Risk & Safety

OSHA Fines and Violations

Ella Baker
Reading time 4 Mins
Published on Feb 3
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Staying compliant and avoiding fines from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) can seem overwhelming for any business owner. While no business owner wants to see their workers injured on the job or exposed to potentially hazardous substances, keeping employees safe can be a challenge. Familiarizing yourself with the types of violations, associated fines, and the most commonly cited standards is a first step to understanding how you can avoid fines, and keep your employees safer.

Classification of violations

OSHA’s mission is to prevent work-related injuries, illnesses, and deaths, resulting in a 62% decline in occupational deaths and a 42 percent drop in workplace injuries since its creation. In addition to setting workplace safety standards, OSHA also makes sure that these are followed by conducting enforcement activities, including onsite inspections.

OSHA defines each violation type depending on the severity and threat of injury resulting from the violation: willful, serious, other-than-serious, repeated, failure to abate prior violations, and other miscellaneous violations.

OSHA Violation types and potential penalties

  • A willful violation is a violation in which the employer either knowingly ceased to comply with a legal requirement or acted with a simple lack of concern to employee safety. At a minimum, willful violation carries a penalty of $5,000, and a maximum penalty of up to $136,532 per violation.
  • A serious OSHA violation results in workplace dangers that could cause an accident or illness that would most likely result in death or in serious physical harm unless the employer did not know or could not have known of the violation. A mandatory penalty of up to $13,653 may apply to any serious violation.
  • Other-than-serious violations have a direct correlation to job safety and health but are not as serious in nature as other violations. A penalty of up to $13,653 per violation may be possible.
  • Repeated violations occur when an employer is cited for a violation that is the same or very similar to a previous infraction that has been committed by the company. Repeated violations carry a penalty of up to $136,532 per violation.
  • Failing to pay penalties for a prior OSHA violation by the set abatement date can result in a failure to abate prior violation. These violations can carry fines of up to $13,652/day beyond the abatement date.
Other violations include:
  • Faking records, reports, or applications can result in penalties of $10,000 or up to six months in jail, or both.
  • Violations of posting requirements that can result in a civil penalty of up to $7,000/
  • Harming a compliance officer during the line of duty can incur a fine of up to $5,000 or up to three years imprisonment.

Frequently cited standards

Each year OSHA issues a list of the 10 most frequently cited standards for the previous fiscal year. This list provides employers with valuable information to help them avoid potential violations and to ensure employee safety. Additionally, the number of citations and average fine amounts help employers understand the importance of OSHA compliance.

Construction industry:
  • Fall Protection: 6010 Citations
  • Scaffolding: 2813 Citations
  • Ladders: 2345 Citations
  • Fall Protection Training: 1773 Citations
  • Eye/Face Protection: 1411 Citations
General Industry
  • Lockout/Tagout: 2606 Citations
  • Respirators: 2450 Citations
  • Forklifts: 2093 Citations
  • Machine Guarding: 1743 Citations

Sheakley can help you avoid OSHA violations and fines

Statistics published by the Department of Labor report that there are around 93 million workers in more than 6 million workplaces in America. During a typical year in the United States, more than 4,500 workers are killed on the job, and approximately 3 million are injured, and many others die from work related illnesses. Aside from all the human suffering, workplace injuries cost the U. S. economy billions of dollars each year.

Sheakley provides regular updates on OSHA requirements and policy changes. Additionally, our Risk and Safety team can help evaluate your safety policies and procedures to ensure the health and safety of your employees and business.

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