By: Wyn Staheli, Director of Research Published: May 28th, 2014
Penalties have increased several times since this notice by OSHA on the penalty structure. As of April 2018, the fines are now range from $12,934 to $129,336 per violation. Even though the fines are different than the following notice, the explanations of types of penalties is useful information.
The following information by OSHA in 2014 outlines the penalty structure for OSHA violations. Emphasis has been added.
CITATIONS AND PENALTIES
Citations Issued by the Area Director
After the compliance officer reports findings, the area director determines what citations, if any, will be issued, and what penalties, if any, will be proposed.
Citations inform the employer and employees of the regulations and standards alleged to have been violated and of the proposed length of time set for their abatement. The employer will receive citations and notices of proposed penalties by certified mail. The employer must post a copy of each citation at or near the place a violation occurred, for three days or until the violation is abated, whichever is longer.
These are the types of violations that may be cited and the penalties that may be proposed:
Other Than Serious Violation - A violation that has a direct relationship to job safety and health, but probably would not cause death or serious physical harm. A proposed penalty of up to $7,000 for each violation is discretionary. A penalty for an other-than-serious violation may be adjusted downward by as much as 95 percent, depending on the employer's good faith (demonstrated efforts to comply with the Act), history of previous violations, and size of business. When the adjusted penalty amounts to less than $100, no penalty is proposed.
Serious Violation - A violation where there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result and that the employer knew, or should have known, of the hazard. A mandatory penalty of up to $7,000 for each violation is proposed. A penalty for a serious violation may be adjusted downward, based on the employer's good faith, history of previous violations, the gravity of the alleged violation, and size of business.
Willful Violation - A violation that the employer knowingly commits or commits with plain indifference to the law. The employer either knows that what he or she is doing constitutes a violation, or is aware that a hazardous condition existed and made no reasonable effort to eliminate it.
Penalties of up to $70,000 may be proposed for each willful violation, with a minimum penalty of $5,000 for each violation. A proposed penalty for a willful violation may be adjusted downward, depending on the size of the business and its history of previous violations. Usually, no credit is given for good faith.
If an employer is convicted of a willful violation of a standard that has resulted in the death of an employee, the offense is punishable by a court-imposed fine or by imprisonment for up to six months, or both. A fine of up to $250,000 for an individual, or $500,000 for a corporation, may be imposed for a criminal conviction.
Repeated Violation - A violation of any standard, regulation, rule, or order where, upon reinspection, a substantially similar violation can bring a fine of up to $70,000 for each such violation. To be the basis of a repeated citation, the original citation must be final; a citation under contest may not serve as the basis for a subsequent repeated citation.
Failure to Abate Prior Violation - Failure to abate a prior violation may bring a civil penalty of up to $7,000 for each day the violation continues beyond the prescribed abatement date.
De Minimis Violation - De minimis violations are violations of standards which have no direct or immediate relationship to safety or health. Whenever de minimis conditions are found during an inspection, they are documented in the same way as any other violation, but are not included on the citation.
Additional violations for which citations and proposed penalties may be issued upon conviction:
Falsifying records, reports or applications can bring a fine of $10,000 or up to six months in jail, or both.
Violations of posting requirements can bring a civil penalty of up to $7,000.
Assaulting a compliance officer, or otherwise resisting, opposing, intimidating, or interfering with a compliance officer while they are engaged in the performance of their duties is a criminal offense, subject to a fine of not more than $5,000 and imprisonment for not more than three years.
Citation and penalty procedures may differ somewhat in states with their own occupational safety and health programs.
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