What happens when OSHA standards are violated?
The answer to this question depends on both the number and the nature of the violations. OSHA never announces an inspection in advance, which allows them to see a workplace for what it is. If someone informs an employer of an upcoming inspection, that person can be fined up to $1,000 and/or sent to prison for up to six months. Usually, individual violations will result in either a notice or a citation as well as a deadline to fix the issue. If the violation is more serious, then the employer can be fined as much as $7,000.
If there’s a willful violation, which is one that the employer knew about but refused to act on, then the employer can be fined at least $5,000. OSHA inspectors will also check back over a period of days to see if the problem is being addressed. If the employer is stalling, then they can be fined as much as $7,000 for each day that nothing is done. The most that OSHA can fine someone for one of these repeated violations is $70,000. If a person commits perjury during an inspection, they can be fined up to $10,000 and/or sent to prison for up to six months.
Finally, if there’s a serious accident resulting in either injury or death, the penalties increase. If someone dies, an employer can be fined up to $10,000 and receive six-months of imprisonment. If it isn’t an employer’s first conviction for an OSHA violation, the punishment is doubled to a $20,000 fine and one year in prison.
The most common OSHA violations can be found in the construction and manufacturing industries. The number one most common citation is a failure to provide fall protection, number two is not providing sufficient hazard communications, and number three is failing to meet scaffolding standards.