What happens if you violate an OSHA standard?

OSHA enforces their standards through inspections and assessing fines for the violations found upon inspection. Enforcing standards through citations and fines are a part of OSHA’s core mission to reduce workplace injuries, illnesses, and fatalities.

Types of Violations

The following are levels of violations with the corresponding penalty amounts as most recently updated by OSHA:

  • De Minimis Violation: A technical violation of OSHA rules that will not have a direct impact on an employee’s health or safety. This is considered the least serious class of violation and OSHA inspectors do not issue fines or citations for these violations.
  • Other-than-serious violations: These include violations that would not usually cause death or serious injury but is still a violation related to job safety. Inspectors can either issue a full citation, but they can also choose not to levy a fine or to reduce the fine up to 95%. (Fines shall not exceed $12,934)
  • Serious violations: Serious violations are when an employer know of or should know of a situation that has a definite chance of causing serious injury or death but does not remedy it. (Shall not exceed $129,336)
  • Willful violations: This is the most serious category of violations, which is why is carries such a high fine. Intentionally violating OSHA’s rules and standards shows a level of disregard for employee health and safety. Someone convicted of fatal willful violation can even be imprisoned for up to six months. (Not less than $9,239 and should not exceed $129,336)
  • Repeated violation: If cited for a violation and a subsequent inspection reveals a very similar or identical violated, an OSHA inspector can cite the employer for a repeated violation. (Shall not exceed $129,336)
  • Failure to abate (correct) prior violation: After receiving a violation citation, there will be a day by which the employer must eliminate or fix the issue. (Shall not exceed $12,934)

Comparatively, these fines are considerably lower than fines issued by other government agencies. Employers hold the right to contest any part of the citation and workers have the right to challenge the deadline of when a problem must be remedied.


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