December 7, 2023 / Roger Marks

OSHA’s 10 Most Cited Standards This Century

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Every autumn, OSHA announces a list of ten health and safety standards cited most frequently by compliance inspectors on the notices of violation dealt to employers during that calendar year.

The list is reported widely and reviewed by safety professionals and industrial hygienists, who use it to identify potential safety improvements at their own workplaces. If nothing else, the Top 10 list provides a digestible cross-section of health and safety requirements that apply most broadly to general industry and construction workplaces of different types and sizes.

Considered along with the agency's active National Emphasis Programs (NEPs) and recent policy announcements, the list also signals OSHA's current enforcement priorities. While it remains a valuable tool, OSHA's Top 10 list has not changed much in recent years, featuring the same ten standards in more or less the same order since 2018. This year was no exception.

Some experienced professionals may find it hard to extract novel, meaningful insights from a list that stays so static. The good news is that the long view of OSHA's Top 10 list—and how it's evolved in the 21st century so far—reveals patterns and trends that add meaning to this year's list and future iterations. For an animated bar graph displaying violations per standard from 2002 through this year, visit

Top 10 Most Cited in 2023

A quick review of the 2023 Top 10 list shows us what annual list-viewers will expect. Unveiled at the National Safety Council Conference and Expo in New Orleans in October, the 2023 list is bereft of surprises.

General industry standards make up half the list:

  • Hazard Communication (#2)—29 CFR 1910.1200
  • Forklifts/Powered Industrial Trucks (#5)—1910.178
  • Lockout/Tagout (#6)—1910.147
  • Respiratory Protection (#7)—1910.134
  • Machine Guarding (#10)—1910.212

Construction industry standards make up the other half:

  • Fall Protection, General Requirements (#1)—1926.501
  • Ladders (#3)—1926.1053
  • Scaffolding (#4)—1926.451
  • Fall Protection, Training (#8)—1926.503
  • PPE: Eye-and-Face Protection (#9)—1926.102

Placing the 2023 list in context—and comparing it to the twenty-two lists preceding it—offers a new twist on this "old" list, along with some valuable insights to take into the new year.

Change at the Top

Fall protection violations topped the list in 2023, as they have since 2011. Before the fall protection standard started its reign, citations for scaffolding violations in the construction industry were most common. During the time that scaffolding was the most frequently cited OSHA standard, one of the most common causes of those citations every year was. . . a lack of fall protection. Also, another heights-related employer error—ladder violations—has been a mainstay on the Top 10 list for fifteen years running.

Here, the macro view gives us a clearer takeaway than a year-over-year comparison would: the safety of workers at heights has always been a high priority for OSHA, and that hasn't changed.

Training as a Theme

Another theme running through the Top 10 at large is the importance of safety training for compliance with OSHA rules generally. OSHA lists the failure to adequately train employees among the most common violations of the hazard communication standard every year, along with failure to create and maintain a written hazcom program.

Unsafe operation of a powered industrial truck (PIT), like a forklift, can result in severe accidents and injuries. Statistically speaking, however, employers are more likely to be cited for not training or certifying forklift drivers than for a PIT moving violation.

Training is a common pitfall under the respiratory protection regulations, too. Failure to perform medical evaluations for employees who wear respirators is typically the most common citation under this standard, and a lack of training on proper respirator use and maintenance is never far behind.

Even as the fall protection standard has stayed atop the list, a sub-rule within that standard—failure to train workers on fall protection practices and equipment—has itself become a Top 10 violation.

2024, Here We Come!

With a more complete picture and a wider perspective on how OSHA's Top 10 list has evolved over the first two decades of our still-young millennium, professionals can look forward to 2024 with more clarity and deeper insight about what to expect during an OSHA inspection.

Read more about OSHA's 2023 Top 10 list on

Roger Marks

Roger Marks writes about workplace health and safety, hazardous materials, and environmental issues for Lion News, a weekly e-newsletter from leaders in regulatory compliance training Lion Technology Inc. Subscribe for free at


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