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As OSHA’s 2022 fiscal year approaches (October 1, 2021, to September 30, 2022) and the agency prepares to release its newest list of “Top 10 Most Frequently Cited Standards,” we thought it would be a good time to review the most recent 2021 list to gain some insights about the agency’s enforcement priorities. Employers can use this list to help prioritize and evaluate what areas of occupational health and safety (OH & S) they can focus on to improve their own Environmental, Health, and Safety (EHS) programs before OSHA shows up for an inspection.  

The top 10 most frequently cited standards remained largely the same as last year, but with some interesting shifts in their ranking according to the OSHA site. Once again, Fall Protection took the #1 spot while Hazard Communication dropped to #4 and Respiratory Protection jumped to the #2 position.  

OSHA’s FY 2021 Top 10 Most Frequently Cited Standards 

  1. Fall Protection, construction (29 CFR 1926.501) [related safety resources

OSHA’s Fall Protection Standard was cited in 5,295 instances. The standard outlines where fall protection is required, appropriate systems and hazard controls for common situations, proper safety systems for construction and installation, and proper supervision of employees to prevent falls. It’s designed to protect employees on walking/working surfaces (horizontal or vertical) with an unprotected side or edge above 6 feet. 

  1. Respiratory Protection, general industry (29 CFR 1910.134) [related safety resources

2,527 Respiratory Protection Standard violations were cited in FY2021. The Respiratory Protection Standard directs employers to establish and maintain a respiratory protection program when employees are required to wear respirators to protect themselves from exposure to known and potential respiratory hazards. It lists requirements for program administration, specific procedures for worksites, employee training, and respirator selection, fitting, cleaning, use, maintenance, and repair. 

  1. Ladders, construction (29 CFR 1926.1053) [related safety resources

OSHA’s Stairways and Ladders Standard was cited 2,026 times in FY2021. This standard establishes requirements for the safe use of ladders, extension ladders, job-made wooden ladders, and step ladders to reduce falls. 

  1. Hazard Communication, general industry (29 CFR 1910.1200) [related safety resources

The Hazard Communication Standard (HazCom) was cited 1,947 times in FY2021. This was a surprising shift in the Top 10 list, with the HazCom Standard consistently ranking #2 for nearly the past decade. HazCom requires the provision and communication of information about the identities and hazards of chemicals in the workplace to workers. Workers must have access to this information and be able to understand these chemical hazards to work safely. Major components of HazCom include but are not limited to, hazard classification, labels, safety data sheets (SDSs), training, and maintenance of a workplace written hazard communication plan. 

Want to know more about how to be compliant with OSHA HazCom? Join Phil Molé, EHS and Sustainability Expert, with VelocityEHS for a live webinar on October 4th at 11 am ET. 

  1. Scaffolding, construction (29 CFR 1926.451) [related safety resources

The Scaffolding Standard was cited 1,948 times in FY2021. It covers safety requirements for scaffolding including suspended scaffolds, supported scaffolds, and air lifts. Common hazards associated with all scaffolds include:  

  • falls from elevation, due to lack of fall protection. 
  • the collapse of the scaffold, caused by instability or overloading. 
  • being struck by falling tools, work materials, or debris. 
  • electrocution, due to the proximity of the scaffolds to overhead power lines. 
  1. Fall Protection Training, construction (29 CFR 1926.503) [related safety resources

The Fall Protection Training Standard was cited 1,666 times in FY2021. This standard differs from the Fall Protection Standard which ranked #1 in 2021, which primarily relates to physical hazard controls and fall protection systems/equipment. The Fall Protection Training Standard relates specifically to what training and education employers must provide to workers to prevent injuries and fatalities from falls, and in the proper use and maintenance of fall protection equipment. 

  1. Control of Hazardous Energy (lockout/tagout), general industry (29 CFR 1910.147) [related safety resources

OSHA’s Control of Hazardous Energy Standard, commonly known as the Lockout/Tagout Standard (LOTO) was cited 1,698 times in 2021. This standard prescribes programs and procedures to safeguard employees from unintentional release of hazardous energy from electrical, mechanical, hydraulic, pneumatic, chemical, thermal, or other types of equipment. These procedures outline how to disable machinery or equipment while being serviced, and who is responsible for maintaining LOTO programs. 

  1. Personal Protective and Lifesaving Equipment – Eye and Face Protection, construction (29 CFR 1926.102) [related safety resources

The Eye and Face Protection Standard was cited 1,452 times in FY2021. This standard requires employers to provide eye and face protection to employees whenever necessary to protect against chemical, environmental, radiological, or mechanical irritants, and hazards. 

  1. Powered Industrial Trucks, general industry (29 CFR 1910.178) [related safety resources

The Powered Industrial Trucks Standard was cited 1,420 times in FY2021. This standard provides information related to general design and construction standards for powered industrial trucks—commonly called forklifts or lift trucks—used to raise, lower, or remove large objects, pallets, crates, or other containers. It also requires employers to ensure truck operators are competent and properly trained in operation and safety standards. 

  1. Machinery and Machine Guarding, general industry (29 CFR 1910.212) [related safety resources

The Machinery and Machine Guarding Standard was cited 1,113 times in FY2021. The standard describes essential safeguards to protect employees who use or may be present in machine areas from hazards that may be created by point of operation, ingoing nip points, rotating parts, flying chips, sparks, or other foreseeable hazards.  

Improve Workplace Safety by Leveraging this List 

OSHA performed 24,333 total inspections in FY2021, up from 21,710 in 2020. With OSHA ramping up inspections and enforcement efforts, and civil penalties increasing consistently every year, it’s important for companies to verify compliance. OSHA’s Top 10 list is a valuable resource to help prioritize your compliance efforts and ensure your safety programs are addressing the most common and serious workplace hazards.  

If you’re responsible for safety management at your company, here are some ways to take advantage of this list: 

  • examine your safety program and identify potential hazards from the list that are present in your workplace(s). 
  • evaluate your company’s past and present safety records, and make sure they compliant with OSHA standards. 
  • engage your workforce to get insight into how safety can be improved in these areas. 
  • have a solid training program in place and ensure all employees are up to date on their training, including  the areas of OSHA standards compliance. 

As Always, VelocityEHS Can Help! 

The VelocityEHS Safety Solution, part of the VelocityEHS Accelerate® Platform, gives you the rapid access and clear visibility of safety data and trends that you need to identify critical EHS issues and optimize workplace safety performance. The solution scales to meet the needs of any size company across any industry and provides an intuitive, user-friendly system to engage and empower your employees to play an integral role in your workplace EHS programs. With a solid EHS program in place, you’ll have the foundation for pursuing a more mature Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) program.  

Contact us today to learn how we can help you seize the opportunity to promote a culture of employee empowerment and improve workplace safety.