Top DOSH citations in Washington state

We looked earlier this year at what happens during a workplace safety inspection. In Washington state, around 50 businesses are visited each day. That’s more than 12,000 each year – with an emphasis on higher risk industries like construction, along with employers who have already been cited for a violation.

That means the chances are an inspector from the Washington Department of Safety and Health (DOSH) could show up at your office or jobsite at any time. It pays to be prepared, so let’s take a look at the list of the top safety rule violations in Washington state so we know what inspectors are looking for. Read on for the top 3 violations that were cited in Washington from October 2019 through September 2020.

Top 3 Violations for All Industries


If an inspector drives past a job site with workers at height, he or she will stop and open an inspection the moment they spot a threat to safety. That’s one reason that fall protection always tops the list of violations.

Many employers are also simply unclear about the requirements, especially the requirement to have a fall protection plan for any work being done at 4 feet (or higher) off the ground. Even a worker standing on the ground may require fall protection for certain surfaces of situations, such as being next to dangerous equipment.


The Accident Prevention Program, known as the Safety Plan or APP, is the document that every employer in the state is required to have. Many employers don’t know this, or just use a generic plan from the web, and so get a violation right away. The APP is the first document the inspector will ask to see.

APPs need to be specific to the type of work performed by your employees. They also need to be up-to-date. “If you start a new line of business at your company or take on a job outside of what you’ve done in the past, then your APP needs to be updated to reflect the work being done by your employees,” says Amy Davidson, safety manager at Approach.

The APP can seem like a lot of work, but our free templates for Approach clients can help get you started. It’s just a matter of making them specific to your company.

See our post on updating your APP, including COVID guidance


Every chemical or solvent used in your workplace or job sites needs proper labelling and documentation. This includes the hand sanitizer at the office entrance, as well as the dish soap in the kitchen. We used to call these documents MSDS or Material Safety Data Sheets, but now they’re known as GHS.

Every vendor should make GHS sheets available when you purchase the products, so it’s easiest to request them at the time of ordering. Be sure that all chemicals and solutions are catalogued and that the GHS sheets are available in each job site where the material is used or stored.

Top 3 Violations for Construction

Two of the top 3 construction industry violations are the same for overall employers in Washington state.


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

“Once an inspector is at a workplace, he or she must cite any violations they find.”

Julio Salas, safety manager


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


It’s tempting to just grab a ladder if you need one, but that can’t happen in the workplace. A ladder is a tool, and tools require training, so each employee must be trained on ladder safety BEFORE they step onto a ladder. You must also cover ladder safety in your APP if any employee is EVER on a ladder. The inspector will want to see your APP as well as evidence that training has been provided.

Top 3 Violations for Agriculture

“The agricultural sector received a lot of attention this year due to COVID outbreaks and concerns about worker housing, says Julio Salas, safety manager at Approach, “and once an inspector is at a workplace, he or she must cite any violations they find.” This resulted in a shuffle at the top of the list of citations for agriculture, as many work sites were found to be missing basic protections:


Read about GHS violations in the All Industries section above

See what happens during a safety inspection

Read our Safety Inspection blog post to find out more

#2 – First Aid Requirement (Safe Place Standard) (Agriculture)

Employers are required to ensure that “trained personnel are available to provide quick and effective first aid.” First aid supplies must also be readily available. You may also need to provide facilities for washing eyes or the entire body, depending on the chemicals in use or storage at that location.

#3 – Fire Protection

Employers must provide portable fire extinguishers that are readily accessible to employees. Of course, extinguishers are tools and require training, just like the ladders mentioned above or any other tool used by employees.

Fire extinguishers must be properly maintained and inspected in accordance with regulations and your APP.

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

Starting points for better workplace safety

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.