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Top 10 OSHA violations for 2020: Fall protection remains a problem

OSHA violations being written on a clipboard

Falls are one of the most common ways a worker can get seriously injured or killed while on the job. With that in mind, it’s a bit shocking to see the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announce that “Fall Protection – General Requirements” has earned the top spot yet again on its list of most frequently cited workplace safety standards for fiscal year 2020. This marks the 10th consecutive year that fall protection has had the dubious honor of being OSHA’s most cited safety violation.

Patrick Kapust, who serves as the deputy director of OSHA’s Directorate of Enforcement Programs, presented the 2020 data to Safety+Health magazine in an exclusive webinar in February. While several standards traded positions on the list, the Top 10 violations in 2020 were the same as 2019.

Lorraine M. Martin, president and CEO of The National Safety Council, said workplace safety was more important than ever in 2020 due to the ongoing pandemic.

“The OSHA Top 10 list reminds us why we must continue to focus on persistent safety risks as we navigate new challenges,” Martin said. “These data help us pinpoint areas where we can improve so we can better prioritize workplace safety in the future world of work.”

Without further ado, here are the Top 10 OSHA violations for FY2020.

Fall Protection (General Requirements) – 5,424 violations

Employers are required to provide fall protection to workers to prevent them from falling off elevated workstations, overhead platforms, or into floors and walls that have holes. At most jobs, fall protection must be provided at elevations of four feet or higher, though the rules are different depending on the industry. For instance, in the construction industry employers must provide fall protection when workers are at elevations of six feet or higher. OSHA also requires fall protection to employees who are working over dangerous equipment and machinery, at any elevation.

Hazard Communication – 3,199 violations

If you work with or around chemicals, your employer has an obligation to communicate information about the identity and hazards associated with each substance in a way that’s clearly understood and available to all workers.

Respiratory Protection – 2,649 violations

Without respirators to protect them from inhaling dust, smoke, gas, sprays, mists, vapors, and other harmful particulates, workers may develop cancer, lung impairment, and other serious medical conditions. As stated by OSHA: “Compliance with the OSHA Respiratory Protection Standard could avert hundreds of deaths and thousands of illnesses annually.”

Scaffolding – 2,538 violations

Did you know that nearly two-thirds of all construction workers work on scaffolds? Statistical data has shown that the majority of workers who are injured or die in scaffold accidents are struck by a falling object, slip and fall off the scaffold, or fall from the scaffold when the planking or support of the framework gives way. Says OHSA: “All of these accidents can be controlled by compliance with OSHA standards.”

Ladders – 2,129 violations

Ladder accidents can be fatal, which is why ladders must be used safely. You already know that falls are among the deadliest types of workplace accidents, but did you know that falls from ladders make up a large chunk of those fatalities, particularly in the construction industry? From not following proper safety protocols to faulty equipment, OSHA violations involving ladders are common yet avoidable.

Lockout/Tagout – 2,065 violations

Workers who service or do maintenance on machines and other equipment can be seriously injured or killed due to the release of stored energy or a startup that is not anticipated. For instance, a worker who is fixing a pipe connection could suffer severe burns if a steam valve is automatically turned on. Or a worker attempting to clear a jam on a conveyor system might be crushed if the system releases abruptly. OSHA states: “Craft workers, electricians, machine operators, and laborers are among the millions of workers who service equipment routinely and face the greatest risk of injury.”

Powered Industrial Trucks – 1,932 violations

Forklift safety is critical to the health and wellbeing of many workers in numerous industries and can differ depending on where the forklift is being used. Before a worker can operate a powered industrial truck, they must show that they are competent enough to do so by completing the required training and evaluation.

Fall Protection (Training Requirements) – 1,621 violations

Fall protection is so important that OHSA separates violations into different categories. As such, employers are also required to train workers about the hazards associated with falls in language that can be clearly understood by every employee.

Personal Protective and Life Saving Equipment (Eye and Face Protection) – 1,369 violations

To protect against chemical irritants and other hazards that can cause work-related eye injuries and blindness, OHSA has rules in place for employers to provide workers with appropriate eye and face protection.

Machine Guarding – 1,313 violations

For those who work around moving machine parts, safeguards should exist to prevent crushed body parts, amputations, burns, or blindness. Says OSHA: “Any machine part, function, or process that may cause injury must be safeguarded. When the operation of a machine or accidental contact injures the operator or others in the vicinity, the hazards must be eliminated or controlled.”

If you’ve been hurt at work, you may be entitled to workers' comp benefits

OSHA, which is a branch of the US Dept. of Labor, sets and enforces standards to ensure the health and safety of workers across the country. When employers violate those standards, it puts working men and women at risk of sustaining a severe injury or illness. Fortunately, the workers' compensation system allows employees to pursue certain benefits to help cover the cost of their injury-related expenses. If you were hurt in a work accident, you may be eligible for medical, wage, and other applicable benefits — but the process of actually getting those benefits can be exceptionally overwhelming and confusing. If you're not careful, you could end up costing yourself time, money, and proper medical treatment.

At Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano, LLP, we have more than 100 experienced legal professionals who all take pride in helping people through their most difficult times. If you suffered a work-related injury or illness, our dedicated legal team can guide you through the process and help you pursue the workers’ compensation benefits you need and deserve. Contact us today for a free case evaluation. We proudly serve injured workers in NYC and throughout New York State.

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