Concerning the control of hazardous energy, the Lockout/Tagout standard retains its No. 6 spot from last year, though total violations in this category rose from 1,977 to 2,554. This standard concerns the implementation of an energy control program to prevent accidental activation of a machine during maintenance that can result in severe injuries or fatalities. Employee training in lockout/tagout procedures is mandatory.
7) Respiratory Protection
Violations of the Respiratory Protection standard increased from 2,185 to 2,481 for FY 2023, but the standard dropped in the rankings to No. 7 from its lofty perch at No. 3 the prior year and No. 2 for FY 2021. This standard was particularly prominent during the pandemic, when diverse workplaces needed to implement respiratory protection programs to protect workers from the COVID-19 virus. Over the past year, automotive paint and body shops were most likely to be cited for violations of this standard. Guidelines call for considering multiple factors to ensure safety from environmental hazards and identifying the type and level of potential hazardous exposure for workers when selecting appropriate protective equipment.
8) Fall Protection – Training Requirements
Once again No. 8 on the list, the Fall Protection-Training standard saw 2,112 violations for the year – up from 1,556. This standard concerns training and education for employees to prevent falls. As falls result in a high number of workplace injuries and fatalities, training workers is viewed as one of the many important interventions to keep workers safe. This standard mandates that employers provide a training program for each employee who might be exposed to fall hazards.
9) Personal Protective and Lifesaving Equipment – Eye and Face Protection
Employers were cited for 2,074 violations of the Eye and Face Protection standard for FY 2023, up by nearly 700 from the prior year. Roofing contractors topped the list of violators of this standard, which requires employers to ensure workers use eye and face protection when exposed to certain hazards, such as chemical or radiological irritants or flying hazards, which could cause facial or eye injuries, including blindness. For employees who wear prescription lenses, employers must ensure that eye protection either accommodates these prescriptions or fits comfortably over prescription glasses.
10) Machine Guarding
The Machine Guarding standard once again rounds out the top 10, with 1,644 violations this past year, up from 1,370 in FY 2022. Machine guards are defined as barriers that prevent access to danger areas, in order to protect employees from hazards such as rotating parts, flying chips or sparks. The absence or improper use of this critical safety equipment can lead to serious injuries – and OSHA citations.
This list, which OSHA announced during the National Safety Council (NSC) Safety Congress & Expo, is preliminary and may be adjusted slightly in the coming months.
Sheehy, Ware, Pappas & Grubbs can assist you with the complex OSHA compliance process and help you assert your rights throughout the OSHA inspection process. Few firms in the United States match our expertise in OSHA matters. Our OSHA attorneys have represented hundreds of clients in OSHA investigations, and we are able to perform 24/7 rapid response on-site coordination with our clients, often arriving before the OSHA inspector. For assistance with your OSHA matter, contact the OSHA attorneys at Sheehy, Ware, Pappas & Grubbs.