OSHA’s Top 10 2021: Part III, Scaffolding, Ladders, and Respiratory Protection

Although incredible advancements are made in safety each year, the OSHA Top 10 list reminds us that we must continue to pinpoint areas where we can improve so we can better prioritize workplace safety in the future world of work.

– Lorraine Martin, NSC president, and CEO

This is a continuation of our series on OSHA’s top 10 most cited safety violations for 2021. In this third installment, we cover scaffolding, ladders, and respiratory protection-related violations and how technology can help improve safety.

In 2020 preventable workplace deaths totaled 4,113. This is a decrease – due in part to fewer hours worked because of the Covid-19 pandemic – and organizations are starting to wake up to the safety innovations needed to ensure worker protection.

However, there is still a long road ahead and much progress to be made.


Data shows that there were 1,948 violations in the fiscal year 2021. EHS professionals must ensure measures are taken to protect all workers working on scaffolding.

In addition to following the scaffolding guidelines laid out by OSHA, connected worker technologies can help organizations adopt a more preventative stance towards worker safety. Timestamped and location-tagged data from the scaffolding environment can identify anomalies in operations and provide early-lead indicators of potential issues.

Advanced analytics further improve safety by identifying latent issues for investigation. Additionally, they can improve field inspections and audits, and also help set up pre-planned inspection trails for better auditing and compliance.


Falling off a ladder remains a leading cause of unintentional injury and mortality. Studies show that breaches while working at a height increased by 84% in construction sites in 2021 and nearly 80% of fall injuries involve ladders.

Apart from using safer ladder solutions, the industry needs to use advanced and connected technologies to bring about a behavioral shift towards safety.

High-precision, fully three-dimensional positioning, and mapping solutions bring an unprecedented level of visibility and actionable information that can help advance worker security. Developing situational awareness using connected technologies not only makes accidents fewer but also improves emergency response times…something that can be lifesaving.

Respiratory protection

OSHA’s respiratory protection standards demand the right equipment, procedures, and processes are followed to prevent illness, injury, and fatalities. However, there were 2,527 violations for this in the past year.

Good examples are findings from a joint investigation by KQED and the California Newsroom collaborative in California. They found that despite there being rules to protect outdoor workers from the dangers of wildfire smoke, the rules are ‘almost never’ enforced.

This is unacceptable. While organizations must invest in advanced PPE kits, masks, and other protective equipment to enhance worker safety, they also need to implement a behavioral shift in the workers’ mindset towards safety.

Connected technologies can ensure better adherence to safety protocols through things such as PPE compliance and other advanced solutions. These can deliver a proactive warning to a worker if a kit is not worn properly, or if they are entering hazardous areas without the right authorization or equipment.

About Guardhat

Guardhat is pioneering end-to-end connected worker safety solutions for industrial workers. We offer cutting-edge, wearable technology; a proprietary connected worker platform – unrivaled in its ability to ingest, manage and analyze unstructured data; easy-to-deploy monitoring and reporting software; and a growing system of partner integrations.

Guardhat enables companies to monitor worker location, health, and work environment to shorten reaction time and help proactively solve safety challenges. We hold 15 patents in real-time location systems, wearable solution design, and connected worker software. If you are interested in our connected safety solutions – including situational awareness, environmental and biometric monitoring, multi-modal communication, RTLS, Covid-19, and other advanced technology solutions – contact us to arrange a demo.


Stay ahead in a rapidly changing world