Top 10 Hazards OSHA Inspectors Will Look For at Your Workplace

OSHA Compliance Requirements

Some years back we attended a conference on OSHA compliance and our presenter provided a list of the top ten problems/hazards that OSHA inspectors look for during an inspection.

We’ve provided that list below because we thought it might be (a) a good way to help you prepare for an upcoming OSHA inspection but more importantly (b) a good way to focus your general workplace safety efforts in hazard identification and control.

Stay tuned, because we’re going to follow-up in short order with two additional blog posts focusing on:

Please share your own insights and experiences on this issue as well.

One last note–don’t confuse this with the more commonly-seen Top Ten OSHA Violations/Citations list, although we’ll make some points about how they’re similar as we go through the list below.

10 Hazards OSHA Inspectors Look for During an Inspection

Every OSHA inspection and every OSHA inspector is unique, and there’s no guarantee of what an OSHA inspector will be looking for, but here’s the list of 10 hazards OSHA will look for during an inspection. You can use this information to make your workplace safer now.

1-Sources of Motion

You should look for hazardous, unguarded sources of motion. This includes rotating motion (circular motion), reciprocating motion (back-and-forth motion, and transverse motion (movement in a straight, continuous line).

Places to look include around collars, couplings, cams, clutches, flywheels, shaft ends, spindles, meshing gears, and horizontal or vertical shafting.

These hazards are made more serious when there are projections such as set screws, bolts, nicks, abrasions, and projecting keys or set screws are exposed on rotating parts. Watch for these in particular.

Nip points are a particular hazard to watch out for.

See this OSHA Machine Guarding eTool for more on Machine Motion and Action Hazards. You might also benefit from our online machine guarding training course, which covers this hazard and many more.

It also seems fair to put mobile equipment on this list here (or elsewhere on the list, depending on how you categorize things). Keep this equipment in good working order with proper maintenance, proper and appropriate operator training, and teach pedestrians how to work safely around mobile equipment.

2-Sources of High Temperature

High temperatures that can burn workers or start fires are another thing that OSHA inspectors look for and that you should address.

While investigating sources of high temperature, ask yourself why the temperature is so high. Is it normal, or is it a sign that a machine is in disrepair or a process is poorly planned?

Controls to consider include machine guarding, PPE, and limiting employee exposure to high temperatures (to avoid heat stress). And be sure that flammable materials, including combustible dusts, are not exposed to high temperatures.

Our online course on flammable and combustible liquids can help you in these efforts (although don’t forget to “zero in” on the source and cause of high temperatures).

3-Sharp Objects

Blades, sharp edges, and more can cause serious cutting injuries to workers.

Make sure blades and other sharp objects are properly guarded and that workers (a) have appropriate PPE, such as cut-resistant gloves, and (b) know proper work procedures when working with or near sharp objects.

Remember to consider things like hand tools and even table saws when looking for these hazardous shop objects at the workplace, as our online table saw safety course demonstrates.

4-Rolling Objects (Crushing Hazards)

You should also look for rolling objects that can crush people and/or body parts, such as fingers, hands, toes, and feet.

This can include objects that are intended to roll but also those that might not ordinarily roll except in cases when a control fails (build in redundant systems of protection).

Guarding, including secure barriers and pedestrian walkways, can be one type of control for this type of hazard. So can properly training workers of crushing hazards at your workplace and how to be safe while working near them.


5-Harmful Dusts

Dusts can create several different hazards and may create harm in different ways. For example, some dusts are respiration hazards, such as friable asbestos dust or airborne crystalline silica dust. And, on the other hand, other dusts are combustible hazards, as in combustible dust.

Controls include preventing dust creation, preventing dust accumulation, ventilation, the use of respirators, keeping dusts from ignition sources, and more.

Our online combustible dusts course heightens awareness of some of these dust-related issues…

…and so does our online crystalline silica course.

For more information about asbestos and mesothelioma, see the good people at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance and say hi to our good friend Emily and/or check out the equally good folks at Mesothelioma.net and say hi to Virgil.

6-Falling Objects

Falling objects can range from a poorly designed and constructed scaffold, to materials improperly placed on warehouse shelving units, to a hand tool dropped from an aerial work platform, or a heavy bag dropped through a floor opening to a level below.

To control these hazards, try to eliminate the chance they can fall; use guarding and barriers; don’t let workers get underneath something that could fall; and use safety nettings and other similar protective devices.

Our online aerial work platform course can be a good beginning for making your workplace safer from these kind of falling hazards.

7-Slippery Surfaces

Slippery surfaces (and other slip, trip, and fall hazards) are one of the more common causes of accidents in the workplace, and in many cases they’re easy to avoid.

To avoid getting dinged for slippery surfaces during an OSHA infraction, don’t allow surfaces to become slippery. This may involve re-engineering some of your current work processes, perhaps to redirect a slippery material that’s dripping onto a surface.

You may also need to consider closing doors and windows, putting non-slip materials on walking surfaces; putting mats on floors; providing workers with special, high-traction footwear; and making sure procedures are in place for immediately removing slippery materials from walking surfaces.

Our online slip, trip, and fall inspection course offers some great tips for identifying these hazards.

And of course, it’s a good idea to raise employee awareness of these slip, trip, and fall hazards through training, as demonstrated in our online slip, trip, and fall training class.

8-Chemical Exposures

There are any number of hazardous chemicals in workplaces.

Hazardous chemical safety begins with identifying the hazardous chemicals at your workplace, making sure they’re used and stored properly, giving workers proper training about chemical hazards and how to work safely with chemicals (basic Hazard Communication training), ensuring workers have proper PPE for working with chemicals, having safety data sheets (SDSs) on site and having emergency showers/eyewashes as well as a defined emergency action plan for chemical spills and exposures, and more.

Here’s a quick sample of our online hazard communication course.

9-Electrical Hazards

Electrical hazards are a common cause of workplace injuries and even fatalities.

To avoid negative aspects of OSHA scrutiny, make sure your electrical wiring is done properly by qualified electricians. Make sure your company complies with OSHA’s general electrical requirements and with the NFPA 70E standard for electrical safety in the workplace.

Make sure all wiring and machines are in proper working order and immediately take them out of service for repair when any problem is discovered.

And don’t forget to give workers proper training on electrical safety general awareness, electric shock hazards, and arc flash safety.

Here’s a sample of our online arc flash safety training course, which helps make workers aware of arc flash hazards and sets the foundation for helping workers stay safe from arc flash hazards at work.

10-Schematic/Layout of Workplace

The schematic or layout of your workplace can cause any number of serious hazards. For example, it may cause ergonomic hazards or it may bring substances that are hazardous when in close proximity too close to one another.

For more information on this, check out this Safety Through Design website from the CDC and NIOSH.

Notes on OSHA Inspection Items 1-10

Note that the first nine of these ten items are general hazard types as opposed to specific infractions or citations, meaning they can appear in your workplace in a variety of ways and locations.

The tenth item on the list may not be something you think of as a hazard type, but obviously a poor workplace layout can contribute to hazards, from ergonomic issues on up.

11-Noise Hazards

This wasn’t on the list but it seems obvious so we’re adding it here.

Consider switching to less noisy equipment; putting in noise insulation; providing PPE for hearing protection; limiting worker exposure to noisy areas, and similar controls.

Hearing conservation training for employees is also a good idea; check the sample of our online hearing conservation training course below to get an idea.

What To Do When You Identify Hazards at Work

The short answer here is to prioritize them for your corrective actions and use the hierarchy of controls to control the hazards.

For this, we offer the two articles below:


Conclusion: What An OSHA Inspector Will Look for At Your Workplace

We hope you found this helpful.

Mostly, we hope you will use this list to identify and control hazards at work even if there is no OSHA inspection anticipated anytime soon. There’s a REASON OSHA inspectors look for these, after all.

But of course, if there is an OSHA inspector headed your way, we hope the article behinds as well.

You may also find the following two articles, along similar lines, helpful:

And don’t forget to download the free guide below while you’re here–it should be useful for hazard identification purposes.

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Job Hazard Analysis Guide

Learn how to perform a job hazard analysis on the job with our free step-by-step guide.

Download Free Guide

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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 20 years, in safety and safety training for more than 10, is an OSHA Authorized Outreach Trainer for General Industry OSHA 10 and 30, and is a member of the committee creating the upcoming ANSI Z490.2 national standard on online environmental, health, and safety training.

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