A lot of our clients ask us what the OSHA penalty is for a particular violation. OSHA citations and the accompanying penalties do not work that way. There is no schedule that says an overfilled sharps container is $900 or failure to provide appropriate protective equipment is $2500.

OSHA citations are based on failure to comply with a regulation, any OSHA regulation. The same fee schedule applies to all regulations. OSHA can also cite a practice using the General Duty Clause for things that effect the safety and/or health of an employee but do not have a specific OSHA regulation, such as a CDC recommendation.

When your practice is assessing the risks involved with a failure to comply with OSHA regulations remember that OSHA penalties are the tip of the iceberg. The real monetary risks are the civil suits that can result from injuries or illness to a workforce member.

All OSHA citations are charged at the top amount depending on the type of violation as listed below. Most penalty types can be modified to a lesser charge.

  • Non-Serious Violation = $13,653 (can be and usually is modified down). This is usually involved with a violation that does not cover an immediate risk to an employee.
  • Serious Violation = $13,653 (can be modified down).
  • Repeat Violation = $136,532 (unlikely to be modified down). A repeat violation means OSHA has cited the practice or the same violation in a previous inspection.
  • Willful Violation = $136,532 (can be reduced due to the degree of imminent danger, minimum $9,753). A willful violation means the practice/owner broke the regulation knowingly (e.g., coming to work with an infectious disease).
  • Failure to Correct a Violation = $13,653 per day past the stated date to correct (unlikely to be modified down).

The citations are based on the number of regulations broken, not on the number of times it is broken. For example, one employee not trained equals one citation and penalty, and ten employees not trained equals one citation and penalty. Although it would be one citation, the number of employees affected could alter any modification to the penalty amount.

One incident can lead to multiple citations/penalties depending on the regulations broken by that incident. For example, failure to use an N95 respirator when required, could also include citations for no hazard assessment, no medical evaluation, no written respiratory plan, no initial fit testing, no annual fit testing, and not providing proper PPE to employees.

Modifiers to Penalties

OSHA takes into consideration the employer’s ability to pay as well as their sincere efforts to comply. Most penalties can be reduced by the following modifiers.

  • 60% reduction for small business (less than 250 employees).
  • 10% to 45% on the remainder for having an OSHA Program, depending on the completeness of the plan.
  • Up to 35% off the reminder for a good argument or proposed settlement during the Informal Conference.
  • Discretionary reduction based on the imminent danger to employees.

When a practice receives penalties, you have 15 days to request an informal conference with the OSHA inspector’s Area Manager. You should always take this opportunity. OSHA can never go up on penalties, but a significant reduction can be negotiated. This is your right and you are never condemned or penalized for exercising your right.

If you are a TMC client, we have experts on hand that can help you respond to OSHA complaint letters and help you prepare for contesting citation/penalties in an informal conference. We can even accompany you during the informal conference.