Electrical Safety Stories Blog

What Did OSHA Cite Employers for in 2019?

What OSHA Cited Employers for in 2019

By: Adam Meza


OSHA Inspections. They’re common, rarely expected, costly for employers who fail to protect workers, and as announced earlier this year—on the rise. Always on the lookout for situations in which an employee isn’t adequately protected, compliance officers are incredibly efficient and skilled at what they do.

Paired with the introduction of the Enforcement Weighting System (EWS) in FY 2016, inspections are now better targeted, more efficient, and more effective. Knowing this, employers need to be on the lookout for worker safety no matter the situation and ready for a compliance officer to drop by.

So, what are compliance officers looking for when they show up? What are employers most likely to get cited for violating? There are thousands of potential citations that could occur during the 30,000-plus inspections that occur each year, but as the data shows, OSHA compliance officers find ten violations among the most common.

This top ten list takes into account the number of citations issued by Federal OSHA each year. The most recent report looks at data from October 1, 2018 – August 15, 2019 and was announced at the annual NSC 2019 Congress and Expo in San Diego.

“Far too many preventable injuries and deaths occur on the job,” said Lorraine M. Martin, NSC president and CEO. “The OSHA Top 10 list is a helpful guide for understanding just how adept America’s businesses are in complying with the basic rules of workplace safety. This list should serve as a challenge for us to do better as a nation and expect more from employers. It should also serve as a catalyst for individual employees to re-commit to safety.”

While there is usually not a ton of change from year to year—fall protection has spent nearly a decade at the top—it’s important to remain ever-vigilant for these unsafe behaviors and take steps to correct them.

1.    Fall Protection: 6,010 Citations

By far the most frequently cited OSHA standard, Fall Protection – General Requirements (1926.501) remains at the top of the list once again.

Falls are common in the workplace, listed as one of Construction’s Fatal Four, and present a constant challenge for employers. From covering holes to fall arrest systems, it’s necessary to implement a fall protection program any time a worker is operating at a height more than six feet.

For those employees working on electrical equipment, falls can happen for a variety of reasons. Whether in the form of a traditional hazard or as the result of force generated in an arc flash, taking steps to protect workers from falls is necessary.

2. Hazard Communication: 3,671 Citations

Another frequent concern, Hazard Communication (1910.1200) once again ranked second on the most frequently cited standards list. Used specifically regarding chemicals, the purpose of this is to ensure that the hazards of all chemicals are classified, and that information concerning the classified hazards is transmitted to employers and employees.

This standard is in a constant state of change as the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) is now aligned with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS).

Though 1910.1200 is specific to chemicals, employers need to ensure that all hazards are communicated. This includes proper labeling for electrical equipment. Learn what goes into an arc flash hazard label here.

3. Scaffolding: 2,813 Citations

Whether it’s in the form of improper scaffolding, unstable scaffolding, disconnected scaffolding, or failure to incorporate proper clearance between scaffolds and power lines, OSHA cites employers consistently for Scaffolding - 1926.451.

4. Lockout/Tagout: 2,606 Citations

Protecting workers from the dangers of electricity is a constant challenge. Controlling hazardous energy during servicing and/or maintenance of machines and equipment, also known as lockout/tagout – 1910.147, is a key step to protect workers, and is cited by OSHA more than 2,600 times per year.

The Lockout/Tagout standard incorporates a variety of protections and represents an important part of any electrical safety program and is a key protection point (administrative and work practice controls) in the hierarchy of controls.

5. Respiratory Protection: 2,450 Citations

Down one spot from 2018, respiratory protection (1910.134) is still a commonly cited standard. From silica to harmful gasses, this standard is in place to control occupational diseases caused by breathing air contaminated with harmful dusts, fogs, fumes, mists, gases, smokes, sprays, or vapors.

6. Ladders: 2,345 Citations

Another top concern for OSHA and employers is the use of ladders (1926.1053). Much like fall protection, many employers fail to incorporate ladder safety into their safe operating procedures, leaving many workers at risk.

7. Powered Industrial Trucks: 2,093

When improperly used or maintained, forklifts and powered industrial trucks (1910.178) represent a significant danger to employees and property. If you have one in service, you can be sure that an OSHA compliance officer will be looking to see if this equipment is well maintained and operational.

8. Fall Protection – Training Requirements: 1,773

Another standard concerning fall protection, OSHA frequently cites employers for failure to develop a training program as it pertains to fall protection. The program shall enable each employee to recognize the hazards of falling and shall train each employee in the procedures to be followed in order to minimize these hazards.

Like any training program, it only goes as far as the workplace safety culture allows. Improving program adherence requires you to improve your safety culture, a topic we discussed in our highly informative whitepaper.

9. Machine Guarding: 1,743

Proper machine guarding controls should be in place to protect the operator and other employees in the machine area from hazards such as those created by point of operation, ingoing nip points, rotating parts, flying chips and sparks. 

10. Eye and Face Protection: 1,411

Eye and face protection joined the list of top citations in 2018 and once again rounds out the top ten list in 2019. As stated in 1926.102, the employer shall ensure that each affected employee uses appropriate eye or face protection when exposed to eye or face hazards from flying particles, molten metal, liquid chemicals, acids or caustic liquids, chemical gases or vapors, or potentially injurious light radiation.

Face protection is a tough topic. Yes, it has to protect workers, but it also can’t make the job riskier. In fact, this was a big problem for the electrical industry for decades. Until recently, workers had to don face shields that used a green tint.

Unfortunately, this legacy green shield distorts colors making it very difficult to differentiate yellow from white and green can appear blue. Workers would have to make judgements on a limited range of visibility. Luckily, recent technological advancements (like our OptiShield grey tinted face shields) have made it easier to clearly see and differentiate colors. Paired with our innovative designs to increase breathability to reduce fogging, you can increase the likelihood that electrical workers are protecting their face.

Train, Equip, and Protect Your Workers

With OSHA inspections on the rise, inspection technology improving, and inspectors becoming more efficient, you can’t just “put on a good face” for the OSHA compliance officer. Safe behaviors and mindsets need to be instilled into the way your company operates and the way your people work. If you are looking to go beyond programs and implement a true culture of electrical safety, we’ve written a guide that can help you. 

Developing a Culture of Electrical Safety explores the differences between a compliant program and a true culture of safety while offering tips that can make your people safer. Preview this guide below and download it here.


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