OSHA issues different types of citations, depending on the nature and severity of the violation. Penalties are proposed based on the type of violation. If you receive OSHA citations following an inspection, penalties may vary depending on the type of violations. Note, however, that in settling a penalty, OSHA says it has a policy of reducing penalties for small employers and those acting in good faith. Here are those types of citations:
Willful. A willful violation exists under the OSH Act where an employer has demonstrated either an intentional disregard for the requirements of the Act or a plain indifference to employee safety and health. Penalties range from $5,000 to $70,000 per willful violation. 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 6 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.
Serious. Section 17(k) of the OSH Act provides that “a serious violation shall be deemed to exist in a place of employment if there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a condition which exists, or from one or more practices, means, methods, operations, or processes which have been adopted or are in use, in such place of employment unless the employer did not, and could not with the exercise of reasonable diligence, know of the presence of the violation.” OSHA may propose a penalty of up to $7,000 for each violation.
Other-Than-Serious. This type of violation is cited in situations where the accident/incident or illness that would be most likely to result from a hazardous condition would probably not cause death or serious physical harm, but would have a direct and immediate relationship to the safety and health of employees. OSHA may impose a penalty of up to $7,000 for each violation.
De Minimis. De minimis conditions are those where an employer has implemented a measure different from one specified in a standard, that has no direct or immediate relationship to safety or health. These conditions do not result in citations or penalties.
Failure to Abate. A failure to abate violation exists when a previously cited hazardous condition, practice or non-complying equipment has not been brought into compliance since the prior inspection (i.e., the violation remains continuously uncorrected) and is discovered at a later inspection. If, however, the violation was corrected, but later reoccurs, the subsequent occurrence is a repeated violation. OSHA may impose a penalty of up to $7,000 per day for each violation.
Repeated. An employer may be cited for a repeated violation if that employer has been cited previously, within the last five years, for the same or a substantially similar condition or hazard and the citation has become a final order of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC). A citation may become a final order by operation of law when an employer does not contest the citation, or pursuant to court decision or settlement. Repeated violations can bring a civil penalty of up to $70,000 for each violation.
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 6 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 compliance officers 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 3 years.
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