About 50 businesses each day get a visit they probably don’t want – a government safety inspection. But, it’s not really the inspection that’s the problem — it’s being cited for a violation and then being assessed a monetary penalty! Luckily, DOSH publishes a list of the top safety rule violations in Washington state each year, so we know what inspectors are looking for. Read on so you can be in compliance!


Top 3 Violations for All Industries

#1 – Fall protection

Falls are most prevalent in construction and the violation rate is high enough to make it the #1 cause of citations state-wide for all industries. One reason is down to visibility – an inspector driving past a job site with workers at height is going to stop and open an inspection the moment they spot a threat to safety.

Another reason so many employers are cited for fall protection violations is that your workers don’t even need to be in the air. Certain types of work surfaces, such as those next to dangerous equipment, require fall protection at all times – even if the surface is on the ground! And if your employees are at 4’ or higher, you can bet a fall protection plan is required.

#2 – Accident Prevention Program

Also known as the Safety Plan or APP, this is the document that every employer in the state is required to have. Which means it’s likely the first thing you’ll be asked for during an inspection and the quickest way to a citation if you don’t have it.

APPs need to be specific to the type of work performed by your employees. A safety plan for office clerks won’t work in your warehouse and a plan that covers knife safety for the kitchen crew won’t cut it if your employees are climbing ladders in an orchard.

Holly Markee, Safety Director at Approach, says, “Many employers wonder what to put in their APP, but it’s really just putting your safe work practices down on paper.” Our free templates for Approach clients can help get you started.

#3 – Globally Harmonized System (GHS) for Hazard Communication

Another paperwork requirement, you may know this by its old name of MSDS or Material Safety Data Sheets. The GHS came into force a few years ago and covers the same principle – that every chemical or solvent used in your workplace or job sites needs proper labelling and documentation.

From hand soap to spray paint, and of course any type of stronger chemical, everything needs to be catalogued and the safety data sheets need to be available in each job site where the material is used or stored.

The best practice here is to ask for sheets whenever you purchase these supplies. Every vendor should have them available for you at the time of purchase.


Top 3 Violations for Construction

The top 2 Construction industry violations are the same for overall employers in Washington state.

#1 – Fall protection

Read about Fall Protection violations in the “All Industries” section above.

#2 – Accident Prevention Program

Read about Accident Prevention Program violations in the “All Industries” section above

#3- Ladder safety

This one is a close cousin to Fall Protection. Put simply, if any employee is ever on a ladder, you must cover ladder safety in your APP. And, each employee must be trained on ladder safety BEFORE they step onto a ladder. If the inspector determines that either requirement hasn’t been met, that’s a violation.


Top 3 Violations for Agriculture

#1 – How often must safety meetings be held?

Foreman-crew safety meetings must be held at least monthly or whenever there are significant changes in job assignments. These meetings must be tailored to the particular operation or activity occurring at the time.

The meeting minutes must document subjects discussed and attendance.

Short-term operations that last less than one month, such as harvesting, do not require foreman-crew safety meetings, only an initial safety orientation for the operations is required.

You must have copies of the minutes of each foreman-crew safety meeting at the location where the majority of employees report to work each day.

You must retain minutes of foreman-crew safety meetings for one year and be able to show copies if requested.

The #2 and #3 violations for agriculture are the same as for all industries – APP and GHS/MSDS.

#2 – Accident Prevention Program

Read about Accident Prevention Program violations in the “All Industries” section above

#3 – Globally Harmonized System (GHS) for Hazard Communication

Read about GHS violations in the All Industries section above

Julio Salas, Safety Manager at Approach says, “The top 3 violations in agriculture can be avoided simply by knowing the rules, having the proper training, and making sure the safety documentation is updated and available.”


Building a Safety Culture

Violations can easily add up to $10,000 or more, so it pays to build a lasting safety program that involves your entire organization. Remember, everyone has a role to play in safety:

  • Employers – know the rules and provide employees with the proper training
  • Employees – hold themselves accountable to know and obey the rules
  • Supervisors – hold employees accountable, but without babysitting the crew

And, as the top violations show, it pays to focus on some key areas when developing or expanding your safety program:

  • Accident Prevention Program – a “living” document that’s updated as your company grows and the type of work changes
  • Safety meetings – held as required for your industry, with topics and attendees documented
  • Safety training – offered before employees are exposed to new tools or hazards, then updated as necessary.
  • Enforcement – work with employees to get buy-in, so they understand violations will result in discipline and documentation.

Contact the Approach Safety Team if you need updated templates or want to request your annual safety visit. And, see our L&I inspection blog post for tips on what to do if a safety inspection is opened at your job site.