Top 10 Serious OSHA Violations (and Their Costs)

Posted by
Lance Roux
on Oct 27, 2022

10 OSHA violations that can cost your business

Developing a robust health and safety program for your workplace can be a daunting task. But the policies and procedures outlined in the program are vital to the safety and wellbeing of your employees as well as your bottom line. Some infractions occur more frequently, many of which  pose the greatest risk of serious injury or death. To ensure employers understand these risks, OSHA publishes the top 10 infractions of each previous year so employers can course correct and keep their workers safe .

What are OSHA Violations?

It is a common misconception that a workplace incident must happen before a company has violated OSHA regulations. A violation occurs when an employer or employee deliberately or unknowingly performs or ignores safe work practices. If OSHA finds this to be the case, they can fine your company or give you a citation.

OSHA Violations vs. Citations

If an employee is not immediately at risk of injury, OSHA can issue a citation. Serving as a warning, a citation outlines the violation and provides a timeline to resolve the problem. If you repeat the offense, the infraction is recorded on your company’s safety record.

OSHA violations come with a wide range of consequences, from warnings to tiered financial penalties. Willfully ignoring OSHA regulations or repeating the same offense within three years can net you fines up to $130,000.  

Knowing the most frequent and serious OSHA violations can help you review your safety program and improve it where necessary. The first place to reference is these top 10 most serious OSHA violations.


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Top 10 "Serious" OSHA Violations and Their Cost

1. Fall Protection (1926.501)

Total 2021 violations: 5,537 

Total 2021 penalties: $29,318,015

Consistently among the top violations, the risk of severe harm to employees from falls comes with hefty fines. To prevent this type of infraction, employees must have predetermined and compliant work procedures, adequate training, and proper supervision.


2. Hazard Communication (1910.1200)

Total 2021 violations: 2,266 

Total 2021 penalties: $3,203,017

Employees have a right to know about work hazards. OSHA requires up-to-date written documentation of the hazards, as well as information about how these resources are communicated to employees.


3. Respiratory Protection (1910.134)

Total 2021 violations: 2,168 

Total 2021 penalties: $4,576,049

On the rise since 2020, poor quality air and breathing hazards are especially prevalent among OSHA violations. t With increasing N95 use since the start of the pandemic, many of these penalties resulted from an employer’s failure to enforce a full respiratory protection program and fit testing.


4. Ladders (1926.1053)

Total 2021 violations: 2,138 

Total 2021 penalties: $5,879,037

This seemingly harmless but potentially deadly device causes hundreds of deaths each year due to improper use, failing to secure it while in use, or failing to tag it as defective and pull it from the jobsite. 


5. Scaffolding (1926.451)

Total 2021 violations: 2,100 

Total 2021 penalties: $6,409,934

Scaffolding has specific build requirements, as well as fall arrest and guardrail components. This area’s compliance concerns usually involve a lack of fall protection and proper access points.


6. Lockout/Tagout (1910.147)

Total 2021 violations: 2,100 

Total 2021 penalties: $6,409,934

Lockout/tagout is the use of physical tags and padlocks to prevent re-energizing of equipment and electrical circuits while they are under maintenance and repair. It requires strong policies, programs and training to keep employees safe. Failing to do so can have disastrous consequences if there is an unexpected release of energy.  

Lockout/tagout requires strong policies, programs, and training to keep employees safe. Failing to do so can have disastrous consequences if there is an unexpected release of energy. 


7. Powered Industrial Trucks (1910.178)

Total 2021 violations: 1,603 

Total 2021 penalties: $5,702,608

In the case of powered industrial trucks (PITs), common violations include failure to provide equipment-specific training for each type of PIT, and a competency reassessment every three years. Unsafe use and unauthorized vehicle modification add another common compliance issue under the PIT violations.


8. Fall Protection – Training Requirements (1926.503)

Total 2021 violations: 1,722 

Total 2021 penalties: $3,068,261

As an individual component of a total fall prevention program, OSHA requires employees to be trained by a competent person in recognizing, inspecting, and using the procedures of a fall safety program. OSHA places a high value on compliance in this area. It is not enough to hand the employee the equipment. They must know how and why they are using it.


9. Personal Protective and Lifesaving Equipment – Eye and Face Protection (1926.102)

Total 2021 violations: 1,496

Total 2021 penalties: $4,829,873

Common violations include using face shields without eye goggles and face protection that does not meet prescribed industry requirements.


10. Machine Guarding (1910.212)

Total 2021 violations: 1,268 

Total 2021 penalties: $10,556,382

The severe safety risk of improper machine guarding includes moving parts, fall from above hazards, hydraulics, balers, cutters, and—if a machine is intended to remain stationary—improper machine anchoring to a fixed location.

Expensive, Preventable Violations

Whether your safety program is built from scratch, in need of a serious overhaul, or due for a compliance audit, hiring a workplace safety consultant makes more financial sense than incurring fines. 

Trying to navigate the OSHA Violation process on your own is extremely difficult. It requires a deep understanding of how OSHA works and what their expectations are, as well as high-level experience with the vast number of regulations. SafetyPro can help guide you through the OSHA violation process, identify ways to mitigate the costs you incur and minimize the impact of the violation on your business. If you find yourself entangled in the OSHA violation process, contact SafetyPro Resources as soon as possible to remediate the situation.

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Tags: OSHA Inspections, Safety Tips, Workplace safety

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