The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) enforces workplace safety by inspecting businesses and handling employee safety complaints. The inspections may identify violations of OSHA workplace safety codes that range from minor to very hazardous.
OSHA released the 2020 top ten list of the most cited standards earlier this year, with the top five listed as:
- Fall Protection-General Requirements with 5,424 violations
- Hazard Communications with 3,199 violations
- Respiratory Protection with 2,649 violations
- Scaffolding with 2,538 violations
- Ladders with 2,129 violations
Types of OSHA Violations
Woody Dwyer, Director, Loss Control at AmTrust Financial explains, “This list of OSHA violations highlights some of the exposures that can cause severe workers compensation injuries. It is important for employers to develop strong safety programs with well develop hazard communication programs, so their employees understand those risks and expected safe work practices in the workplace.”
OSHA’s workplace safety requirements are intended to ensure the health and safety of employees at a worksite. OSHA has six types of safety violations that could result in fines and penalties. The violations range from minor to severe and can cost a business thousands of dollars.
OSHA De Minimis Violations
A De Minimis violation is a technical violation of OSHA rules that does not directly impact the health and safety of the workers. This is the most minor class of violation and usually does not lead to heavy fines or citations. If the possibility of an injury occurring is practically nonexistent, it can be considered a De Minimis violation. An OSHA inspector will verbally inform the employer about the violation and list them in the business’s case inspection file.
OSHA Other-Than-Serious Violations
The next violation is Other-than-Serious OSHA. This type of violation may not lead to a serious injury or death, but it could still potentially put an employee’s health or safety at risk. The maximum penalty for this type of violation is $13,653. However, inspectors can choose not to set a fine or reduce it by up to 95% based on certain factors such as the business size and the cooperativeness of the owner. An example of this violation is that an employer can be non-compliant with OSHA’s rules if they fail to post mandatory safety documentation in the employee work area.
OSHA Repeated Violations
An OSHA inspector can give a Repeated Violation when a business, who was previously cited for a violation, does not correct it or an inspection finds a very similar violation. The maximum fine for a repeated violation is $136,532.
OSHA Serious Violations
A Serious Violation is issued when a business knows that a workplace hazard could cause an accident or illness resulting in a severe injury or death and does nothing to amend the situation. OSHA can fine a business up to $13,653 for each serious violation, but they can adjust the amount based on the employer’s previous history, the gravity of the violation, the size of the business and the good faith of the employer. However, if the business owner is contesting the original violation and pending a final decision, inspectors cannot consider it a repeated violation.
OSHA Failure to Abate Prior Violation
An OSHA violation citation includes a date for the issue to be corrected. If a business does not rectify the situation, OSHA could give the company a Failure to Abate Prior Violation and charge them a maximum penalty of $13,653 per day beyond the abatement date until the hazard is remedied.
OSHA Willful Violations
A Willful Violation is when a business intentionally disregarded OSHA regulations or act with extreme indifference to employee safety. The maximum fine for a willful violation is $136,532. However, this type of violation can turn into a criminal offense, with a minimum fine of $250,000 for the employer with a possibility of jail time if an employee is killed due to employer negligence. A business may need to pay a minimum fine of $500,000.
OSHA Violation Posting Requirements
If your business receives an OSHA Notice of Unsafe or Unhealthful Working Conditions, it must be posted at or near the place where the violation occurred to make employees aware of the potential hazards. The notice must be posted for three working days or until the hazard is abated, whichever is longer. Along with the notice, your business will receive a pamphlet that tells you:
- The description of the problem
- Possible ways to remedy the issue
- The date to fix the violation
Business or Employer Options
An employer who has been cited has two options:
- Comply and correct the issue by the date set on the notice
- Request an informal conference with an OSHA Area Director within 15 working days from the time you receive the notice
A business can send a Petition for Modification of Abatement (PMA) if they cannot abate the violation within the allotted time frame.
The filed PMA must have the following:
- Information about how your business attempted to comply with the original date
- How much more time is needed to comply with the violation and an explanation why you need the extra time
- Details showing your business can guarantee the safety of employees until the abatement
- Proof that the OSHA Notice and PMA has been posted for ten days to allow employees to file objections