In the everyday operations of workplaces, a critical consideration is the health and safety of employees. This is not just a preference or personal value; having safety standards is a matter of the law, and violations can result in serious fines. It can be very costly and damaging to your workplace when violations or potential accidents occur.
To protect employees, maintain a pleasant work environment, and avoid serious penalties, employers should know what common violations are and how to avoid them.
OSHA Violations: What Are They
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, is part of the United States Department of Labor and was put in place in 1970 to protect the health and safety of employees in the workplace. The organization ensures safety with standards ranging from eye protection to door locks on hazardous energy sources.
There are comprehensive regulations on OSHA’s website that cover all major industries and potential workplaces. Employers are expected to know the health and safety regulations that pertain to their workers and ensure they are adhered to., which includes providing proper equipment and gear, training employees to be compliant with regulations, and enforcing the regulations as needed.
OSHA violations can be extremely costly to employers and dangerous to employees. Violations may result in injury, illness, death, and heavy fines. Therefore, it is in employees’ and employers’ best interest to work together to ensure adherence to OSHA standards.
OSHA Violations vs. Citations
An OSHA violation takes place when an employer knowingly or unknowingly fails to adhere to an OSHA regulation. A violation does not necessarily mean that an incident occurred in the workplace; it simply means that there is an infraction of the regulations.
These violations are potentially dangerous to employees even if they are unknown by employers, employees, and OSHA. If a violation is discovered by or made known to OSHA, the employer will receive a citation.
A citation is written to inform employers of their infraction and may or may not include a fine. In addition, a citation will list the specific regulations that are being violated and a date by which the employer must rectify the issues to avoid further citations.
Types of OSHA Violations
There are different classifications of OSHA violations, ranging in severity. Fines differ based on the type of violation, but each of them should be carefully avoided in the workplace.
The Four Main Types of OSHA Violations
This is the most severe violation. It is categorized by the employer knowingly and intentionally disregarding safety regulations and has significant penalties.
A violation is considered serious if it could result in an employee’s death or serious injury.
This type of violation results in minor injury or illness. It is not considered as dangerous as Serious Violations.
- Failure to Abate
When an employer is cited for an OSHA violation and does not resolve the violation by the required date, they are issued a Failure to Abate. The employer is fined for every day past the abatement date that they remain non-compliant.
Additional Classifications For OSHA Violations
This is a minor violation in which the employer fails to meet precise safety standards, but the violation will not result in injury, illness, or death. This type of violation is recognized and recorded, but no citations or fines are issued because of it.
This occurs when an employer is cited for the same or similar violations twice or more within a five-year period.
Examples of Common OSHA Violations
Violations vary greatly depending on the industry and working conditions. However, some OSHA violations are cited far more often than others., which may be because there are common mistakes, apply to multiple industries, or occur in very large industries, such as construction.
OSHA releases a Top Ten List each year to make employers and employees aware of some of the health and safety issues that they may encounter.
The ten most commonly cited OSHA violations for the year 2020 are:
- Fall Protection (construction)
- Hazard Communication Standard (general industry)
- Respiratory Protection (general industry)
- Scaffolding, general requirements (construction)
- Ladders (construction)
- Control of Hazardous Energy – lockout/tagout (general industry)
- Powered Industrial Trucks (general industry)
- Fall Protection – Training Requirements
- Eye and Face Protection
- Machinery and Machine Guarding – General Requirements
These regulations directly protect employees from incidents such as falls, inhaling dangerous substances, and foreign objects in the eyes. Despite the risks, non-compliance is very common. The accidents and fines that may result from these violations can seriously affect employees and employers.
When an employer is issued a citation, a fine may be included, depending on the severity. Fines are significant amounts, and avoiding them is one of many benefits of being OSHA-compliant. Fines for serious, other-than-serious, and failure to abate violations can be up to $13,653 per violation as of January 2021. Willful and Repeated violation fines can be as much as $136,532 per violation.
How to Avoid OSHA Violations
Avoiding OSHA violations and the resulting citations seems overwhelming at first, but with the right help and a little time, you can ensure your workplace is up to safety standards. By prioritizing OSHA regulations, you will avoid fines and accidents as well as communicate to your employees that their health and safety matter to you.
AOTC is here to make this process easier for you. We offer health and safety consulting, environmental site assessments, and on-site occupational health and safety training courses specific to your workplace. Furthermore, our highly trained and experienced staff can help you make your workplace safe and compliant.
We do this by working with you to identify violations and potential violations that apply to your workplace and then implement a plan for you to become fully compliant. Contact us today to create a custom training program and ensure your workplace is the best it can be.