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Being cited by OSHA for a violation is a scary thought. That’s why it’s important to know the top four most frequently cited standards and how to avoid being “one of those companies.”

The following is based on the most recent OSHA data from October 2021 through September 2022.

# 1 Hazard communication; 1910.1200

The hazard communication standard is the most cited standard with 2,752 violations discovered during 1,458 inspections. The reason for the number one ranking is that many companies must comply with this standard since their employees work with hazardous chemicals. Any employer with one employee and one hazardous chemical is covered.

To protect your workers and avoid being cited, ensure you’re doing the following:

  • Identify and list hazardous chemicals in their workplaces, e.g., create and maintain a “chemical inventory.”
  • Ensure safety data sheets (SDSs) are received and containers are labeled.
  • Implement a written HazCom program, including provisions for proper container labeling, SDSs, and employee training.
  • Communicate hazard information to employees through proper labels, SDSs, and formal training programs.

#2 Respiratory protection; 1910.134

OSHA’s respiratory protection standard applies to employers who have employees exposed to hazards for which respiratory protection is required or used voluntarily. OSHA keeps an eye out for violations of this standard, as the consequences for not complying can be deadly to workers.

OSHA found 2,444 violations during 1,086 inspections. It’s interesting to note that the total penalty was $5,599,622, which is a million more than the fines for hazard communication.

Here are some of the OSHA requirements (see the standard for all):

  • Identify and evaluate the respiratory hazard(s) in the workplace.
  • Develop and implement a written respiratory protection program with required worksite-specific procedures and elements for required respirator use.
  • Designate a program administrator to administer the respiratory protection program.
  • Conduct workplace evaluations as necessary to ensure that the current written program's provisions are being effectively implemented and that it continues to be effective.
  • Select and provide appropriate respirators.
  • Train employees on respiratory protection.
  • Provide a medical evaluation to determine the employee’s ability to use a respirator, including N95 (dust masks) if required to be used.

#3 Control of hazardous energy (Lockout/Tagout); 1910.147

The requirement for lockout/tagout applies to employers whose workers perform maintenance on equipment where the uncontrolled release of hazardous energy is possible, or their workers are exposed to these hazards from the maintenance.

OSHA found 2,155 violations during 1,173 inspections. The interesting thing is the total penalty was $16,254,569, which is the highest of all general industry violated standards.

To avoid joining that crowd, follow the standard’s most critical requirements:

  • Develop, implement, and enforce an energy control program.
  • Use lockout devices for equipment that can be locked out. Tagout devices may be used instead of lockout devices only if the tagout program provides employee protection equivalent to that provided through a lockout program.
  • Ensure that new or overhauled equipment can be locked out.
  • Develop, implement, and enforce an effective tagout program if machines or equipment are not capable of being locked out.
  • Develop, document, implement, and enforce energy control procedures.
  • Use only lockout/tagout devices authorized for the equipment or machinery and ensure that they are durable, standardized, and substantial.
  • Ensure that lockout/tagout devices identify the individual users.
  • Establish a policy that permits only the employee who applied a lockout/tagout device to remove it.
  • Inspect energy control procedures at least annually.
  • Provide effective training for all covered employees.

#4 Powered industrial trucks; 1910.178

OSHA’s Powered Industrial Truck standard applies to most types of material handling equipment that is powered for horizontal movement. This includes forklifts, order pickers, powered pallet jacks, yard jockeys, stand-up and narrow aisle lift trucks, to name a few. Since many companies have one or more of these, it’s not surprising it made the top violations list.

OSHA found 2,053 violations during 1,405 inspections. The total penalty was $7,285,110, which ranks third highest of all general industry violated standards.

The regulation requires employers in part to:

  • Evaluate the workplace for PITs. OSHA’s PIT standard covers most types of material handling equipment that is powered for horizontal movement.
  • Observe capacity ratings. The PIT’s nameplate contains essential information on the PITs capacity.
  • Train all operators and document the training and evaluation.
  • Re-evaluate operators at least once every three years.
  • Provide refresher training as needed.
  • Allow only qualified persons to train operators.
  • Ensure equipment is inspected at least daily.

Action item

Take time to review these four most cited OSHA general industry standards to see if you're meeting the requirements.

Key to Remember

No employer wants to be cited by OSHA. Know the four most frequently cited violations and follow the OSHA requirements to avoid being “one of those companies.”