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How to Avoid 6 of the Most Common OSHA Violations

Stay compliant and keep workers safe with these workplace safety tips

Posted by Ann Snook on October 22nd, 2020

In October 2019, three construction workers died and several others were injured when the in-progress Hard Rock Hotel in New Orleans collapsed. Contractors were hit witha total of $315,536 in penalties from OSHA for violations involving structural instability, inadequate training and safety hazards on the site.

Now, those contractors have to deal with huge fines, reputation damage, the cost of demolishing the unfinished hotel and the devastation of losing employees. Following OSHA’s regulations would have saved these companies and their employees and families from devastating losses.

Here’s how your company can avoid six common OSHA violations, protecting everyone involved.


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1. Prevent Falls


Fall protection violations far outnumber any other types of OSHA citations. Fall protection is so important that OSHA has both general and training requirements, yet both make the list of top 10 most frequent citations.

Here’s how to avoid violations and fall incidents:

  • Find and eliminate all slip, trip and fall risks in your workplace or site
    • Inspect ladders, scaffolding and safety equipment monthly to ensure they’re safe to use
    • Encourage workers to keep a clean and tidy workspace with no wires, equipment or tools lying around that they could trip over
  • Make sure workers are using fall restraints and other passive fall protection (such as netting or railing)
    • Whether they’ll be working for hours or five minutes, require employees to use the protective measures for every task
  • Train workers on fall protection
    • Require training for new employees before they do a single job, and conduct annual refresher training for current workers
    • Employees might be resistant, especially if they’ve worked in their positions for years, but training on safety and equipment use is both required by OSHA and keeps them up-to-date on best practices


2. Communicate Chemical Hazards (Right-to-Know)


Nearly every type of workplace uses hazardous substances in some capacity (e.g. cleaning supplies), but you might not think about it if you’re in an office environment. That’s probably why hazard communication, or telling workers the health risks of chemicals they’re working with or around, is the number-two most cited OSHA violation.

To keep workers safe and avoid violations:

  • Provide up-to-date SDSs (safety data sheets) to employees, contractors, clients and customers
  • Keep and update an inventory of hazardous chemicals at the workplace/site
  • Clearly label hazardous substances with easily legible signs (replace if they start to fade or peel)
    • Label secondary containers, too, and never store hazardous chemicals in beverage containers
  • Train workers on hazardous chemical safety and communication, including your Hazardous Communication Standard Plan


RELATED: How to Complete an OSHA Incident Report Form


3. Secure Your Scaffolding


When employees are working on scaffolding, they might slip or trip and fall, a plank could give way causing a fall or objects may fall and strike them. Take measures to avoid these three common incidents to both protect your workers and avoid fines from OSHA.

Inspect scaffolding every day before workers start on the job. Make sure the system is able to support workers’ weights and is free of tripping hazards.

In addition, regularly train employees on scaffolding use. Ensure they know how to work on scaffolding in all weather conditions, use their fall arrest systems and access scaffolding safely.


4. Use Respiratory Protection Properly


When workers don’t have the proper protection (or any at all), they risk breathing in fumes, dust, sprays and more. As hazardous as these violations can be to workers’ health, they’re still in the top five most-cited by OSHA.

To keep your workplace healthy and compliant:

  • Train employees on correct use of their respiratory equipment (e.g. how to take on/off, maintenance/when to replace)
  • Provide the right respiratory equipment for each worker’s task
  • Make sure respirators or other PPE fit employees properly
  • Conduct medical evaluations on employees to ensure they can safely use their PPE


RELATED: Workplace Accident Investigations: The Definitive Guide


5. Audit Ladders and Their Use


Ladders are such a common piece of equipment, many people have one for home use. They aren’t specialized or high-tech and don’t need a license to operate. However, the simple nature of this tool doesn’t make it any less dangerous, and could be why OSHA sees so many ladder-related violations.

Avoid incidents and OSHA violations by:

  • Inspecting ladders before each use: do they have legible safety/load-bearing stickers? Are they broken or defective?
  • Ensuring every ladder on site can support your heaviest employee
  • Making sure workers always use the right ladder for the job
  • Training employees on proper ladder use and safety regularly (e.g. maintain three points of contact, secure before climbing)


RELATED: How to Improve Safety with Incident Software


6. Check Your Machine Guards


Machine guards are a helpful safety measure, but only if they’re used correctly.

First, make sure you’ve installed machine guards anywhere a worker could be crushed, cut or otherwise injured. Double-check that you’ve identified every machine risk in the workplace.

In addition, train employees on the purpose and use of the guards on every machine they work with. Why is the guard there? How should they attach and detach the guard, and when? Do they need any extra equipment to remove or replace the machine guard?

Finally, monitor both employees and equipment with a keen eye. If a guard is broken, faulty or not placed correctly, turn off the machine and fix or replace it right away. Is an employee removing a guard when they shouldn’t? Remind them that it’s there for their safety.


When an accident occurs in your workplace, do you know which form to complete and what information to include? Download our free OSHA incident report flowchart to make sure you always get it right.

Ann Snook
Ann Snook

Marketing Writer

Ann is a marketing writer at i-Sight Software. She writes about issues related to investigations of fraud, employee misconduct, corporate security, Title IX, ethics & compliance and more.

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