OSHA Violations and Fines

March 27, 2022 4 min read

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

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

6 Types of OSHA Violations

OSHA lists 6 types of violations that, contingent upon the severity, differ in penalty amounts.

1. Serious

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 deathunless the owner or manager is not aware or could have not been made aware.

It is best to do hazard identification and risk assessment to ensure safety and avoid costly fines.

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

  • High gravity violation - $14, 502
  • Moderate gravity violation - $8, 287 to $12, 431
  • Low gravity violation - $6, 215

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

Severity Probability GBP Gravity OIS Code
High Greater $14, 502 High 10
Medium Greater $12, 431 Moderate 5
Low Greater $10, 360 Moderate 5
High Lesser $10, 360 Moderate 5
Medium Lesser $8, 287 Moderate 5
Low Lesser $6, 215 Low 1

 

2. Other-Than-Serious

Other-Than-Serious violation is when a threat jeopardizes a worker’s health and safety 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

Willful or repeated 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. This is also called purposeful disregard.

If a serious and/or willful violation 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

Upon receiving an OSHA notice, the employer must post it (original or copy) at or near the incident area. This is mandated 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

Failure to abate is incurred when a business owner fails to resolve their safety 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 OSHA de minimis is a violation that has 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

OSHA fines are based on the severity of the violation and may reach a maximum of $14, 502 for each one.
The chart below presents the minimum-maximum OSHA fines list as of January 2022.

Type of Violation Penalty
Serious $1, 036 - $14, 502 per violation 
Other-Than-Serious $0 -$14, 502 per violation
Willful or Repeated $10, 360 - $145, 027 per violation
Posting Requirements $0 -$14, 502 per violation
Failure to Abate $14, 502 per day past the abatement date

* Note: For each repeated other-than-serious violation without initial penalty, the following GBP schedule shall be exacted: First repetition - $414; Second repetition - $1,036; Third repetition - $2,072

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

What is the best technique to avoid OSHA fines?

In a word, avoiding OSHA fines is avoiding violations.

The most efficient way to achieve this is by creating a safe working environment. 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 prepare them 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 the violations will help business owners become more adherent to the guidelines and requirements set by OSHA. Avoiding these violations means safety for the workers and steering clear of costly OSHA fines.

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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.


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