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National Safety Month: Top OSHA Violations

From construction to general industry, here are the top five most frequently cited standards and the training solutions to avoid costly fines

Jobs in industries such as construction and manufacturing are prone to high numbers of work-related injuries largely due in part to their use of industrial machinery, as well as the nature of the work itself and the spaces in which the jobs must be performed. While some of the most common accidents are the result of employees slipping and falling in the workplace, other on-the-job injuries include electrical injuries, getting struck by an object, or getting caught in-between equipment and structures.

Each year, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) releases its list of top frequently cited standards as a resource for employers to determine the top hazards in the industry they service. In 2020, the top 10 violations on the list, which encompasses both the construction and general industry, totaled 24,239.

As part of National Safety Month, we're delving into the top five violations, along with suggested OSHA training solutions that can help guide your internal safety audit programs.

Fall Protection - General Requirements

Total Violations: 5,424

OSHA statistics have shown that falls are the leading cause of U.S. construction site deaths and year after year, fall protection continues to top the list. Covering both construction and all other industries, citations are most often issued for lack of fall protection measures such as guardrails, covering floor openings, and personal fall arrest systems.

Training Solutions: OSHA 510 and OSHA 3115

Hazard Communication

Total Violations: 3,199

In industries where workers might be exposed to hazardous materials, it is critical to protect worker health. Correct handling and disposal of toxic substances at the industry level requires proven skills, knowledge, and competence from workers. OSHA's standards for handling hazardous materials ensure clear communication of hazard information on chemical labels and also require training sessions for workers on the potential environmental and biological effects of these materials and the OSHA-approved procedures for handling them.

Training Solutions: OSHA 511 and OSHA 521

Respiratory Protection

Total Violations: 2,649

While respiratory protection is one of the easiest of the standards with which to comply, it's often one employers overlook or ignore. The most common violation of the standard is failure to have workers undergo medical evaluation prior to respirator use. Other violations include not having a written respiratory protection plan and not providing employees with adequate fit tests before initial use and annually thereafter.

Training Solutions: OSHA 511 and OSHA 2225


Total Violations: 2,538

The second fall-related violation, scaffolding, accounts for 65% of the day-to-day work in the construction industry. Common citations include not protecting employees from falling to a lower level, not fully planking the entire scaffold, and not providing safe access to scaffold platforms.

Training Solutions: OSHA 510 and Scaffolding Safety


Total Violations: 2,129

Stairways and ladders are major sources of injuries and fatalities among health and safety workers. In general, there are three categories of ladders used in the workplace: stepladders, portable ladders, and fixed ladders. OSHA has general rules that apply to all ladders, as well as specific regulations for how much weight a ladder can bear to the position of a ladder and even ladder care and maintenance. Most OSHA violations related to ladders result in simple misuse and mismeasurement.

Training Solutions: OSHA 511 and OSHA 3115

OSHA-Related Training Saves You Money

Failing to be in compliance and violating these standards can be very costly to the lives of your employees and the livelihood of your company. In 2019, the U.S. experienced 48.3 million workplace injuries resulting in over $1 billion in associated costs, according to the National Safety Council.

To reduce the risk and cost of injury, employers should ensure all workers have access to adequate training, while implementing a comprehensive health and safety program.

As an authorized OSHA Training Institute Education Center, Georgia Tech Professional Education offers nationally recognized OSHA training for the construction and general industries. From flexible training courses to in-depth program certificates and a Master's in Occupational Safety and Health degree, we offer valuable safety and health solutions to help you and your employees identify hazards in your workplace and the on-the-job knowledge to prevent them.