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What You Need to Know About OSHA Fines

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is an agency set up by the US department of labor to ensure that companies comply with safety rules and regulations to keep their employees safe as well as healthy at the workplace. Companies that do not follow the regulations could face significant OSHA fines. The OSH Act directly covers employees through the federal OSHA program and indirectly through state-run programs that are funded and overseen by OSHA. 

In 2021, the Department of Labor published the Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Annual Adjustment for 2021 Final Rule to advance the effectiveness of civil monetary penalties and keep up the pace of the cost of living.

The OSH act tasks OSHA with enforcing safety regulations and companies found in violation of the workplace safety requirements are levied fines and citations. As such, OSHA has established itself as the final authority on workplace health and safety standards in the US.

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Understanding types of OSHA violations and fines

OSHA violations occur when a company or employer willingly or unknowingly ignores potential and real safety hazards. Companies may receive fines or citations depending on the severity of the infractions. 

OSHA fines companies for serious violations and citations if the violation does not put the employees at risk. The citation lets the company know that there is a violation to be resolved and gives them a deadline to resolve it. 

OSHA has a complete list of violations on its website that makes it easier for managers, business owners, and their employees to look them up. OSHA gives out several violations following the type of noncompliance they record. States have different branches that may vary in strictness from Federal guidelines. For example, Cal-OSHA enforcement has much more stringent rules and regulations than the Federal policies. 

Serious Violations

This is the type of violation that can cause death or serious injury to the employee. If a business owner knows that there are hazards in the workplace that may result in injury or death and does nothing about it, it is also considered a serious violation.

The gravity of the offense may elicit a citation with penalty amounts ranging from $ 1,500 to $7,000 for each offense. Gravity-based Osha Penalties (GBP) fall under the category of serious violation and are further classified into 3 categories:

  • High-gravity (serious) violation penalties are $13,653 per violation.
  • Moderate-gravity (semi-serious) violation penalties range from $7,802 – $11,703.
  • A low-gravity (less serious) violation penalty is $5,851 per penalty.

Other-Than-Serious Violations

These types of violations are dangerous and compromise the employee’s health and safety but would not cause death or serious injury. For such a violation, the maximum penalty is $1,000 per violation.

Depending on the employer’s demonstrated efforts to comply with the act, the agency may agree to adjust the penalties downward as much as 95%.

Willful Or Repeated Violations

Considered the most serious violation in the OSHA category, willful violations are intentional offenses whereby the employers are aware that they are non-compliant but refuse to make changes. These demonstrate the employers' severe disregard for their employees' safety and health. These violations carry hefty penalties ranging from a minimum penalty of $963 to a maximum penalty of $136,532 per violation.

In the unfortunate event that the willful violation leads to an employee’s death, it becomes a criminal offense against the employer and is liable to civil penalties for negligent non-compliance. Civil penalties in such a case would attract compliance fines of up to $500,000.

A repeated violation is given to employers who have previous citations for the same offense. When a company receives the same citation more than once in 3 years, it is known as a repeat offense and it is listed on the company’s safety record.

For a repeated violation the maximum penalty is $70,000. Depending on the size of the company, OSHA will multiply the initial offense's penalties by a factor of 2,5, or 10.

Failure to abate

A failure-to-abate violation is similar to a repeat violation. A company receives a violation failure-to-abate if it has not corrected or resolved a violation by the abatement date provided by OSHA. The company is fined at least $7,000 per day from the abatement date.

De minimis violation

The least serious of all violations, de minimis offenses only require a simple action to be taken to be compliant. This is usually a technical violation of the OSHA rules.

OSHA may not give the company a citation or notice but it may give them a verbal warning instead. There are no fines associated with de minimis violations but a note of the violation is made in the company’s safety file. 

Posting requirements

Posting requirements require the employer to post citations and violation notices from OSHA near the incident area, where it is visible to each employee for at least 3 days or until the violation is resolved. These attract maximum penalties of $13,653 per violation.

Conclusion

OSHA enforces regulations by having their compliance, safety, and health officers perform regular inspections of companies. An employer should have third-party safety consulting companies perform regular safety inspections and audits.

This enables the companies to improve their workplace safety, reduce the likelihood of OSHA violations and penalties. Successful companies recognize the value of their employees and take appropriate measures to ensure occupational safety and health for their employees.