List of Most Popular OSHA Violations

Insight - 65 Min read

May 3, 2024

An OSHA violation refers to a breach of the standards and regulations set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in the United States. OSHA is the federal agency responsible for ensuring safe and healthful working conditions by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, outreach, education, and assistance.

Violations occur when employers do not comply with these safety standards, which can encompass a wide range of issues including, but not limited to, inadequate fall protection, insufficient hazard communication, improper use of equipment, and lack of proper emergency and fire safety measures. When a violation is identified, OSHA may issue citations and proposed penalties, which can vary based on the severity and type of violation.

How OSHA Violations are Discovered:

OSHA violations are typically discovered through several primary methods:

Inspections by OSHA:

OSHA's primary method for discovering violations involves conducting inspections at workplaces without any prior notice. These inspections are either random or specifically targeted at industries known for higher incidences of safety issues or regulatory non-compliance. During these visits, compliance officers thoroughly assess whether the workplace adheres to established health and safety standards. This proactive approach helps OSHA identify and rectify potential risks before they result in accidents or injuries.

Employee Complaints:

Employees play a crucial role in maintaining workplace safety by reporting potential hazards or breaches of safety standards to OSHA. When workers suspect that their environment is unsafe or that their employer is failing to follow safety regulations, they can file complaints with OSHA, which often prompt immediate inspections. This mechanism not only empowers employees to contribute to their safety but also helps OSHA respond swiftly to emerging threats.

Accidents and Fatalities:

OSHA requires employers to report any severe injuries, fatalities, or significant accidents occurring at their sites. These reports are critical as they trigger OSHA inspections aimed at determining whether violations of safety standards contributed to the incident. Such inspections are crucial for identifying the root causes of accidents and implementing necessary measures to prevent future occurrences.


Referrals are another significant source through which OSHA learns about potential safety violations. These referrals could come from other government entities, media reports, or external parties who notice unsafe practices. OSHA takes these referrals seriously, often initiating inspections based on the information provided to ensure that all workplaces meet safety regulations.

Follow-up Inspections:

After citing a workplace for safety violations, OSHA conducts follow-up inspections to ensure that the issues have been adequately addressed and that the employer has complied with safety directives. These inspections are crucial for verifying that corrective actions are in place and that the workplace maintains ongoing compliance with OSHA standards.

Programmed Inspections:

OSHA strategically plans programmed inspections for industries known to have high injury rates or where workers are exposed to significant hazards. These inspections are part of OSHA’s efforts to systematically address industries and occupations where risks are well-known and potentially severe, aiming to reduce the likelihood of accidents through preemptive checks.OSHA strategically plans programmed inspections for industries known to have high injury rates or where workers are exposed to significant hazards. These inspections are part of OSHA’s efforts to systematically address industries and occupations where risks are well-known and potentially severe, aiming to reduce the likelihood of accidents through preemptive checks.

Categories of OSHA Violations and Associated Penalties

Serious Violations:

Serious violations are cited by safety regulators such as OSHA when there is a substantial probability that a hazard could result in death or significant physical harm, and the employer knew or should have known about the hazard. These violations are taken very seriously because they indicate a direct threat to worker safety. Addressing these issues is often prioritized to ensure immediate remedial actions are taken to mitigate risks and protect employees.

Willful Violations:

Willful violations occur when an employer intentionally disregards or is plainly indifferent to the requirements set by safety laws and regulations. This type of violation represents a conscious decision to ignore legal obligations regarding workplace safety, demonstrating a disregard for the health and well-being of employees. Willful violations are among the most serious and can result in the highest penalties, including criminal charges in severe cases.

Repeated Violations:

Repeated violations are issued when an employer is cited for the same or a very similar violation that they have previously been cited for. This indicates a persistent failure to correct ongoing safety issues, suggesting a pattern of negligence or disregard for safety standards. Repeated violations often lead to increased scrutiny from regulatory bodies and higher fines to compel compliance.

Other-Than-Serious Violations:

Other-than-serious violations are related to workplace safety and health but are not expected to cause death or serious physical harm. However, these violations could potentially result in direct harm to workers' safety and health albeit not of a severe nature. Penalties for these violations tend to be lower, but they still require attention and remediation to ensure overall workplace safety.

Failure to Abate Prior Violation:

A failure to abate prior violation is cited when an employer does not correct a previously identified violation by the stipulated deadline. This failure to make required changes underscores a neglect of regulatory compliance and worker safety, leading to potentially escalated penalties and further legal action to enforce compliance.

Posting Requirements:

Violations related to posting requirements occur when employers fail to display necessary OSHA notices or properly report severe injuries as mandated. These postings are crucial as they provide employees with information on their rights and safety procedures, as well as report serious workplace incidents. Failure to meet posting requirements can lead to penalties and indicates a lack of commitment to fostering an informed and safe work environment.

Common OSHA Violations and Way To Avoid Them

The most commonly cited OSHA violations often highlight areas where employers frequently fail to meet safety standards. Understanding these common issues can help businesses enhance their safety practices and compliance. Here's a list of these violations and tips on how to avoid them:

Fall Protection (Construction):

Avoidance: Employers must install adequate fall protection systems in areas where workers are at risk of falling six feet or more. This includes providing proper personal protective equipment like harnesses and installing physical barriers such as guardrails. Regular training sessions should also be conducted to educate workers on the importance of fall protection and how to use safety equipment correctly, ensuring they understand the potential hazards and preventive measures.

Hazard Communication:

Avoidance: To comply with OSHA’s Hazard Communication standards, employers need to maintain an up-to-date inventory of all hazardous substances in the workplace. Each hazardous substance should be properly labeled, and Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) must be accessible to all employees. Furthermore, regular training sessions are crucial to inform employees about the chemical hazards they are exposed to and the corresponding safety precautions they should take.

Scaffolding (Construction):

Avoidance: Scaffolding must be assembled under the supervision of qualified personnel and should be inspected regularly to ensure its stability and safety. Employers must ensure that scaffolding is equipped with sturdy guardrails and that it can support the expected load without risk of collapse. Training workers on the proper use of scaffolding and the importance of reporting any potential hazards is also essential for preventing accidents.

Respiratory Protection:

Avoidance: Implementing a comprehensive respiratory protection program is vital for workplaces with airborne contaminants. This program should include an assessment of respiratory hazards, selection of appropriate respirators, regular maintenance and inspection of the equipment, and training for employees on the correct use of respirators. Ensuring that all workers understand the importance of respiratory protection and know how to fit and maintain their respirators can significantly reduce health risks.


Avoidance: Developing and strictly enforcing a lockout/tagout program is critical to ensure that machinery is safely de-energized during maintenance and repair. This program should include specific procedures for shutting down and locking out machines, training for employees on these procedures, and regular audits to ensure compliance. Proper lockout/tagout practices prevent accidental machine start-ups, thereby safeguarding workers from injuries.

Ladders (Construction):

Avoidance: Ladders must be inspected regularly to identify any damage or defects that could pose a safety risk. It’s important to use the correct type of ladder for the task at hand and ensure that all workers are trained on proper ladder usage, including how to position ladders securely and avoid overreaching. Proper training and vigilant inspection routines can prevent many common ladder-related injuries in construction settings.

Powered Industrial Trucks (Forklifts):

Avoidance: Operators of powered industrial trucks, such as forklifts, must be properly trained on the specific model of vehicle they are using. This training should be refreshed every three years and complemented by daily vehicle inspections to identify any issues that could lead to accidents. Ensuring that all operators are competent and that vehicles are in good working condition are key steps in preventing workplace incidents.

Fall Protection Training (Construction):

Avoidance: Providing comprehensive fall protection training is essential for any workers who might be exposed to fall hazards. This training should cover the identification of potential fall hazards, the correct use of fall protection systems, and the importance of adhering to safety protocols at all times. Educating workers about the risks and the measures they can take to protect themselves helps reduce the likelihood of fall-related injuries.

Machine Guarding:

Avoidance: Installing protective guards on machinery with moving parts is crucial to prevent worker contact with dangerous components. Regular inspections should be carried out to ensure that these guards are securely in place and functioning properly. Additionally, workers should be trained on the importance of machine guarding and encouraged to report any damaged or missing guards immediately.

Personal Protective and Life Saving Equipment (Construction):

Avoidance: Employers must provide suitable personal protective equipment (PPE), such as helmets, gloves, and eye protection, to all workers exposed to hazards. It is also important to train employees on when and how to use this equipment correctly. Regular inspections and maintenance of PPE are essential to ensure that it provides the necessary level of protection.

Electrical, Wiring Methods:

Avoidance: Ensuring that all electrical installations adhere to OSHA standards and the National Electrical Code is crucial. Regular inspections should be conducted to identify and rectify any hazardous conditions, such as exposed wiring or improper connections. Training employees on safe electrical practices and the importance of reporting electrical hazards can prevent accidents and ensure compliance with safety regulations.

Eye and Face Protection:

Avoidance: Providing adequate eye and face protection is necessary for employees exposed to hazards that could cause injury. This includes flying particles, molten metal, and harmful chemical exposures. Employers should ensure that all workers have access to the appropriate protective gear and understand how to use it effectively to shield themselves from injuries.

Control of Hazardous Energy (Lockout/Tagout), General Industry:

Avoidance: Strengthening lockout/tagout procedures involves regular training, enforcing compliance through audits, and maintaining a culture of safety that prioritizes preventing accidental energy releases. By emphasizing the importance of these procedures and continually monitoring their effectiveness, employers can significantly enhance workplace safety during maintenance operations.

Electrical, General Requirements:

Avoidance: Regular training on electrical safety, ensuring accessibility to electrical panels, and maintaining clear working spaces around electrical equipment are vital. These practices help prevent electrical accidents and ensure a safe working environment for all employees involved in or around electrical systems.

General Requirements for All Machines:

Avoidance: A comprehensive approach to machine safety includes using proper guards and safety devices, conducting regular maintenance, and never bypassing safety features. Training employees on the safe operation of machines and maintaining a proactive safety culture are crucial to preventing accidents and ensuring the well-being of all workers.

Reporting OSHA Violations:

Reporting an OSHA violation is an important step for ensuring workplace safety and compliance with health regulations. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to report a violation to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA):

Gather Information:

Collect as much detail as possible about the violation, including the type of hazard, the location within the workplace, and when the hazard was observed. If possible, gather evidence such as photos or videos, keeping personal safety and privacy laws in mind.

Determine Urgency:

If the situation presents an immediate danger to workers' health or safety where there is a likelihood of death or serious physical harm, it can be reported more urgently through a phone call.

Contact OSHA:

Phone: You can report emergencies or severe violations by calling OSHA’s free and confidential number at 1-800-321-OSHA (6742), which is available 24 hours.

Online: For non-emergencies, use the online complaint form available on the OSHA website.

In Person: You can also file a complaint in person at your nearest OSHA office.

Provide Details:

When filing the complaint, provide all collected information and be as specific as possible. You do not need to know which specific OSHA standards have been violated to file a report.

Decide on Anonymity:

You can choose to file the complaint anonymously to protect your identity. OSHA keeps the identity of the complainant confidential on request, even during investigations.

Follow Up:

After the complaint is filed, OSHA will evaluate and determine if an on-site inspection is necessary. For serious reports, OSHA is more likely to conduct an in-person inspection. You have the right to request information on the outcome of your complaint.

Protection Against Retaliation:

OSHA provides protections for whistleblowers. It is illegal for an employer to retaliate against employees for exercising their rights under OSHA, including reporting a violation.

Join our inventory mailing list to get early access to our best deals