Workplace safety should be the top priority of any employer. Not only does a comprehensive workplace safety agenda ensure the wellbeing of your workers, but it can also help save you potential instances of workers’ compensation claims or OSHA violations, which can often come with hefty fines. OSHA divides potential violations into six categories depending on how serious the violation is. Here, we’ll discuss all six categories in detail and let you know how you can avoid an OSHA violation at any level.
De Minimis Violations
The first and least serious category of OSHA violations is referred to as “de minimis violations.” This category involves technical violations of OSHA’s regulations that typically don’t result in citations or fines. Still, in these cases, inspectors must record the violation in the employer’s file and verbally tell employees about the violation.
Violations are categorized here when there is virtually no possibility of injury, such as when rungs on a ladder are one or two inches further apart than they should be. These are violations that are typically easy to fix and simply serve to ensure the workplace is as safe as possible at all times.
“Other-than-serious violations” come in instances where an employee’s safety could potentially be put at risk, but the situation is not likely to result in a serious or fatal accident. These violations can result in employer fines of up to $13,000 or more, but it’s often the case that inspectors will reduce the penalty.
One of the most prevalent instances that warrants an other-than-serious violation is the failure to post safety regulation documentation in the workplace. While there is no immediate danger to any employee’s wellbeing in this instance, a potential injury could still result if workers are not presented with the most accurate safety information. It’s this potential for danger that warrants an other-than-serious violation.
The category of “repeated violations” is quite self-explanatory. When an inspector issues a citation, it’s the expectation of OSHA that the employer will fix the issue that resulted in the citation. The employer in question should be working to solve the problem as quickly as possible to ensure the immediate safety of their employees and avoid being given another citation. If another OSHA inspector arrives and discovers that a previously cited issue has not yet been resolved with three years of the original citation, a repeated violation may be given at that time. Repeated violations can result in massive fines of up to $135,000.
With this category, it’s important to note that a repeated violation can be issued at various locations; if an employer is issued a citation at a worksite in California, for instance, and then the same problem is found at a worksite in Oregon, this can be considered a repeated violation. Repeated violations cannot be issued, however, if the employer has contested the original violation and is in the middle of an appeal with OSHA.
Failure to Abate Prior Violations
Similar to a repeated violation, failure to abate prior violations have to do with resolving a previously identified issue in a timely manner. When an OSHA inspector arrives at a worksite and issues a citation for a violation, the employer is always provided with a date that serves as a deadline for the problem to be remedied. If the employer fails to handle the issue on or before the date that was specified, this action may result in a “failure to abate prior” violation.
These violations are unique from the rest in that the potential fine is virtually infinite. Instead of one specific fine amount, employers can possibly be fined up to $13,000 per day until the issue is finally resolved. If swift action is not taken, this violation can prove to be one of the costliest.
In some instances, one aspect of a worksite may be in violation of OSHA regulations without the immediate knowledge of the employer. However, if OSHA discovers that an employer is aware of a potential safety or health violation (or should be aware of it) and has failed to do anything to remedy the situation, a “serious violation” can be issued.
As the name implies, serious violations tend to result from situations where there is a great potential of serious injury or fatality due to the disregard for OSHA regulations. Employers can face fines of up to $13,000 or more in the case of a serious violation, though the fine amount may be reduced based on the size of the business, the gravity of the situation, the employer’s history, or as a gesture of good faith.
Finally, willful violations are considered the most serious of all six potential violation types. In the case of serious violations, employers often don’t realize they are not in compliance with OSHA standards. However, if an employer is well aware that their workplace does not meet OSHA regulations and they do nothing to change their behavior or show any regard for their employees’ safety, this situation can result in a willful violation.
Willful violations carry incredibly hefty fines of up to $135,000. If a dangerous situation in a willful violation results in a death, fines can increase to at least $250,000 for an individual and even get as high as $500,000 for a corporation. Fatal situations like this can also result in jail time.
How to Protect Yourself from OSHA Violations
Failure to meet OSHA regulations is no laughing matter, and instances of violation can result in some serious fines. Luckily, there are simple steps you can take to ensure that your workplace is always OSHA-compliant, leading to a safe workplace for your employees and the reassurance that you won’t be hit with a fine the next time an inspector shows up.
For instance, one easy way to make sure your workplace is safe is by having your electrical system tested at regular intervals. Mark Thomas & Associates Electrical Engineers is happy to test your electrical system and can provide a number of other services such as arc flash studies, short circuit analysis, and more. We are proudly based in Southern California and serve various nearby regions including areas like San Diego and Los Angeles. Contact us today to learn more!