- OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, regulates and enforces safety standards in the workplace.
- Violations of these safety regulations can result in citations and fines.
- Awareness of the most common violations can help in creating safer workplaces.
- Regular safety audits and professional safety management services can reduce OSHA violations.
Every employer has a fundamental responsibility to provide a safe and secure environment for their employees. Yet, breaches of safety protocols persist in workplaces around the country. One entity dedicated to reducing these incidents is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). As the federal agency responsible for maintaining workplace safety, OSHA also implements regulations, levies fines, and issues citations for violations of industry safety requirements.
Understanding OSHA Violations and Citations
OSHA defines a violation as an instance when a company or employee knowingly or unwittingly neglects potential or real safety hazards. Such a breach does not necessarily involve an accident; it can also be identified during an OSHA inspection process. Depending on the severity of the violation, the organization may face a citation or a fine.
On the other hand, not all OSHA violations pose a direct risk to employees. In such situations, OSHA can issue a citation, analogous to a warning traffic ticket, notifying the company of the violation that needs resolution. Repeat citations within three years, however, will end up on a company’s safety record as repeat offenses.
The Most Frequent OSHA Violations in 2022
According to the latest data, the ten most commonly cited OSHA violations in 2022 were:
- Fall protection
- Hazard communication
- Respiratory protection
- Powered industrial trucks
- Fall protection – training requirements
- Personal protective and lifesaving equipment – eye and face protection
- Machine Guarding
Awareness of these violations can significantly enhance your safety compliance management and help your organization meet all required safety protocols.
Different Types of OSHA Violations
OSHA classifies violations into six types, each with its respective penalty:
- Serious: This violation occurs when a business owner or manager is aware of a hazard that can lead to injury or death and does nothing to mitigate it. The fines for this violation can reach up to $13,653 each, depending on the seriousness of the violation.
- Other-Than-Serious: A violation that doesn’t result in injury or death but still compromises an employee’s health or safety falls under this category. The maximum penalty for this type of violation is the same as a serious violation, but OSHA can choose to issue a citation or reduce the penalty by 95%.
- Willful or Repeated: When a violation is repeated within three years, companies can face fines of up to $145,027. This category is considered the most serious, as it signifies that the employer is aware of the risk to employees and does nothing to mitigate it.
- Posting Requirements: Any employer that receives a citation or violation notice from OSHA must post it near the incident area. This notice must remain visible to all employees until the violation is resolved, or for three days, whichever comes first.
- Failure to Abate: Companies that fail to rectify the safety violation by the date specified in the OSHA notice can face the maximum penalty per day.
- De Minimus Violation: These are minor technical infractions that do not necessarily warrant a citation or fine, such as ladder rungs being an inch further apart than the OSHA standard.
Penalties for OSHA Violations
Penalties for OSHA violations vary significantly based on the type and severity of the violation. The fines can range from a few thousand dollars per violation to tens of thousands of dollars per day past the abatement date for failure to correct a violation.
The Importance of Compliance
Most of these violations, such as fall protection in construction or scaffolding requirements, are preventable with awareness, training, and diligence. For instance, OSHA stipulates that employers must provide a safe working environment, including clean and dry floors, and free personal protective equipment. Moreover, OSHA requires chemical producers and importers to evaluate and document the hazards associated with their products and provide appropriate labels and data sheets.
However, despite these regulations, violations persist, making it essential for businesses to be proactive in preventing them. Employers should conduct regular safety audits and ensure compliance with all OSHA standards to protect their employees and avoid hefty fines.
OSHA Fines and Their Impact
Contrary to some misconceptions, OSHA does not fine employees for safety violations; it is the employer’s responsibility to ensure a safe and healthy working environment. Moreover, the fines collected by OSHA are not used to fund the agency or its operations directly. Instead, these funds go to the U.S. Treasury’s general fund. Additionally, it’s important to note that OSHA fines are not tax-deductible.
Mitigating OSHA Violations in 2023
Reducing OSHA violations and the corresponding fines requires a proactive approach. Employers should conduct regular inspections, consult with employees, and consider retaining professional safety management services. Expert safety consultants like Safety By Design can help ensure that your workplace meets all OSHA requirements, thereby mitigating the risk of violations.
In conclusion, understanding OSHA violations and the potential penalties is crucial for businesses of all sizes. Employers must stay informed about the latest regulations and implement effective safety measures to ensure the health and safety of their employees and avoid the financial and reputational impact of OSHA violations.