Open Accessibility Menu

OSHA Defense: Citation Penalties, Classifications & Fines

OSHA Defense: Citation Penalties, Classifications & Fines
Hendershot, Cannon & Hisey, P.C.

Start-ups, small businesses, and major corporations across many spectrums have a common goal when it comes to OSHA: comply with the numerous regulations in place, or pay a significant price.

As OSHA defense attorneys who’ve helped employers across Texas and the U.S., Hendershot, Cannon & Hisey, P.C. understands the challenges associated with workplace health and safety compliance.

We also know the repercussions of non-compliance and citations, which is why we offer both proactive services to help clients take the steps to deal with citations before they occur and reduce exposure to serious penalties, and reactive representation for those who face immediate and pressing needs following OSHA inspections, catastrophes, and citations.

Here’s What OSHA Citations Can Cost Your Company

Compliance with occupational regulations is critical to protecting employees from preventable harm. Though employers may find these rules cumbersome, convoluted, and at times exceedingly costly, the primary purpose is to protect workers’ lives.

On a day-to-day basis, fears of inefficiency, lack of diligence and oversight, and other shortcomings in internal OSHA compliance procedures can cause companies to fall out of compliance. Not only do they create potential for preventable injuries, tragedies, and liability, compliance lapses also expose employers to penalties which can alter the life of their company, and potentially their own.

While every case is unique, knowing what’s at stake when it comes to an OSHA citation – even for seemingly “minor” or inconsequential violations – can help companies understand the importance of active and robust compliance plans. Without them, unfavorable classifications, fines, and far-reaching penalties are all the more likely.

Citation Classifications:

The severity of an alleged OSHA violation is a considerable factor in what fines and penalties may result. Per OSHA, citations escalate in severity, with each level having its own set of related fines and related pealties. These classifications include:

  1. De minimis
  2. Other-Than-Serious
  3. Serious
  4. Willful
  5. Repeated
  6. Failure to Abate

In addition to influencing fines, the classification of a violation can open the door to additional penalties, or the potential for more serious violations and penalties in the future. That includes costlier repeat violations, as well as OSHA’s infamous Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP). Employers can be placed in the SVEP when they receive two or more citations for repeat, willful, or failure-to-abate violations involving high-emphasis hazards, or three or more repeat, willful, or failure-to-abate violations involving the release of hazardous chemicals, among other major violations or catastrophic events.

OSHA Fines

Citations can and often do result in monetary fines, and those fines can escalate depending on the type and severity of a violation. Though fines can be considerable, there are ways to effectively mitigate their impact. Among other defense strategies, our attorneys often focus on challenging the classification so as to seek reductions in fines and related penalties, and assist clients in exemplifying signs of “good faith,” such as swift and decisive corrective action, to seek further fine reductions when possible.

OSHA fines, which were recently increased, include:

Citation Classification

Fine

De minimis

No fine / citation

Other-Then-Serious

Serious

Posting Requirements

$12,675 fine per violation

Failure to Abate

$12,675 fine each day violations persist past abatement date

Repeat Violation / Willful Violation

Up to $126,749 per violation

OSHA UPDATE: In January 2019, OSHA announced plans to increase maximum fines for citations to account for inflation. The Final Rule increases will not take effect until published in the Federal Register, but are slated to include:

  • $13,260 per violation (for Serious, Other-Than-Serious, and Posting Requirement violations)
  • $13,260 per day beyond abatement date (for Failure to Abate violations)
  • $132,598 per violation (for Willful or Repeat violations)

Additional Penalties

Fines alone are not the only consequence employers face when cited by OSHA. There are many other repercussions and penalties that can have a far-reaching impact on companies and the individuals who own and operate them. Examples include:

Citation Classification

Fine

De minimis

No fine / citation

Other-Then-Serious

Serious

Posting Requirements

  • Costs of correcting hazards
  • Liability, litigation, indemnification
  • Additional regulatory investigation / enforcement action (i.e. EPA)
  • Reputational harm
  • Loss of contracts

Failure to Abate

  • Substantial daily fines each day past date of abatement
  • Costs associated with immediate correction of hazards
  • Liability / litigation

Repeat Violations

  • Considerable fines
  • Impact on multi-state / multi-facility operations
  • Potential grounds for SVEP placement
  • Liability / litigation

Willful Violations

  • Substantially enhanced fines
  • Punitive damages
  • Increased oversight / inspections
  • Reputational harm
  • Potential criminal charges and fines against individuals / company
  • Potential terms of imprisonment

Multiple violations / fatalities / catastrophes

Facing an OSHA Citation or Have Compliance Questions? Call (713) 489-2028

OSHA citations put a lot on the line, which is why it becomes so vital for employers to prioritize compliance and decisive action – whether on a preventative and consistent basis, or as soon as possible after violations have been alleged. If your company has been cited, immediate action can allow proven attorneys to fully explore your options for defense and your ability to mitigate potential fines and penalties.

Hendershot, Cannon & Hisey, P.C. has been counseling and defending businesses in a range of OSHA law matters for years, and is available to speak about your needs and potential plan of action. Call (713) 489-2028 or contact us online to request a consultation.

Categories: