OSHA citation penalties
Serious violation: A violation where there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result. OSHA assesses the penalty for a serious violation from $947 to $13,206 for each violation. OSHA may adjust a penalty for a serious violation downward on the basis of the employer’s good faith, history of previous violations, and size of business.
Willful violation: A violation that the employer intentionally and knowingly commits. The employer is aware that a hazardous condition exists, knows that the condition violates a standard or other obligation of the Act, and makes no reasonable effort to eliminate it. OSHA may propose penalties from $9,472 to $132,598 for each committed violation.
Repeated violation: A violation of any standard, regulation, rule, or order where, upon reinspection, a substantially similar violation is found and the original citation has become a final order. Violations can bring a fine from $9,472 to $132,598 for each repeated violation.
Failure to abate violation: Failure to correct a prior violation may bring a civil penalty of $13,260 for each day that the violation continues beyond the prescribed abatement date.
Possible other penalties: Additional violations for which OSHA may issue citations and proposed penalties are as follows:
Falsifying records, reports, or applications can, upon conviction, bring a criminal fine of $10,000 or up to 6 months in jail, or both; Violating posting requirements may bring a civil penalty of $7,000; Assaulting a compliance officer or otherwise resisting, opposing, intimidating, or interfering with a compliance officer in the performance of his or her duties is a criminal offense and is subject to a fine of not more than $5,000 and imprisonment for not more than 3 years.
Once a citation or non-citation is issued, an employee or an employer may appeal the decision by the Area Director. The appeals process is different for the employer than it is for the employee.
If an employee complaint initiates an inspection, the employee or authorized employee representative may request an informal review of any decision not to issue a citation. Employees may not contest citations, amendments to citations, proposed penalties, or lack of penalties. They may, however, contest the time allowed for abatement of a hazardous condition. They also may request an employer’s “Petition for Modification of Abatement,” which requests an extension of the proposed abatement period. Employees must contest the petition within 10 working days of its posting or 10 working days after an authorized employee receives a copy. Employees may request an informal conference with OSHA to discuss any issues raised by an inspection, citation, notice of proposed penalty, or employer’s notice of intention to contest.
Within 15 working days of receiving a citation, an employer who wishes to contest must submit a written objection to OSHA. The OSHA Area Director forwards the objection to the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC), which operates independently of OSHA. The OSHRC is a commission of three-member administrative law judges appointed by the President of the United States, with the consent of congress. Each judge appointed serves a term of 6 years. Initial appointments were 2 years for the first judge, 4 years for the second judge, and 6 years for the third judge. Each succeeding judge is appointed for a term of 6 years. This provides some administrative consistency within the commission.
When issued a citation and notice of proposed penalty, an employer may request an informal meeting with OSHA’s Area Director to discuss the case. OSHA encourages employers to have informal conferences with the Area Director if the employer has issues arising from the inspection that he or she wishes to discuss or provide additional information. The Area Director is authorized to enter into settlement agreements that revise citations and penalties to avoid prolonged legal disputes and result in speedier hazard abatement. (Alleged violation contested before OSHRC does not need to be corrected until the contest is ruled upon by OSHRC)