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OSHA compliance – Don’t Wait for the Fine (Part 2 of 4)

Sam Lines
Sam Lines
ConSeal Engineering Manager slines@conseal.com

Potential Costs of OSHA Citations and How to Avoid the Penalties.

Blog Series Don’t Wait for the Fine Highlights Costs Associated with OSHA Citations.

 

Recently I visited a precast plant to solve an issue with cracks in concrete tanks. While I was there, the manager noted that he was aware of my background in safety, and he asked if I would solve a debate that was raised regarding whether a mezzanine required a handrail or not. In the next 10 minutes, I answered that question and then, with permission, proceeded to find another 8-10 obvious OSHA citable conditions in the area where we were standing. He was a little more than shocked. He asked me how much I though the citations could be, and while I was unable to speculate, I could tell him is what the potential risk is: more than $100,000.

In this part of the series, I will address the potential cost of an OSHA citation, and why you should be very concerned about much more than just the certified crane operator law. To start with, there are basically two levels of a citation: serious and other than serious. From OSHA, “A serious violation exists when the workplace hazard could cause an accident or illness that would most likely result in death or serious physical harm, unless the employer did not know or could not have known of the violation.” Anything that does not fall into this definition is cited as other than serious.

There are two additional levels of a citation that can occur if certain conditions exist — willful and repeat. According to OSHA, “A willful violation is defined as a violation in which the employer either knowingly failed to comply with a legal requirement (purposeful disregard) or acted with plain indifference to employee safety.” For instance, you know that it is unsafe to clean the mixer without performing lockout/tagout, but as the supervisor, you knowingly allow employees to put all or part of their body in the mixer bowl without properly de-energizing the equipment. OSHA visits and holds a private interview with several employees and discovers this is occurring. Expect this to result in a willful violation. A willful violation is often issued too late; an employee has been severely injured or killed due to the hazard. Not only are the financial implications painful, but the emotional pain on the employees and owners can have a tremendous impact on the business.

Another type of citation that can be issued is called a repeat violation. OSHA defines this as, “An employer may be cited for a repeated violation if that employer has been cited previously for the same or a substantially similar condition or hazard and the citation has become a final order of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.” The time limit is typically five years after the citation has been abated.

So how much will the citation cost you? The answer can be found on the OSHA website. A serious or other than serious violation can carry a maximum fine of $12,675 per violation. If the violation results in a willful or repeat designation, multiply that number by 10. That makes the willful and repeat violations a whopping $126,750 per violation.

In part 3, we will explore the top five most cited safety violations in the precast industry.

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