OSHA Violations and Fines (2023 Update)

osha violations and fines

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, commonly referred to as OSHA, levies fines for businesses violating standard employee safety protocols. These fines are exacted to make employers strengthen their mission of ensuring safe and healthy working conditions for employees.

This article covers all 6 types of violations and their corresponding monetary penalties, and if you read to the end, you will learn how to avoid them altogether. Yes, OSHA fines and citations can be avoided!

6 Types of OSHA Violations

OSHA lists 6 types of violations that, contingent upon the severity, differ in monetary penalties.

1. Serious OSHA Violations

A serious violation is when a workplace hazard could endanger workers, either by illness or accident, that in all likelihood would cause serious injury or death—unless the owner or manager is not aware or could not have been made aware.

It is best to do hazard identification and risk assessment to ensure occupational safety and health and avoid costly fines for repeated violations.

Gravity-Based Penalty (GBP) defines the gravity of the original violation along with the subsequent category and amounts:

  • High gravity violation - $15, 625
  • Moderate gravity violation - $8, 929 to $13, 394
  • Low gravity violation - $6, 696

This table shows the basis of GBP for serious violations. Severity + Probability = GBP.

 Severity Probability GBP Gravity OIS Code
High Greater $15, 625 High 10
Medium Greater $13, 394 Moderate 5
Low Greater $11, 162 Moderate 5
High Lesser $11, 162 Moderate 5
Medium Lesser $8, 929 Moderate 5
Low Lesser $6, 696 Low 1

2. Other-Than-Serious OSHA Violations

Other-Than-Serious violation is when a threat jeopardizes a worker’s occupational safety and health but does not end in injury or death. This has the same maximum penalty as a serious violation, but OSHA has the discretion to issue a citation or reduce the fine by 95%.

There are two classifications for other-than-serious violations. One is the lesser minimal-only violation, and the other is the greater minimal-only violation.

Only minimal severity is assigned for this violation.

 Severity Probability GBP
Minimal Greater $1, 000 - $14, 502
Minimal Lesser $0

3. Willful or Repeated OSHA Violations

Willful or repeated willful violations are the most severe. A violation is willful when the owner or manager, being informed of a hazard, refuses to fix it or acts apathetic to worker safety, as well as OSHA regulations. This is also called purposeful disregard.

If a serious and/or willful violation of rules is repeated within 3 years, the company at fault will incur devastating fines. The updated maximum penalty for this could be up to $145, 027.

Refer to this chart for the Serious Willful Penalty Reductions.

Employees Percent Reduction
10 or fewer 80
11-20 60
21-30 50
31-40 40
41-50 30
51-100 20
101-250 10
251 or more 0

4. Posting Requirements OSHA Violations

Once the business receives the OSHA notice, the employer must post it (original or copy) at or near the incident area. Doing so is part of OSHA requirements to alert the employees of the hazards. The said notice is to be kept posted for 3 working days (excluding weekends and Federal holidays) or until the hazard is abated, whichever is longer.

The employer can choose from either of these options:

  1. Resolve the condition by the date specified in the OSHA notice
  2. Request an Informal Conference within 15 working days

5. Failure to Abate OSHA Violations

Failure to abate is incurred when a business owner fails to resolve their own safety and health administration violation within the date set in the OSHA Notice. The said violation is then subject to the maximum penalty per day past the abatement date.

6. De Minimis Violation

De minimis is a Latin phrase that can be translated as “about minimal things.” Hence, it is defined as lacking significance or importance - something so minor as to merit disregard.

An act of OSHA de minimis is a violation with no direct or immediate relationship to safety or health. This violation type does not lead to penalties or citations.

For example, OSHA requires a 12-inch distance between ladder rungs, so a 13-inch space is non-compliant.

Minimum-Maximum OSHA Fines per Violation

Penalties are based on the severity of the OSHA violation and may reach a maximum of $14, 502 for each one.

The chart below presents the minimum-maximum penalty list as of January 2023.

minimum maximum osha fines

* Note: For each repeated other-than-serious violation without initial penalty, the following GBP schedule shall be exacted: First repetition - $446; Second repetition - $1, 116; Third repetition - $2, 232

You may visit their website if you’re interested in checking for OSHA enforcement inspections by the name of the establishment.

What is the best technique to avoid OSHA fines in 2023?

osha violations and fines

In a word, avoiding OSHA penalties and fines is avoiding violations.

The most efficient way to achieve this is by creating a safe working environment for every employee's health and safety. To do this, you need to identify and then resolve all identified potential hazards in your workplace. Your employees should be trained on proper safety procedures for their daily operations and prepared in the event of emergencies.

The following steps are recommended by OSHA to employers and workers in identifying and assessing workplace hazards:

  1. Collecting and reviewing data that show existing hazards or any possible risks in the workplace.
  2. Conducting diagnostic and regular workplace safety assessments to pin down both new and recurring risks.
  3. Investigating injuries, illnesses, accidents, and incidents to detect the causal hazards and address the weak points of the safety and health program being utilized.
  4. Categorizing related accidents and determining patterns in injuries, illnesses, and documented hazards.
  5. Considering threats associated with emergency or unusual cases.
  6. Determining the gravity and possibility of accidents that could result in any of the identified hazards and making this data the basis for prioritizing corrective and preventive actions.

Check out these OSHA-recommended practices in preventing and controlling workplace hazards:

  • Action item 1: Determining control options
  • Action item 2: Choosing appropriate controls
  • Action item 3: Establishing and updating a hazard control program
  • Action item 4: Choosing appropriate controls to ensure workers’ safety during emergencies and nonroutine cases
  • Action item 5: Implementing chosen controls in the workplace
  • Action item 6: Following up to validate the effectivity and efficiency of chosen controls

Awareness of OSHA violations will help business owners become more adherent to the guidelines and requirements for employee safety set by OSHA. Avoiding these violations means safety for the workers and steering clear of costly OSHA penalties and fines.

The material provided in this article is for general information purposes only. It is not intended to replace professional/legal advice or substitute government regulations, industry standards, or other requirements specific to any business/activity. While we made sure to provide accurate and reliable information, we make no representation that the details or sources are up-to-date, complete or remain available. Readers should consult with an industrial safety expert, qualified professional, or attorney for any specific concerns and questions.


Shop Tradesafe Products

Author: Herbert Post

Born in the Philadelphia area and raised in Houston by a family who was predominately employed in heavy manufacturing. Herb took a liking to factory processes and later safety compliance where he has spent the last 13 years facilitating best practices and teaching updated regulations. He is married with two children and a St Bernard named Jose. Herb is a self-described compliance geek. When he isn’t studying safety reports and regulatory interpretations he enjoys racquetball and watching his favorite football team, the Dallas Cowboys.