10 Most Common Workplace Safety Violations

January 17, 2012

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Each year, millions of workers are seriously injured on the job. According to the latest data, non-fatal workplace injuries and illnesses are down, yet many companies continue to rack up safety infractions.

Non-fatal workplace injuries and illnesses were down in 2010, dropping to 3.1 million reported incidents from 3.3 million incidents in 2009. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the decrease in work-related injuries represents a rate drop of 3.5 cases per 100 full-time workers from 3.6 cases in 2009.

"We are encouraged by the reported decline in incidence rates for workplace injuries and illnesses, which is reflective of government, business, unions and other organizations," Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis said in a statement accompanying the report. "Nevertheless, 3.1 million injuries and illnesses in the workplace is too high. Workers should not have to sacrifice their health and safety to earn a paycheck."

Injuries accounted for 2.9 million, or 94.9 percent, of the reported incidents, while the remaining 1.1 million incidents were illnesses. Over half of the reported incidents were so-called DART cases — of a more serious nature that involved days away from work, job restriction or transfer — occurring at a rate of 1.8 cases per 100 full-time workers.

Manufacturing was the only private industry sector that experienced an uptick in the incidence rate of workplace injuries or illnesses, with a 0.1 percent increase to 4.4 cases per 100 full-time employees. All other sectors surveyed, including the service, information, financial activities and goods production industries, saw a decline.

The health care and social assistance industry saw an increase in average hours worked, the only industry to see such a rise, while injury and illness incidents dropped from 5.4 cases per 100 full-time workers to 5.2 cases.

The report also covered public-sector estimates. The 18.4 million state and local government workers experienced no change from 2009 to 2010, remaining at 5.7 cases per 100 full-time workers, which is more than 60 percent higher than the private-sector rate.

Despite the positive overall findings, there were still numerous instances of workplace safety infractions.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the 10 most common citations for safety violations in fiscal year 2011 were:

  1. Fall protection (7139 violations)
  2. Scaffolding (7069 violations)
  3. Hazard communication (6538 violations)
  4. Respiratory protection (3944 violations violations)
  5. Lockout/tagout (3,639 violations violations)
  6. Electrical, wiring methods (3584 violations)
  7. Powered industrial trucks (3432 violations)
  8. Ladders (3244 violations)
  9. Electrical, general requirements (2863 violations)
  10. Machine guarding (2728 violations)

"Employers must know what injuries and illnesses are occurring in their workplaces in order to identify and correct systemic issues that put their workers at risk," Solis said, emphasizing OSHA's continuing mission to reduce risks and lower numbers through education and preventative care.

The Dept. of Labor figures followed a preliminary report in September that showed workplace fatalities were down slightly, with 4,547 fatal occupational injuries in 2010 versus 4,551 in 2009.

Several high-profile workplace safety incidents occurred in 2010, including the Deepwater Horizon explosion that triggered a massive oil spill. The explosion killed 11 workers and injured 17 others, as well as creating billions of dollars in damage to the Gulf Coast ecosystem.

Additionally, the Upper Big Branch mine explosion in West Virginia was the worst mining disaster in the United States since 1970, claiming the lives of 29 miners. Both incidents topped the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health's (COSH) list of the Top 10 Deadliest Workplace Tragedies for 2010.


Workplace Fatalities Down Slightly in 2010

Weekly Industry Crib Sheet: Capping the Gusher

Gauging the Impact of the Gulf Oil Spill

OSHA to Crack Down on Unsafe Workplaces


Workplace Injury and Illness Summary U.S. Department of Labor, Oct. 20, 2011

Statement from Secretary of Labor...on Reported Decline in Workplace Injuries and Illnesses U.S. Department of Labor, Oct. 20, 2011

OSHA's Top 10 Citation List Highlights Fall Protection, Hazcom Violations by Laura Walter EHS Today, Nov. 2, 2011

COSH Names Top 10 Workplace Tragedies for 2010 by Laura Walter EHS Today, Jan. 5, 2011

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