The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was established to “assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance.” OSHA is a government agency with the United States Department of Labor, under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. It is the agency’s duty to issue and enforce health and safety statutes in the workplace, such as general safety procedures, implementing proper protective equipment, restrictions on chemical and fume exposure, and employee access to information. Compliance Safety and Health Officers are sent to inspect workspaces to make sure that they comply with OSHA regulations; particularly dangerous work environments are often subject to scheduled or routine inspections. Officers will also travel to the site for complaints, incidents or referrals.
Here are the different types of OSHA violations:
- Willful Violation: A violation is willful if an employer knows that what he or she is doing is a violation, or is aware of the violation and does not put forth reasonable effort to stop it. Each willful violation will be fined $5,000 or more. In cases of more serious violations, such as death of another employee, punishment can spike up to $250,000 for an individual, $500,000 for a corporation, and/or incarceration for up to half a year.
- Serious Violation: Working conditions that may cause death or serious harm that an employer knew about (or should have known) are considered serious violations. The employer will automatically be fined $7,000, which could potentially lower based on the size of the business, past violations, good faith, and the severity of the violation.
- Other than Serious Violation: If the violation threatens the safety of employees but isn’t likely to cause death or serious harm, it is considered “other than serious”. The $7,000 penalty is proposed for each violation, but it may be reduced significantly based on the size of the business, past violations, good faith, and the severity of the violation. If the fine drops less than $100, the penalty will be thrown out.
- Repeated Violation: Upon re-inspection, repeating a final citation (not one under contest) may yield a penalty of up to $70,000 per violation.
- Failure to Abate Prior Violation: For every day that a violation isn’t abated past its original inspection date, up to $7,000 will be fined.
- De Minimis Violation: Violations that have no direct connection to health or safety are recorded similarly to other violations, except that they aren’t included with the citation.
The OSHA offers complete confidentiality to employees who suspect an OSHA violation in their workspace and would like an inspection. If you feel that your company fired, demoted or discriminated against you because you filed an inspection request, you may file a complaint within 30 days from the incident. Speaking to a workers compensation lawyer will increase the odds of increased safety in the work space and/or punitive action against the violating business.