OSHA Safety Fines Skyrocket, Up 78%

Posted on 7/5/2016 by James Griffin

Starting August 1, OSHA will raise the civil penalties for employer violations for 29 CFR work safety standards. For employers to avoid injuries on site, lost time, and now penalties that are 78% percent greater than before, it's crucial to understand exactly what OSHA regulates, and what inspectors looks for when they arrive to conduct a safety audit.

Under the OSH Act, employers must provide a safe working environment to their employees. When OSHA identifies a specific workplace hazard, the Agency issues a regulatory standard to address that hazard. OSHA has standards for lots of things: fire exits, hazard communication, machine guarding, personal protective equipment, lockout/tagout, contaminated air, "process safety management", and so on. [General Duty Clause OSH ACT 1970 Section 5a1]

But which occupational hazards are most common? Which pose the greatest threat to workers? And which OSHA standards address those hazards?

Work Safety Statistics

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has been collecting data on occupational injuries and illnesses for over a hundred years.

In 2014, the most recent year for which data are available, there were 4,821 fatal occupational injuries/illnesses in the USA. The BLS organizes all fatal workplace events into seven (7) categories:
  • Transportation Incidents (1,984 fatalities in 2014)
    • Includes motor vehicle collisions of all kinds, aircraft accidents, jack-knifing trucks, and etc.
  • Falls, Slips, Trips (818 fatalities in 2014)
    • Includes falls on the same level, and to a lower level
  • Contact with Objects and Equipment (715 fatalities in 2014)
    • o Includes non-transportation vehicles, falling objects, getting caught in machinery, landslides, and cave-ins.
  • Violence -  (765 fatalities in 2014)
    • Includes homicides, suicides, and animal attacks
    • Includes non-transportation vehicles, falling objects, getting caught in machinery, landslides and cave-ins.
  • Exposure to Harmful Substances and Environments (390 fatalities in 2014)
    • Includes electrocution, extreme temperatures and conditions, asphyxiation, and exposures to noxious chemicals
  • Fires and Explosions (137 fatalities in 2014)
    • Includes structural, vehicular, or forest fires and dust or other industrial explosions
  • Overexertion and Bodily Reactions (10 fatalities in 2014)

Top 10 Most Commonly Cited OSHA StandardsOSHA safety fines to rise

Every year, OSHA announces the top ten most prevalent violations of workplace safety regulations for which it issues citations. The list doesn't change much from year to year. The most common Standards for which OSHA issues citations are:
  • 29 CFR 1926.501-Duty to have Fall Protection. [7,302 citations in FYE 2015]
  • 29 CFR 1910.1200-Hazard Communication. [5,803 citations in FYE 2015]
  • 29 CFR 1926.451-General Requirements for Scaffolds. [4,572 citations in FYE 2015]
  • 29 CFR 1910.134 -Respiratory Protection. [3,654 citations in FYE 2015]
  • 29 CFR 1910.147-The Control of Hazardous Energy Lockout/Tagout). [3,341 citations in FYE 2015]
  • 29 CFR 1910.178-Powered Industrial Trucks. [2,980 citations in FYE 2015]
  • 29 CFR 1926.1053-Ladders. [2,737 citations in FYE 2015]
  • 29 CFR 1910.212-General Requirements for All Machines. [2,590 citations in FYE 2015]
  • 29 CFR 1910.305-Wiring Methods, Components, and Equipment for General Use. [2,497 citations in FYE 2015]
  • 29 CFR 1910.303-General Requirements for Electrical Systems [2,046 citations in FYE 2015]

Protecting Employees from Common Hazards

The most commonly cited OSHA standards are those that protect against falls (scaffolds, ladders), electrocution (from bad wiring), hazardous equipment (forklifts, lockout/tagout, machine guards), and hazardous chemicals (HazCom and respirators).

As you can see, some major sources of workplace fatalities (violence, transportation, structural fires) are not addressed by OSHA standards. Others, like slips and falls or being struck by equipment, are major causes of workplace deaths and are featured on OSHA's frequently cited citations list every year.

Convenient, Effective OSHA Training at

Protect your team with effective safety training at From GHS HazCom training to the interactive 10-hour OSHA General Industry course, OSHA training at will help your employees identify hazards in the workplace, avoid and mitigate those hazards, and protect their coworkers. With fines set to increase by nearly 80% on August 1, allowing untrained employees to work at your site is now a bigger liability than ever. Learn more at

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