OSHA’s Top 10 Most Cited Violations for 2016
Although the rankings for OSHA’s Top 10 most cited violations change little from year to year, the agency provides dozens of statistics. Glance too quickly at the numbers for fiscal year 2016, and you might experience a sense of information overload.
A simple approach is best, said Patrick Kapust, deputy director of OSHA’s Directorate of Enforcement Programs. He presented the agency’s Top 10 list of most frequently cited violations for the past fiscal year in October during the 2016 National Safety Council Congress & Expo in Anaheim, CA. “Take the list,” Kapust said, “and look at your own workplace off of that list. ‘These are the things OSHA is finding. Would they find these at my workplace?’ It’s a good place to start.”
As for OSHA’s Top 10 list, it starts with Fall Protection (1926.501) as the most cited violation for the sixth straight year. Hazard Communication (1910.1200) and Scaffolding (1926.451) complete the top three most-cited categories, all unchanged from FY 2015.
Rounding out the top five most cited violations are Respiratory Protection (1910.134) and Lockout/Tagout (1910.147).
OSHA issued a total of more than 35,000 citations in its Top 10 categories during fiscal 2016, which ended Sept. 30.
OSHA’s Top 10 for FY 2016 begins below.
Most-cited violations, fiscal year 2016
Data current as of Oct. 11, 2016
Top 10 "serious" violations, fiscal year 2016
A "serious" violation is deﬁned by OSHA as "one in which there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result, and the employer knew or should have known of the hazard."
Top 10 "willful" violations, fiscal year 2016
OSHA deﬁnes a "willful" violation as one "committed with an intentional disregard of or plain indifference to the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and requirements."
This list of OSHA’s proposed monetary penalties in fiscal year 2016 comprises penalties stemming from a single incident or related incidents in which one or more companies are alleged to have failed to adhere to safe work practices. This failure puts workers at risk – in some cases fatally. The following information is gathered from OSHA enforcement press releases.
Note: These fines represent proposed penalties issued by federal OSHA between Oct. 1, 2015, and Sept. 30, 2016. Dollar amounts may be reduced as part of a settlement agreement or litigation.
Company: Sunfield Inc.
Hebron, OH (OSHA Region 5)
Business type: Auto parts manufacturer
Inspection trigger: Worker injuries
Event: Federal investigators inspected Sunfield’s Hebron, OH, plant after two workers sustained severe injuries in January and February. The result of the inspection was one of the largest OSHA penalties ever filed against an auto parts manufacturer in the United States. OSHA stated that Sunfield, which has a long history of safety violations, failed to disconnect machinery from a power supply and prevent sudden movement before maintenance and service. The company also failed to train workers on how to safely operate machine presses and did not service and maintain them as needed, according to OSHA.
Major citations: Sunfield Inc. was cited for 46 egregious willful, two willful, one repeat and eight serious safety violations. The company was placed in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program.
“Sunfield has shown a total disregard for its workers, the kind rarely seen since the darkest days of the past when callous industrialists ruled and put profits before human suffering and common decency. This has to stop.” – OSHA administrator David Michaels
Company: Fraser Shipyards Inc.
Location: Superior, WI (OSHA Region 5)
Business type: Shipyard operator
Inspection trigger: Multiple complaints
Event: OSHA determined that Fraser Shipyards' management knew about the presence of lead and asbestos as workers retrofitted a ship's engine room. The agency's sampling results determined that 14 workers had blood lead levels as much as 20 times greater than the exposure limit.
Major citations: Fraser Shipyards was cited for 14 willful egregious health violations for each instance of a worker being overexposed to lead. OSHA cited five additional willful violations for the company's failure to conduct monitoring to assess lead exposures, failure to implement a lead compliance program or respiratory protection program for lead, and failure to train workers on hazards related to lead and asbestos.
"Fraser Shipyards accepted a contract with a very low profit margin and penalties for delayed completion, but could not meet the schedule without endangering its workers. This employer was unwilling to pay the necessary costs to protect employees from lead exposure." – OSHA administrator David Michaels
Company: Dollar General Corp.
Location: O'Fallon, MO (OSHA Region 7)
Business type: Retail chain
Inspection trigger: Complaints
Event: OSHA penalized Dollar General nine times during fiscal year 2016 – the most of any employer. The largest penalty of $163,000 followed an inspection in which OSHA discovered a 5-foot-high, 15-foot-long pile of trash blocking an emergency exit. Inspectors also found circuit breakers that were not labeled, stairs that lacked railings, exit signs posted at a door that was not an exit, lack of training on fire extinguisher use, and other safety violations.
Major citations: Dollar General's largest penalty stemmed from two willful, six serious and one other-than-serious violation.
"Dollar General stores nationwide have repeatedly been cited for exposing their workers to hazards posed by overstocking issues, while promising time and again to take corrective action, yet workers continue to be exposed to unnecessary hazards. It is the employer's responsibility to find and fix these hazards and OSHA will continue to hold this employer accountable." – Josh Bernstein, acting OSHA area director in Fort Worth, TX
Company: Nebraska Railcar Cleaning Services
Location: Omaha, NE (OSHA Region 7)
Business type: Cleaning company specializing in railcars that contain food-grade products, herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers, used oil and other products
Inspection trigger: Two worker fatalities, one worker injury
Event: Federal investigators inspected the site after an April 14, 2015, explosion killed two workers and injured another. According to the agency, the following events preceded the blast: A check of the air quality inside a railcar indicated a serious risk of an explosion, but the company ignored these risks and sent two workers into the railcar; failed to monitor the air continuously for explosive hazards as required; and failed to provide workers with emergency retrieval equipment or properly fitted respirators.
Major citations: Nebraska Railcar Cleaning Services was cited for seven egregious willful, two repeat, 20 serious and one other-than-serious safety and health violation. OSHA also placed the company in the Severe Violator Enforcement Program.
"Our hearts go out to the families of these workers, whose deaths were so senseless and preventable. This isn't the first time this employer put its workers' lives at risk – but OSHA will do everything in our power to ensure it is the last." – OSHA administrator David Michaels
Company: Berlin Builders Inc.
Location: Cinnaminson, NJ (OSHA Region 3)
Business type: Residential construction contractor
Inspection trigger: Planned inspection
Event: Inspectors determined that workers were exposed to serious fall hazards on construction sites in which Berlin Builders had been contracted to work. OSHA cited the company for fall hazards on scaffold platforms and a lack of training for those hazards; failure to provide and use fall protection; and failure to inspect the jobsite for fall- and fire-related hazards. Berlin Builders was cited four times during fiscal 2016.
Major citations: In its largest penalty, Berlin Builders was cited for two willful, nine repeat, eight serious and one other-than-serious violation at four worksites across Delaware and Pennsylvania.
"Berlin Builders is a serial violator that callously refuses to take even the most basic steps to protect workers from falls and other serious hazards in construction, an industry among the nation's most hazardous. Approximately four in 10 construction workers die in falls at work. It is vital that construction companies take responsibility for protecting their workers from preventable injuries and serious hazards."– Richard Mendelson, OSHA regional administrator in Philadelphia
Company: U.S. Postal Service
Location: Sandston, VA (OSHA Region 3)
Business type: Mail sorting and delivery
Inspection trigger: Worker complaint
Event: OSHA cited the U.S. Postal Service eight times during fiscal year 2016. Penalties ranged from $44,000 to $120,000. For the largest penalty, investigators at a processing and distribution center in Sandston, VA, found that USPS allowed workers to use powered industrial equipment that was not inspected or examined for defects after each shift; permitted workers to operate powered industrial vehicles without wearing a seat belt; exposed workers to struck-by or caught-between hazards by allowing workers to operate powered industrial equipment in aisles clearly marked for wheeled mail carts; and other problems.
Major citations: Four repeat citations and one other-than serious violations at the Virginia distribution site.
"Every year, thousands of workers are injured – some fatally – while operating powered industrial equipment. It is every employer's responsibility to provide its employees with safe and healthful workplaces. Prompt and effective corrective action must be taken." – Stan Dutko Jr., OSHA's area director in Norfolk, VA
Company: HP Pelzer Automotive Systems Inc.
Location: Thomson, GA (OSHA Region 4)
Business type: Auto parts manufacturer
Inspection trigger: Complaint
Event: Following a complaint, and as part of the agency's Regional Emphasis Program on Safety Hazards in the Auto Parts Industry, inspectors found that workers were exposed to workplace dangers such as falls, amputations and electrocution hazards. According to OSHA, HP Pelzer failed to protect workers from laceration and amputation hazards because of unguarded machine parts; protect workers from thermal skin burns due to contact with hot metallic surfaces; and train employees who perform work on hazardous energy sources.
Major citations: HP Pelzer was cited for 12 repeat and eight serious violations.
"Employers must ensure they provide safe and healthy working conditions – at all times – and not just during or immediately following an OSHA onsite inspection." – William Fulcher, OSHA area director in the Atlanta-East Office
Location: Canton, OH (OSHA Region 5)
Business type: Steel manufacturer
Inspection trigger: Worker injury
Event: An employee broke several bones and missed several months of work after a crane's safety latch failed and 1,000 pounds of equipment fell on him as he worked on the facility floor. A follow-up investigation showed struck-by, fall and amputations at two TimkenSteel plants in Canton, OH. Investigators found that workers were exposed to falls due to lack of guardrails, slippery surfaces and protective equipment; damaged equipment; electrical hazards; and live machinery operating parts during service and maintenance because locking devices and guards were not used.
Major citations: TimkenSteel was cited for one willful, one repeated and two safety citations at its Gambrinus plant in Canton, OH; and eight repeated, eight serious and one other-than-serious violation at its Harrison plant, which also is in Canton.
"This worker is lucky to be alive. We also observed conditions where workers could have fallen or lost limbs. It is unacceptable that the company has repeatedly been cited for these same hazards." – Howard Eberts, OSHA area director in Cleveland
Company: Case Farms
Location: Canton, OH (OSHA Region 5)
Business type: Chicken processor
Inspection trigger: Planned inspection
Event: Federal inspections revealed deficiencies in ammonia refrigeration systems at two of Case Farms' Ohio facilities. Exposure to ammonia can cause serious respiratory illness, and the release of ammonia from pressurized pipes and vessels can lead to injury and death.
Major citations: Case Farms was cited for 11 repeat, four serious and two other-than-serious violations at its Winesburg plant; and five repeat and three serious violations at its Canton facility.
"Case Farms needs to protect its workers. Period. The company has a 25-year track record of failing to comply with federal workplace safety standards." – OSHA administrator David Michaels
Company: Ashley Furniture
Location: Whitehall, WI (OSHA Region 5)
Business type: Furniture retailer
Inspection trigger: Planned inspection under Severe Violator Enforcement Program
Event: Inspectors who visited Ashley Furniture's plant in Whitehall, WI, determined that the company did not implement procedures to prevent machines from starting unintentionally when operators changed blades, cleaned machines or cleared jams.
Major citations: Ashley Furniture was cited for one willful, five repeat and two serious citations.
Q & A with OSHA's Patrick Kapust
Preliminary data for OSHA’s Top 10 was announced Oct. 18 at the National Safety Council Congress & Expo in Anaheim, CA. That day, Patrick Kapust, deputy director of OSHA’s Directorate of Enforcement Programs, sat down with Safety+Health Associate Editor Tom Musick to talk about the list – and how several recent initiatives have helped the agency track and target the most-frequently cited violations.
Safety+Health: Last year, OSHA announced it would implement a weighting system based on the complexity of inspections. What has OSHA learned from that strategy?
Patrick Kapust: What’s interesting about the enforcement weighting system is that previously, each inspection was counted the same regardless of the resources expended on it. We weren’t able to account for the wide array of inspections that we had, so we wanted a better system to recognize the resources that are put into inspections that address complex, serious hazards that take more time and resources to complete due to the nature of the hazards, the type of inspection and the nature of the worksites involved.
We came up with this enforcement weighting system. In the system, we have categories, and it does have some overlap with the Top 10. For example, combustible dust inspections are one of the categories within the enforcement weighting system. If you look at the Top 10 hazards that are uncovered during those types of inspections, they may be addressed by Hazard Communication (1910.1200), Respiratory Protection (1910.134) and many of the electrical standards. Obviously, you need to have appropriate listed and labeled electrical equipment installed in dust enclosures and where there are potential dust atmospheres that could explode upon electrical ignition. For non-permissible exposure levels, we have a category, as well as personal sampling where we test the atmosphere to see what kind of exposures employees may be experiencing. There, we may find hazards that are addressed by hazard communication again, and respiratory protection. So there is some overlap.
With our fatality investigations, a lot of those are due to falls. What’s number one? Fall Protection. Also this year, Powered Industrial Trucks (1910.178) is No. 6, and we see a lot of fatalities involving powered industrial trucks.
S+H: What about the severe injury tracking reports that OSHA started receiving in 2015? How do those overlap with the Top 10 most cited violations?
Kapust: One of the tools we use in response to severe injury reports is called rapid response investigations. Since RRIs do require resources, we weigh them. Every nine rapid response investigations count as one “EU” (enforcement unit). What is one of the major categories in severe injury reports? Amputations. To address that, within the Top 10, we have Machine Guarding and Lockout/Tagout. Two of those standards are in our amputations national emphasis program. So there is some overlap with some of the major standard groups, as well as some of the categories within the enforcement weighting system.
S+H: It sounds as if these initiatives have helped OSHA key in on some of the areas that need it most.
Kapust: Yes – these allow us to get more and more data sources to look at. With those severe injury reports, we are able to look at: What are we finding? When we do those inspections off those severe injury reports, are they the same as what we may find if it was a program planned inspection? Also, what are we finding in the rapid response investigations we’re seeing reported back to us?
Now, in 2017, with the new injury tracking rule, employers will be giving their data. For the first year, the summary will be due July 1. We’ll have that data coming in – where we have actual injury and illness data, and we can look at how they relate to our specific standards and where we may more appropriately focus our limited resources.
It is going to be useful because we don’t have our site-specific targeting, which is how we previously collected specific sites to go off based on their injury rates. Now, we’ll be getting those directly from employers, and we’ll be able to use some analysis to look at what industries they are falling in, the size range, those kinds of things to help us better hone in our targeting.
S+H: With the new weighted system in place, along with other recent initiatives, do you expect to see any changes in the rankings of the Top 10 violations over the next few years?
Kapust: Probably not. I would expect similar results because these are common hazards, and they’re dynamic hazards in the sense that workplaces change, and safety and health is not a static condition. You need to have systems in place to help you find the hazards and fix them. It’s not like you can do safety and health one week and then wait six months and revisit it. These are things that you always have to be aware of. Processes may not change as frequently, but you are still going to have maintenance issues, you are still going to have the products that you use and the chemicals that you use, and you have to be aware of any exposures and let your folks know about those things so they may be adequately protected.
S+H: What is the most important thing an employer can take from this list to keep workers safe?
Kapust: Take the list and look at your own workplace off of that list. “These are the things OSHA is finding. Would they find these at my workplace?” It’s a good place to start. If you don’t know where to start, start here. From there, you can say, “All right, I am in this industry,” and you can go to our website and run a Top 10 list for your particular industry.
When you’re looking at the broad categories like Hazard Communication, as you’re looking at your program, you may find some issues with your training or something along those lines. Or you may find that, “Hey, I have temporary workers here and I’m a host, I may need to address this with those workers.” As you start to get into these from the broad base, going from the top down, you can start really narrowing down and getting to more of the root causes and more problems and be able to target those before they are actually hazards facing your employees or temporary employees at your worksite.
Infographic: OSHA's Top 10 list summarized in one image
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