What Training Managers Need to Know About OSHA Regulations and Violations

OSHA Regulations

What are the current OSHA Regulations and Violations? Most workers in the US are covered by the Occupational Safety and Health Act that provides the legal framework for the work of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Covered employers and employees are subject to regulations established by OSHA. The general duty clause of the OSHA Act makes it illegal for an employer to expose workers to “recognized hazards.”

OSHA Inspections

More than 70% of OSHA inspections are not announced and result in an average fine of $2300.00 with costly penalties of up to $70,000.00 that regulators may be issue for each willful violation. The record of the violation is also listed in the OSHA database which spotlights the company and may increase the likelihood of additional inspections by Compliance Officers. An inspection involves the Compliance Officer arriving at the workplace and is typically done without advanced notice, unless the visit is scheduled because of a known catastrophe or investigation. It is a violation of law to announce a programmed inspection. OSHA will not collect the fines and penalties at the time of inspection and anyone who tries to collect money at an inspection is not an OSHA representative.

The Compliance Officer may inspect the workplace for all OSHA standards, not just the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard.  For instance, an inspection related to complaints about air quality in a sushi restaurant or private school may also include checking for compliance with the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard.  The Compliance Officer indicates any and all unsafe working conditions to the employer as they are observed during an inspection tour. Once the inspection tour is completed, there is a closing conference to discuss all unsafe or unhealthful conditions in addition to all violations for which a citation may be issued or recommended.  The Compliance Officer does not indicate any proposed penalties at the closing conference.  The OSHA Area Director issues the penalties upon reviewing the full inspection report.  The closing conference can also include participation of the company’s employees or representatives.

OSHA Citations, Violations, and Penalties

The OSHA Area Director issues Citations and decides what, if any, penalties will be proposed.  Citations inform the employer and employees of the regulations and standards alleged to have been violated and of the proposed length of time they have to correct the problem(s).  Citations are sent by certified mail.  The employer must post a copy of each Citation at or near the place the violation occurred.  The Citation must be posted for 3 days or until the violation is fixed, whichever is longer.

OSHA Violation Categories:

  • Other Than Serious Violations: A violation directly related to job safety and health, but one that would probably not cause death or serious physical harm.  A penalty of up to $7,000 may be issued for each violation.
  • Serious Violation: A violation with substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result and that the employer knew, or  should have known, about.  A mandatory penalty of $7,000 for each violation.
  • Willful Violation: A violation that the employer committed intentionally and knowingly. Penalties of up to $70,000 may be imposed for each willful violation, with a minimum penalty of $5,000 for each violation. If a willful violation results in the death of an employee, employers can also be punished by a court-imposed fine or by imprisonment for up to 6 months, or both.
  • Repeat Violation: A violation of a standard where, upon re- inspection, a similar violation is found.  Repeat violations can bring a fine of up to $70,000 for each violation.
  • Failure to Correct Prior Violation: A civil penalty of up to $70,000 may be imposed for e4ach day the violation continues beyond the prescribed date for its correction.  At $70,000 per violation, it doesn’t take long for recalcitrant organizations to reach several hundred thousand dollars worth of penalties and fines.  Moreover, OSHA violations, fines and penalties are not confidential.  They are often reported in the media.  A news report that a major organization had a $250,000 OSHA violation for failing to follow safety regulations could, for instance, be a public relations disaster.

Sources: OSHA and The American Red Cross Society.

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