Penalties for OSHA Violations — What Could it Cost You?

by Melanie Baravik
January 9, 2018

As you know, the construction industry has to follow lots of specific OSHA standards for safety. And that’s for good reason, since construction jobsites can be one of the most dangerous places to work. While hopefully you’re familiar with the rules you need to follow, you might not be aware of the consequences for breaking OSHA safety laws.

Types of violations

OSHA classifies violations as serious and other-than-serious. If a business is issued a serious violation, that means their negligence could cause death or serious physical injury. Other-than-serious violations are those determined not to cause serious injury or death, but that still pose a hazard to employees’ health and safety.

Failing to meet OSHA’s posting requirements can also earn your business a citation. Employers are required to hang an OSHA-issued poster informing employees of their rights and of employer responsibilities — your state’s equivalent of the poster is also allowed. Businesses that keep and submit illness and injury reports need to give present and former employees and their representatives access to form 300.  Form 300A must be posted every year beginning on February 1 for three months.

If a citation is issued, it must be posted near the area the violation occurred until the problem is fixed or for three business days, whichever is longer. Once the problem is fixed, the abatement verification documents need to be posted.

Citations are also given for failure to abate, meaning the employer has failed to fix the problem they were originally cited for, and for willful or repeated violations.

Fines adjusted for inflation  

The usual punishment for violating OSHA safety rules is a hefty fine. On August 1, 2016, a rule was issued to increase fines for the first time since 1990 — and the increase was substantial. The rule also mandated that maximum fine amounts be adjusted for inflation annually to prevent another large, sudden increase. The latest increase for 2018 went into effect on January 2.

Serious, other-than-serious and posting violations can incur a $12,934 maximum fine per violation, increased from 2017’s $12,675 maximum. And if that doesn’t deter you from violating, there’s an additional $12,934 maximum fine imposed for every day the violation continues after the abatement date. The abatement date is the deadline for cited businesses to fix the violation and is set when the citation is issued.

Willful violations can carry a much bigger penalty — those fines can range from $9,239 to $129,336, previously $9,054 to $126,749. Repeat violations have no minimum fine and the same $129,336 maximum fine.

Any penalties OSHA issued from January 13, 2017 through January 2, 2018 will pay 2017 fine amounts, while those issued from January 3, 2018 on will be subject to the new fine amounts. Since it’s now law that these amounts are adjusted annually before January 15, keep an eye out in the coming years — or subscribe to The Yard, and we’ll keep you posted.

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