Work Zone Safety
Written by Steve Hudgik
Who Determines When OSHA Citations Will Be Issued?
After a compliance officer finishes an inspection they report their findings and the OSHA area director then determines what citations, if any will be issued.
What Is An OSHA Citation?
OSHA citations inform the employer and employees about the regulations and standards that may have been violated, and of the proposed length of time set for their abatement. The employer will receive the OSHA citations by certified mail. The employer must post a copy of each OSHA citation, at or near the place a violation occurred, for three days or until the violation is abated, whichever is longer.
OSHA citations are not issued as a penalty for an injury or fatality. They are issued to address violations of OSHA standards and for safety hazards identified by the OSHA compliance officer.
OSHA Citations - Proposed Penalties
When an OSHA citation is issued there will also be a proposed penalty. The amount of the penalty will vary depending on the severity of the violation. The following are the categories of violations that OSHA may cite and the penalties that may be proposed:
- OSHA Citations for an “Other Than Serious Violation” - This type of citation is issued for a safety hazard that has a direct relationship to job safety and health, but probably would not have caused death or serious physical harm. A penalty of up to $7,000 for each violation may be proposed. This penalty may be adjusted downward by as much as 95 percent, depending on the employer's good faith efforts to comply with OSHA standards, their history of previous violations, and the size of business.
- OSHA Citations for a “Serious Violation” - When there is a violation that would probably result in a death or serious physical harm, and the employer knew about or should have known about the hazard, then a mandatory penalty of up to $7,000 for each violation can be proposed. This type of penalty may also be adjusted downward, based on the employer's good faith, their history of previous violations, the gravity of the alleged violation, and the size of the business.
- OSHA Citations for a “Willful Violation” - This is a safety violation that the employer knowingly commits, or that is committed with indifference to the law. The employer either knows that what they are doing is a violation of OSHA standards, or they are aware that a hazardous condition existed and made no reasonable effort to eliminate that hazardous condition.
There is a minimum penalty of $5,000 and a maximum of $70,000 for a willful violation. A proposed penalty may be adjusted downward, depending on the size of the business and its history of previous violations. In the case of an OSHA citation for a willful violation no credit is given for good faith.
If an employer is convicted of a willful violation that resulted in the death of an employee, the offense is punishable by a court-imposed fine or by imprisonment for up to six months, or both.
- OSHA Citations for a “Repeated Violation” - If there an OSHA citation that is finalized, and an the OSHA citation for that same violation is issued at any location owned or operated by the same company, a fine of up to $70,000 for each such violation may be proposed. To be the basis of a repeated OSHA citation, the original OSHA citation must be final. An OSHA citation under contest may not serve as the basis for a subsequent repeated citation.
- OSHA Citations for “Failure to Abate Prior Violation” - Failure to abate a prior violation may bring a civil penalty of up to $7,000 for each day the violation continues beyond the specified abatement date.
- OSHA Citations for a “De Minimis Violation” - A de minimis violation is a violations of a standard that has no direct or immediate relationship to safety or health. Whenever de minimis conditions are found during an inspection, they are documented in the same way as any other violation, but they are not included as a part of the OSHA citation.
The way to avoid OSHA citations is to be in compliance with OSHA standards. Signs and labels have a major job to do to help accomplish this. They inform employees about safe work practices and warn about potential hazards. Signs direct employees, visitors and contractors along safe pathways and provide housekeeping information. Labels identify hazardous materials and show how to operate safety equipment.
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