OSHA’s Top Ten Citations, 2020

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Every year, OSHA releases a list of the 10 standards most for which OSHA field agents most commonly issue citations to employers for violations.

To be honest, the list is largely the same every year. In most years, the same 10 standards appear on the list. Sure, some years one or two new standards will make it, but it’s generally the same 10. And in most years, the order from 1-10 is pretty much the same, too. Again, sometimes specific standards move up and down a few slots, but there’s not a TON of movement and Fall Prevention & Protection is typically the most cited violation.

So in a normal year, this isn’t exactly the most dramatic show in town.

But of course in 2020, we had the COVID pandemic, so you may be wondering if that had any influence on the list. We’ll give you the full run-down below.

Before we do, though, since we’ve already mentioned COVID and OSHA and since there still IS a pandemic going on out there, please feel free to download our COVID-19/Return to Work checklist, which is based on OSHA’s January 29, 2021 COVID guidance.

Additionally, since this article is about OSHA compliance, violations, and citations, you may be interested in our Guide to OSHA General Industry Compliance and our Guide to OSHA Construction Compliance.

And with that set, let’s take a look at OSHA’s Top Ten Citations for fiscal year 2020.

Before We Start the Top Ten List, What About COVID-Related Violations and Citations?

Being the sharp safety professional that you are, you know OSHA has no standard that’s specific to COVID-19. Instead, employers that get citations for things related to COVID-19 are getting cited for existing standards that are not specific to to COVID but are related. You know, things like Haz-Com, Bloodborne Pathogens, Ventilation, Respirators, PPE, and so on. (Keep Respirators in mind, because that will come up again later).

Additionally, OSHA can cite an employer for violating the General Duty Clause and the employer’s responsibility to provide a safe and healthful workplace for employees in COVID-related cases.

In fact, OSHA published a list of commonly issued citations related to COVID-19 not so long ago. Their list included:

  • 1910.134, Respiratory Protection
  • 1904, Recordkeeping and Reporting Occupational Injuries and Illnesses
  • 1910.132, Personal Protective Equipment
  • The General Duty Clause

So keep all that in mind when considering this year’s OSHA’s Top Ten list. Additionally, we wrote up a different article on Applicable OSHA Standards to Keep in Mind While Implementing COVID Protection Plans at Work, too. That will be of help to you as well.


OSHA’s Top Ten Citations List

OSHA always releases the first view of the Top Ten Citations list at the National Safety Council’s (NSC) annual Congress and Expo. Here’s the list for fiscal year 2020 via OSHA and the NSC:

1. Fall Protection – General Requirements (1926.501): 5,424 violations
2. Hazard Communication (1910.1200): 3,199 violations
3. Respiratory Protection (1910.134): 2,649 violations
4. Scaffolding (1926.451): 2,538 violations
5. Ladders (1926.1053): 2,129 violations
6. Lockout/Tagout (1910.147): 2,065 violations
7. Powered Industrial Trucks (1910.178): 1,932 violations
8. Fall Protection – Training Requirements (1926.503): 1,621 violations
9. Personal Protective and Life Saving Equipment – Eye and Face Protection (1926.102): 1,369 violations
10. Machine Guarding (1910.212): 1,313 violations

OSHA’s Top Ten in Previous Years

Here’s the OSHA’s Top Ten List for 2019:

1. Fall Protection – General Requirements (1926.501): 6,010 violations
2. Hazard Communication (1910.1200): 3,671 violations
3. Scaffolding (1926.451): 2,813 violations
4. Lockout/Tagout (1910.147):  2,606 violations
5. Respiratory Protection (1910.134): 2,450 violations
6. Ladders (1926.1053): 2,345 violations
7. Powered Industrial Trucks (1910.178): 2,093 violations
8. Fall Protection – Training Requirements (1926.503): 1,773 violations
9. Machine Guarding (1910.212): 1,743 violations
10. Personal Protective and Lifesaving Equipment – Eye and Face Protection (1926.102): 1,411 violations

If you compare the 2019 Top Ten and 2020 Top Ten lists, they’re pretty close. The biggest change that occurs to me is that OSHA issues fewer citations in 2020 than they did in 2019. Maybe OSHA inspectors were working harder to assist employers because of the COVID pandemic, making use of the additional discretion OSHA offered them if employers were showing good faith efforts to comply, and were focusing less on enforcement activities. Make of that what you will.

Another smaller change is Respiratory Protection moving from 5 in 2019 to 3 in 2020. Again, maybe that’s because of COVID-19.

If you want to compare this year’s list to even more years, we’ve got a historical tracking of OSHA’s Top Ten Citations going back to 2014 for you.

Conclusion: Vector Solutions Can Help You Comply with OSHA’s Safety Regulations

We hope you found this overview of the OSHA’s Top Ten Citations for 2020 and past years helpful. Although COVID-19 gets a lot of attention–and rightly–obviously employers still have to worry about workers falling from heights or the hazards in a confined space or any of the other hazards the OSHA standards were written to help safeguard against.

To help employers create safer, healthier workplaces for employees (and, secondarily, comply with OSHA regulations), Vector Solutions has pulled together the following product offerings you may be interested in:

  • LiveSafe Mobile Risk Communication Platform
  • Vector EHS Management Software
  • Safety Data Sheets (SDS) Management System
  • Online Safety and Health Training Courses (including our complementary “Vector Cares” online courses about COVID-19)
  • Learning Management System (LMS) for training administration

Let us know if we can be of assistance in any way. And stay safe and healthy out there, friends!

And don’t forget to download our Guide to OSHA General Industry Compliance before you go! 

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Jeffrey Dalto

Jeffrey Dalto

Jeffrey Dalto is an Instructional Designer and the Senior Learning & Development Specialist at Convergence Training. He's worked in training/learning & development for 25 years, in safety and safety training for more than 10, is an OSHA Authorized Outreach Trainer for General Industry OSHA 10 and 30, has completed a General Industry Safety and Health Specialist Certificate from the University of Washington/Pacific Northwest OSHA Education Center and an Instructional Design certification from the Association of Talent Development (ATD), and is a member of the committee creating the upcoming ANSI/ASSP Z490.2 national standard on online environmental, health, and safety training. Jeff frequently writes for magazines related to safety, safety training, and training and frequently speaks at conferences on the same issues, including the Washington Governor's Safety and Health Conference, the Oregon Governor's Occupational Safety and Health Conference, the Wisconsin Safety Conference, the MSHA Training Resources Applied to Mining (TRAM) Conference, and others.

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