The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a part of the United States Department of Labor, is a regulatory agency that sets and enforces standards for workplace safety. It also provides safety training and education for workplaces.
When businesses don’t follow OSHA’s standards and fail to provide a safe workplace for their employees, they risk incurring penalties, with a maximum fine of $156,259 per violation.
In this post, we go over the types of OSHA violations and their corresponding penalties.
Table of Contents
- What Are OSHA Violations?
- 6 Types of OSHA Violations and Their Fines
- The 10 Most Commonly Cited OSHA Violations (& How to Avoid Them)
- How to Report an OSHA Violation
- Operate Safe Equipment
What Are OSHA Violations?
An OSHA violation is when an employer intentionally or repeatedly breaks the standards set by the Occupational Safety and Health Act, also known as the OSH Act, by failing to provide a safe workplace for their employees. An accident doesn’t have to occur for an employer to violate the OSH Act — the workplace just has to be deemed unsafe.
You may think of willful violations, especially repeated violations, of OSHA standards, but even unintentional safety violations can break the rules.
The OSH Act applies to almost all workplaces in the United States, providing general industry safety standards to most employers, as well as workplace safety and health protections to both private sector and federally covered public sector employers and workers across all 50 states.
The Act requires employers to provide employees with working conditions that are “free of known dangers” and meet OSHA safety and health standards. If problems arise, employers are obligated to find and correct them.
How Are Violations Discovered?
OSHA regularly conducts on-site inspections of workplaces, usually without advance notice. While an inspection can be brought on by worker complaints about potential safety hazards, OSHA may sometimes inspect a workplace without a specific cause.
Everyone has the right to request inspections at their place of work, and OSHA can do so without detailing to the employer who filed the complaint.
If the OSHA area director finds a violation in their inspection, they’ll issue a citation to the company or business owner, along with notice of the proposed penalty. OSHA citations both describe what the violation is and give a deadline for when it has to be corrected.
A good way to think of citations and violations is comparing them to something like a speeding ticket. If you were speeding and got a ticket, the speeding is the violation, and the ticket is the citation.
6 Types of OSHA Violations and Their Fines
While OSHA can issue fines, it can’t directly shut down a business — only a court order can. However, if an OSHA inspector thinks employees are in immediate danger, they can request that employees are removed from the hazard, and petition a federal court to order you to address the safety hazard.
Here’s an overview of the main types of OSHA violations, as well as the minimum and maximum OSHA fines associated with each.
|Violation||Minimum Penalty||Maximum Penalty|
|Serious||$1,116 per violation||$15,625 per violation|
|Other-Than-Serious||$0 per violation||$15,625 per violation|
|Posting Requirements||$0 per violation||$15,625 per violation|
|Failure to Abate||N/A||$15,625 per day unabated beyond the abatement date (generally limited to 30 days maximum)|
|Willful or Repeated||$11,162 per violation||$156,259 per violation|
Here’s how each type of OSHA violation breaks down:
- Serious: A serious violation is one that could likely cause death, illness, or serious injury.
- Other-than-serious: An other-than-serious violation is analogous to a step down from a serious one — it directly affects job safety and worker health, but isn’t likely to cause serious physical harm.
- Posting requirements: If you receive an OSHA citation, you have to post it at or near the area where the violation occurred and keep it posted for at least three working days or until the hazard is abated.
- Failure to abate: If you don’t address an OSHA violation in the designated timeline, you could be cited again for your failure to abate the workplace hazard.
- Willful or repeated: A willful violation is when an employer knowingly fails to comply with OSHA standards, or otherwise acts with indifference towards employee safety. If an employer is caught violating the same standard multiple times, or never addresses the initial issue, they can be cited for a repeated violation.
- De minimis: A de minimis violation is a technical violation of OSHA rules that doesn’t directly impact workplace health or safety. Fines and citations aren’t usually issued for this.
The 10 Most Commonly Cited OSHA Violations (& How to Avoid Them)
Prioritizing worker safety both reduces potential violations, even preventing some from occurring at all, and gives your workers necessary support and peace of mind. Taking actions like inspecting the workplace yourself, talking to your employees about safety requirements, creating a site-specific safety plan (SSSP), and ensuring all your equipment is up-to-date and safe to use can help you maintain positive working conditions.
Here are some of the most commonly cited OSHA violations, taken from OSHA’s most recent data (from 2022).
1. Fall Protection (General Requirements)
OSHA standard 1926.501 outlines safety requirements around fall protection, including what fall protection systems are appropriate, how to install them, and where they’re necessary to use.
This standard mainly protects employees who work on horizontal or vertical walking-working surfaces that have an unprotected side that’s more than 6 feet off the ground.
Here are ways to ensure your fall protection infrastructure meets OSHA requirements:
- Make sure that all floor holes are protected or covered by either a railing or manhole cover so workers don’t accidentally walk into them.
- Install guardrails and toe-boards around elevated surfaces, especially open-sided areas.
- Install guardrails and toe-boards to prevent workers from falling into or onto dangerous machines or workplace equipment.
- If your worksite has workers performing tasks at heights where fall protection is required, you should provide PPE like safety harnesses, as well as safety nets, stair railings, and handrails, to keep suspended workers stable and protected while they’re off the ground.
2. Hazard Communication
OSHA standard 1910.1200 covers chemical hazards, including both chemicals produced in the workplace and ones imported from outside the workplace. It also outlines hazard communication standards, referring to how you communicate the potential dangers of these chemicals to your employees.
Here’s how you can avoid a hazard communication violation:
- Make sure to evaluate the hazards of any chemicals you produce or bring into the workplace, and prepare labels and other safety materials to communicate this information to employees and customers.
- Make sure workers both have access to safety materials outlining hazards clearly, and that they’re trained to handle dangerous chemicals safely.
OSHA standard 1926.1053 covers the use of ladders in the workplace. It’s a general requirement that applies to safe ladder use in most work environments.
Here’s how to avoid a ladder violation:
- Make sure all employees maintain three-point contact (using two hands and a foot, or two feet and a hand) while climbing up or down a ladder.
- Allow employees adequate room to step down from the ladder safely.
- Inspect all ladders before use to make sure they’re free from any damage or slipping hazards, like grease and oil.
- Only use ladders on stable and level surfaces or with adequate security to keep them in place.
4. Respiratory Protection
OSHA standard 1910.134 covers respiratory protection. It involves a variety of aspects, from creating worksite respiratory protection programs, to employee safety training and medical evaluations, to respirator fit testing, maintenance, and use.
Here’s how to avoid a respiratory protection violation:
- Create and enforce a worksite-specific respiratory protection program.
- Make sure all employees use proper respiratory protection if they’re exposed to hazardous substances.
- Make sure employees wear the appropriate respirator for the hazards they’re exposed to, and that the devices are in good working order and fit properly.
- Provide employees with regular medical evaluations, respirator fit testing, and safety training.
OSHA standard 1926.451 covers safety requirements related to scaffolding.
All scaffolding on a worksite must be designed and installed by qualified personnel and built and loaded in a way that’s appropriate for the design. If employees are working on or near scaffolding of 10 feet in height or higher, employers have to ensure they’re protected from both falls and falling objects.
Here’s how to avoid a scaffolding-related violation:
- Make sure scaffolds are sound enough to carry both their own weight plus at least four times the maximum load you intend to put on them. Make sure there’s no settling or displacement when the scaffold bears weight, and that it’s built on solid footing.
- Don’t construct, move, or disassemble a scaffold without involving qualified personnel.
- Qualified personnel must regularly inspect scaffolding. Rigging on suspension scaffolds should be inspected before each use or shift.
- Equip scaffolds with fall protection measures, like guardrails, midrails, and toeboards.
- Any scaffold accessories or components, like braces, brackets, trusses, screw legs, or ladders, must be replaced as soon as they’re weakened or damaged.
6. Control of Hazardous Energy (Lockout/Tagout)
OSHA standard 1910.147 covers the control of hazardous energy.
It outlines the minimum performance requirements to protect employees from unexpected energization, like the sudden startup of machines or equipment or the release of potentially hazardous stored energy during equipment servicing and maintenance.
To properly control hazardous energy on your worksite:
- Create and enforce an energy control program.
- Make sure your employees are trained to follow hazardous energy control protocols.
7. Powered Industrial Trucks
OSHA standard 1910.178 covers the use of powered industrial trucks on worksites, including their design, maintenance, and operation and operator training. It covers vehicles like forklifts and motorized hand trucks.
To avoid a violation related to powered industrial trucks:
- Only allow trained and certified employees to operate forklifts.
- Inspect forklifts before each use and report any damage as soon as it’s identified or as it occurs.
- Don’t raise or lower forks while the forklift is in motion.
- Don’t use a forklift to lift a worker standing on the forks.
- Make sure that all loads you attempt to lift with the forklift are appropriate for its weight capacity.
Renting forklifts and other equipment from a provider like BigRentz ensures you have the most up-to-date and well-maintained machinery, helping you meet safety standards.
8. Fall Protection (Training Requirements)
OSHA standard 1926.503 covers falling protection training requirements. It requires employers to provide adequate employee safety training to any worker exposed to fall hazards.
To avoid violating the fall protection training requirements standard:
- Follow OSHA’s fall protection training requirements to make sure employees understand how to safely work at height. Provide adequate training to all employees exposed to fall risks on the worksite.
- Retrain employees as necessary.
9. Eye and Face Protection
OSHA standard 1926.102 covers the appropriate use of personal protective equipment (PPE) for workers exposed to eye or face hazards. This includes hazards like flying particles, caustic liquids, molten metal, light radiation, and chemical gasses.
To provide proper eye and face protection:
- Make sure all employees exposed to potential eye or face hazards use the right PPE for both their tasks and the specific hazards.
- For employees who wear prescription lenses, provide PPE that incorporates the prescription in its design or that can be worn over the prescription safely.
- Make sure the PPE is well-maintained, easily cleaned and disinfected, fits workers snugly, can be worn comfortably under the necessary working conditions, and provides adequate protection against specific workplace hazards.
10. Machine Guarding
OSHA standard 1910.212 outlines how to guard machinery to protect both machine operators and other onsite employees from potential hazards. Without proper machine guarding, employees may be exposed to hazards. Point of operation can create these hazards as well as ingoing nip points, rotating parts, and flying chips, sparks, and other projectiles.
Here’s how to avoid a machine guarding violation:
- One or more methods of machine guarding should be put in place to protect the machine operator and other employees in the machine area. Appropriate guarding methods include barrier guards, two-hand tripping devices, and electronic safety devices.
- Machine guards should be either fixed to the machine or otherwise secure if they can’t be attached directly.
How to Report an OSHA Violation
Employees have a legal right to a safe workplace. If you’re an employee dealing with a workplace safety hazard, you can contact OSHA if you think your employer is failing to meet the requirements.
To report an OSHA violation, contact your local OSHA office, call 1-800-321-OSHA (6742), or fill out the online form. As mentioned before, workers can ask OSHA to conduct an inspection without their employer knowing who filed the complaint. So your identity is protected if you do report.
Operate Safe Equipment
Keeping up with OSHA standards is a big task, and incredibly important for both your employees’ health and your overall success.
Let BigRentz take some of the weight off your shoulders. Renting with BigRentz not only provides your employees with the latest equipment they need, but also makes sure the equipment you use is in good repair.