Business Tips

The top 10 workplace safety violations and tips to avoid them

Scott Madison, a Ferguson author

by Scott Madison


When it comes to workplace safety, it pays to comply with government regulations. This is especially true now more than ever. In 2016, the penalties for OSHA violations increased by 78% for the first time in over twenty years. The penalties increased again in 2017, with some fines now costing up to $126,749. Look out for the most common types of OSHA safety violations on your jobsite and follow these tips to help keep your crew safe and your company free from costly fines and penalties.*

Top 10 OSHA Safety Violations of 2016

10. Electrical (General Requirements)

Electrical equipment that is improperly installed can lead to serious injury and death by electrocution.

Tip: Inspect your electrical equipment for bent or exposed wires, signs of overheating and proper voltage capacity. If the equipment you’re using is fixed, make sure it’s firmly secured and in place. Checking the integrity of your electrical equipment prior to use can take the shock out of a workplace accident.

Bonus Tip: We recommend using a certified electrician to save you additional worry and get the job done right the first time.

9. Electrical (Wiring Methods)

Poorly-installed wiring in a structure creates prime conditions for hazards like blown circuits, electrical fires and bodily harm by electrocution.

Tip: Check to make sure you’re using the right kind of power cord or cable for the job. Avoid using flexible cords or cables for fixed or permanent wiring in a structure.

8. Machine Guarding

With an increase in workplace accidents, machine guarding jumped up from its position in ninth to the eighth most common safety violation on jobsites. Machines without a safety guard in place at the point of operation pose a threat to workers from exposure to moving parts, flying pieces, and sparks. Crushing, maiming, and lacerations are some potential hazards when using a machine without a guard.

Tip: Opt for hand tools, cutters and shears that require two hands to operate. Anchor all fixed machines to a sturdy mounting surface.

Bonus Tip: Always wear safety glasses when using any type of machinery as an extra precaution to avoid serious eye injury or loss of vision.

7. Ladders

Falls that lead to serious injury and possibly death can result from ladders that are set up on an unstable surface, are slippery or are carrying more than their maximum weight capacity.

Tip: Make ladder use a two-person job when possible. Designate one worker to be the spotter to ensure ladder stability. An extra set of eyes on the ground can help spot a potential hazard.

Bonus Tip: Never attach two ladders together to add extra length unless the ladders were specifically designed to do so.

6. Powered Industrial Trucks

Forklifts, motorized hand trucks, tractors and other similar vehicles require care when operating to prevent injury to the driver and other workers in the driver’s vicinity.

Tip: Stunt driving or horseplay with industrial trucks should be prohibited. Ensure drivers of industrial trucks meet all designated requirements and have the appropriate licensure to operate the equipment.

Bonus Tip: Incorporate a rating system within your organization that requires special training and authority to use industrial trucks. Doing so supports workplace safety and motivates workers for advancement.

5. Lockout/Tag-Out

This OSHA violation moved up to the fifth most common OSHA safety violation in 2015. The accidental start up of a machine creates the potential for exposure to electrical hazards, gas, steam and moving parts in the point of operation. Use of a lockout device such as an approved padlock or a combination lock, will prevent the startup of a machine by physically blocking the engagement of the required components for the machine to function.

Tip: Educate your team about the importance of using lockout/tag-out devices. Be mindful of workers who speak other languages and ensure the information is communicated to them as well.

4. Respiratory Protection

Inhaling air contaminated by dust, soot, gas and vapor can lead to a number of chronic respiratory problems and diseases.

Tip: Personal respiratory devices should form a complete seal on the face. Beards are a popular choice of men’s grooming, but they can impede a respirator from working the right way. Make sure facial hair is trimmed to allow for a respirator to fit properly.

Bonus Tip: In order to protect workers from silica dust inhalation, OSHA outlined new requirements for dust collection on the jobsite that will go into effect on June 23, 2017. Learn about the new dust removal requirements >>

3. Scaffolding

Overloading a scaffold with material and equipment that exceeds the intended weight load can cause the structure to break and fall. Scaffold surfaces that are wet or slippery also pose a threat to worker safety.

Tip: Heads up! Make sure there is enough clearance between the top of the scaffold and any ceiling fixtures, beams or exposed power lines to avoid accidental contact.

2. Hazard Communication

Conditions and materials used on the jobsite can create a number of potential safety threats. Hazards like slippery surfaces, toxic chemicals and gases, extreme temperatures, electrified fences and construction areas are just some of the dangers that can be avoided through the use of hazard communication.

Tip: Develop and implement a hazard communication plan. Assess any potential hazards an employee could be exposed to and communicate the risks using safety markers.

Bonus Tip: Installing an eyewash station on the jobsite can help provide fast relief from accidental chemical exposure to the eye before going to the emergency room.

1. Fall Protection

Elevated workspaces pose a risk for slips and falls, which could cause broken bones, spine injuries and even death.

Tip: Measure workspace elevations to identify potential fall hazards. If a workspace is elevated more than 6’ from the level below it, make sure guard rails, safety nets or fall arrest systems are in place.

Bonus Tip: People aren’t the only thing that can fall from a high level. Install toe boards or screens around the base of an elevated area to prevent tools, equipment and material from falling and hitting a worker below.

You can help keep yourself and your team safe just by keeping an eye open for safety violations during your day-to-day operations. In addition to preventing bodily harm, you can also help avoid fines and lawsuits. A little safety precaution can go a long way on the jobsite.

*Top 10 OSHA Citations of 2016: A Starting Point for Workplace Safety, U.S. Department of Labor, 2017

Scott Madison, a Ferguson author

Scott Madison

Scott is a 10+ year veteran of the online space and has literally traveled the world to present the best possible ideas (according to him) that he is able to offer. His knowledge of the HFM & MRO industries offers an experienced data-driven perspective to all of his writings.