What are the 5 Most Frequent OSHA Violations?

Discover the top five common OSHA violations to protect your workplace. Fall protection violations, including a lack of guardrails, continue to top the list. Respiratory protection non-compliance has surged during the pandemic, with a focus on auto body refinishing and painting. Ladder violations, often causing fatal falls, can be avoided with proper training and setup. Hazard communication failures lead to injuries, especially in auto repair and painting. Finally, scaffolding mishaps risk falling and object injuries. Prevention is key – prioritize safety training, maintain a safety culture, and work with professionals to ensure OSHA compliance for a safer workplace.
osha safety violations

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was established in 1970 to ensure workers receive safe working conditions. They ensure that employers in the United States comply with federal laws and regulations regarding safety and health. OSHA performed over 20,000 safety and health inspections each year. When a business fails to comply with standards, OSHA issues citations and fines to the business. Some violations are more common than others. Keep reading to learn more about the five most frequent OSHA violations.

Fall Protection

Lack of fall protection in the construction industry was the most frequent OSHA violation in 2021. This OSHA violation has been the number one violation for the past decade. In 2021, OSHA issued 5,271 citations to framing contractors, flooring contractors, masonry firms, and housing construction contractors for failure to comply with the fall protection standards.

OSHA requires employers to determine if walking and working surfaces on which their employees do their work have the strength, durability, and structural integrity to do so. Additionally, OSHA requires employers to install a guardrail system, safety net system, or personal fall arrest system for any working height above four feet. A lack of safety protection and guardrails contributes to dangerous falls, the number one cause of death in construction.

Respiratory Protection

Through the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of citations for failing to implement respiratory protection and provide the proper PPE increased significantly. The primary offenders for this violation are auto body refinishing companies, painting contractors, and masonry contractors. Respiratory problems can occur when workers breathe in air contaminants like dust, gas, fumes, or vapors. The primary objective of this standard is to prevent atmospheric contamination by toxic substances through engineering control measures, local and general ventilation, and substitution when possible. 


Ladder violations in construction result from various factors such as lack of training, improper ladder selection, ladder overloading, or lack of proper setup. According to the CDC, 57% of ladder deaths occur in the construction industry. All self-supporting, portable ladders should be able to carry at least four times the maximum intended load. OSHA requires all working ladders to be able to carry significantly more than their maximum intended weight. Ladder rungs and steps should be parallel, level, and uniform when the ladder is in position for use. Additionally, OSHA requires that the bottom and top of the ladder be secure and level when in use.

Hazard Communication

OSHA requires employers to report the hazards of toxic or dangerous substances to their employees through various channels. Hazard communication is a frequent OSHA violation among auto repair facilities and painting contractors. Employers must communicate the dangers of any hazardous chemicals through employee training. To avoid injuries related to miscommunication, all chemicals must be clearly labeled and accompanied by instructions on how to respond in the event of misuse. 


When construction employers fail to use correct procedures for installing and using scaffolding on a worksite, they violate OSHA regulations. These mistakes endanger the employees working on and under the scaffolding and could lead to both falling injuries and struck-by-falling object injuries. Scaffolding is a common part of construction work, making it all the more important to comply with OSHA standards. Counterweights should be used to balance adjustable suspension scaffolds. Similarly to ladders, the scaffolding needs to hold at least four times the maximum intended load.

How to Prevent Frequent OSHA Violations

In most cases, OSHA violations and workplace injuries are avoidable. Safety training and creating a safety culture are vital to improving workplace safety. Frequently discuss safety protocols with employees and check in to see if there are any developing hazards at the worksite. Additionally, be sure to have your company’s hazard communication plan readily available, as this is one of the first documents OSHA inspectors want to see. Complying with OSHA standards may seem complicated, complex, and time-consuming. Talking to an occupational health professional, like Work Health Solutions, can help you improve the safety of your workplace!

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Dr. Michael Tenison

A series of notable accomplishments distinguish Dr. Michael Tenison’s career in medical operations and healthcare management:

  • Successfully led medical operations at a national healthcare provider, focusing on optimizing healthcare delivery and patient outcomes.
  • Oversaw the regional medical practices in key markets like Oregon and Northern California, ensuring consistent, quality medical care and service delivery.
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Dr. Matt Feeley

Dr. Matt Feeley is a renowned figure in military aviation medicine, with a robust background in occupational and environmental medicine from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. 

  • Former Naval Flight Surgeon, exemplifying his expertise in aerospace medicine and commitment to military health.
  • Served with distinction at NSA Bahrain and HSM-37, earning the COMPACFLT Flight Surgeon of the Year award for exceptional medical service.
  • Supported U.S. Marines VMFA-323 aboard the USS Nimitz, MACG-38, and VMU-3, demonstrating versatility and leadership in diverse medical environments.
  • Broad interests and significant contributions in global health, corporate medicine, and aerospace medicine, highlighting his multidisciplinary approach.
  • Proven track record as a dynamic leader, well-equipped to face the challenges in a fractional medical directorship role with innovative solutions.

Dr. Glen Cheng

A physician-attorney with a dedication to healthcare innovation, informatics, and digital health.

  • Currently spearheads employee health protection and promotion within the VA Pittsburgh Health Care System.
  • Trained in residency at Harvard, achieving board certification as a physician; also a licensed patent attorney with experience as FDA regulatory counsel.
  • Co-founded Acceleromics, a consulting firm providing clinical and regulatory guidance to digital health startups.

Erin Davis

 Chief Clinical Officer at Work Health Solutions, certified in Adult-Gerontology (AGNP-C) and Athletic Training (ATC).

  • Oversees clinical operations and ensures high clinical standards across the company’s national field staff.
  • Former Manager of Clinic Operations and Occupational Health Nurse Practitioner at Stanford University Occupational Health Center (SUOHC).
  • Specialized in treating occupational injuries and illnesses, and provided medical surveillance and travel medicine consults at Stanford and SLAC National Accelerator Lab.
  • Dedicated to sports and occupational injury treatment and prevention.
  • Assistant Clinical Faculty at UCSF, mentoring students in clinical rotations within the Adult Gerontology and Occupational and Environmental Health Program.
  • Holds leadership roles as Treasurer and President Elect of the California El Camino Real Association of Occupational Health Nurses (CECRAOHN), affiliated with the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses (AAOHN).

Dr. Robert Goldsmith

Expert in benefits design and onsite innovation with specialization in the pharmaceutical industry.

  • Previous role as Executive Director for Employee Health at Novartis Services, Inc., leading health services and clinical support.
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  • Assistant professor in the Department of Medicine at the Vagelos School of Medicine, Columbia University.
  • Serves as a team physician for high school athletes in Stamford.
  • Published works on occupational health risks, primary prevention, and exercise-induced asthma.