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The Top Ten OSHA Violations for 2009 – and How to Avoid Some of Them

Here are the violations that affect the warehousing world

The National Safety Council has released its list of the top 10 OSHA safety violations for 2009, and there is plenty to chew on if you are running a warehouse, manufacturing facility, military installation, or distribution center. In fact, several of these categories drop directly into the laps of material handling operations. Worse news: violations are up over 30 percent.

The list is as follows:

  1. Scaffolding: 9,093 violations. You  or your subcontractors have surely utilized temporary scaffolding  in your operation before. Since it’s such a common accident, being certain that safety procedures are followed is critical. People fall from scaffolding when decking or planking gives way. Also, tools or other items are frequently knocked off scaffolding and have the potential to hit people working below.
  2. Fall protection: 6,771 violations. This is of course related to scaffolding, but it can also result from common warehouse operations from mezzanines to conveyor to picking from pallet racks at height. When workers are at a height of more than 4’ in general industrial applications, there’s a risk of falling and protective measures should be employed. The limit is 6’ in construction.
  3. Hazard communication: 6,378 violations. In a manufacturing or shop operation, this can be a gotcha, even though most of the violations may run upstream at the chemical manufacturer level. Still, check your MSDS sheets for solvents or other industrial chemicals used in your operation. Make sure safety labels are readily available to ensure compliance. Utilize industry-approved, clearly-labeled safety containers or flammable liquid safety cabinets.
  4. Respiratory protection: 3,803 violations. While most of the safety regulations pertain to insufficient oxygen, ventilation, and masking, you can also deploy fans, strip doors, airable mesh dock doors or other measures to improve safety in operations where harmful dusts, fogs, vapors, or smokes can be present.
  5. Lockout/Tagout:  3,321 violations: Any machinery being serviced should locked out and tagged out to prevent accidental or unexpected startup. Or, as OSHA calls it “the release of hazardous energy” during service or maintenance periods. We see a problem with this during conveyor maintenance, where long lines of conveyors are controlled by central switches. Activating the conveyor while someone 100 feet away is still working on it is a constant concern. This also applies to other handling equipment such as scissor lifts, carousels, vertical lifts, packaging and other production machinery. See our article on Tagout/Lockout & emergency Stops for conveyor systems.
  6. Electrical (Wiring): 3,079 violations: Obviously a problem in every facility with electrically driven machinery.
  7. Ladders: 3,072 violations. Falls from ladders are among the leading causes of traumatic operational death. Following correct ladder safety procedures is critical here, whether we are talking about step ladders or rolling warehouse ladders. See more information: “Ladder Safety Certifications” and “Ladder Safety & Usage Guide”.
  8. Powered Industrial Truck: 2,993 violations.A frequent offender, and one that punches above its weight class when it comes to injuries. Forklifts are dangerous in many ways: people are injured when forklifts are driven off loading docks, when lifts fall between docks and an unsecured trailer, and they are struck by a lift truck. A good number are injured by falling off elevated forklifts picking orders or doing maintenance. This is a practice that I’d strongly discourage unless correct safety equipment is utilized. Some forklift safety resources are listed below:
    1. Blind spots at the shipping dock
    2. Forklift Safety: Don’t Blame the Driver
    3. Video: Another completely preventable forklift accident
    4. Warehouse Safety: Distracted Forklift Drivers
    5. Safety Rules for Pedestrians and Forklifts: Help them See You
    6. The AisleCop(TM) Forklift/Pedestrian Safety Gate
  9. Electrical: 2,556 violations.
  10. Machine Guarding: 2,364 violations. It’s only common sense that anywhere people can interface with moving machinery, guards should be deployed. In the warehousing world, that means conveyor guards, machine guarding (for robots or other production machines), or bellows guards for scissor lifts.

The National Safety Council ( saves lives by preventing injuries and deaths at work, in homes and communities, and on the roads, through leadership, research, education and advocacy.

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Scott Stone is Cisco-Eagle's Vice President of Marketing with more than thirty years of experience in material handling, warehousing and industrial operations. His work is published in multiple industry journals an websites on a variety of warehousing topics. He writes about automation, warehousing, safety, manufacturing and other areas of concern for industrial operations and those who operate them.

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