What OSHA’s 2022 Top 10 List Says About Workplace Safety in the United States
Each year OSHA publishes a top 10 list of the most frequently cited standards found during inspections conducted by federal OSHA during the past fiscal year. The list is used as a tool by OSHA to help educate employers on the most significant risks confronting their workforce so that they can proactively address those situations before an OSHA inspection.
While OSHA doesn't officially post its list until the end of April, Safety+Health Magazine recently published a preliminary list of the OSHA top 10 for the 2022 fiscal year, which closed on September 30th, 2022. Let's look at the initial list to see how it has changed since last year's top 10 most frequently cited regulations and theories on why that may be.
Comparing the List
Top 10 Most Frequently Cited OSHA Standards for Fiscal Year 2022 ran from October 1st, 2021, to September 30th, 2022. The 10 items didn’t change from the prior year, but the order did, with four staying the same, three moving up, and three moving down (see below).
- Fall Protection, construction (29 CFR 1926.501)
- Hazard Communication, general industry (29 CFR 1910.1200) (+2)
- Ladders, construction (29 CFR 1926.1053)
- Respiratory Protection, general industry (29 CFR 1910.134) (-2)
- Scaffolding, construction (29 CFR 1926.451)
- Control of Hazardous Energy (lockout/tagout), general industry (29 CFR 1910.147) (+1)
- Powered Industrial Trucks, general industry (29 CFR 1910.178) (+2)
- Fall Protection Training, construction (29 CFR 1926.503) (-2)
- Eye and Face Protection, construction (29 CFR 1926.102) (-1)
- Machinery and Machine Guarding, general industry (29 CFR 1910.212)
The Top 5
Respiratory protection moved down while Hazard Communication moved up. The Respirator Protection standard directs employers to establish and maintain a respirator protection program, which includes procedures, training, medical evaluation, and maintenance and repair.
Because the 2021 top ten list was established during the 2021 fiscal year, which ran from October 1st, 2020, to September 30th, 2021, respiratory protection's prominence on the 2021 list was likely related to the increasing number of workers wearing respirators in response to the risks of covid-19.
As a result, companies with no experience running a respiratory protection program were now obligated to create one. This lack of knowledge likely contributed to OSHA inspectors finding more violations in 2021 than in previous years, resulting in respirator protection having a more prominent position during that fiscal year.
However, the use of respirators in 2022 may have dropped as COVID has normalized within society, and inspectors may not find as many violations today as they did in 2021.
The Bottom 5
Just as the top 5 OSHA standards have remained the same but shifted positions, so have the bottom five standards on the OSHA's Top 10 list.
The Powered Industrial Trucks standard has moved up two spots on the list and deals with the operation design, maintenance, and training of mobile equipment like forklifts. Perhaps this increase reflects the labor crunch many companies, especially those in logistics and warehousing, have felt over the past year as they try to fulfill the demand for goods while short-staffed.
These shortages may push some to cut corners regarding proper employee training, inspections, and maintenance while hiring less skilled workers to operate the equipment. As a result, OSHA inspectors may find more violations than they would otherwise.
Impact on Workers and Business
Employers that want to reduce injury in accident rates and avoid potentially costly regulatory fines must take this list seriously and see if it illuminates any of their safety and health programs' shortcomings.
If an OSHA inspector shows up for a surprise inspection, these top 10 standards will likely be at the top of their mind and something they will look for at your facility. Reading and reviewing these top 10 standards for comprehension and how they might apply to your workplace is a perfect place to start to ensure your organization isn't caught off guard.
The Need for Training and Prevention
What are some of the most important things your company needs to focus on to ensure you don't get hit with one of these most commonly cited regulations?
Safety audits are one of the essential safety and health program tools. Audits help you identify hazards in your workplace so that you can proactively manage and eliminate them before they can turn into workplace injuries or accidents.
Different people see different hazards, and something you might miss may be evident to another person with different experiences. That's why multiple team members must perform periodic workplace audits, not just the safety professional.
OSHA requires that companies create written safety programs and periodically update and review them. Audit your organization's current safety and health plans and procedures to ensure they include the requirements established by the top 10 standards.
Finally, an essential component of workplace safety and compliance is training employees to recognize and mitigate the hazards they are likely to encounter. Therefore, audit your current training to identify gaps related to the OSHA's top 10 list and create a plan to fill those gaps.
Make sure that you are proactive when it comes to training and staying on top of it. The longer you wait to conduct training, the more likely your workers are to be involved in an accident, and OSHA is to show up on-site and realize that you have not been conducting the mandatory training.
HSI Can Help
The United States has made great strides toward improving workplace safety since the creation of the Occupational Health and Safety Administration in the 1970s. However, the fact that OSHA's top 10 list of the most frequently cited standards has not changed all that much means that many companies are not doing enough to continue that progress.
Organizations that want to protect their employees from workplace injuries and accidents and their businesses from potential OSHA violations must focus on improving safety.
Training is a great place to start. To learn more about how HSI and our comprehensive list of safety and compliance training can help you achieve a safer, more compliant workplace, check out our training library.