Get hit with an OSHA fine? 4 ways you can reduce them

by on March 1, 2011 · 2 Comments POSTED IN: Workplace Safety Network
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Let’s say an OSHA inspector shows up, spots some problems, and issues citations.

You should know that all is not lost. You can still negotiate with the compliance officer and later challenge OSHA before the OSHA Review Commission (OSHRC). You may not have access to lots of legal resources as some companies do – but you should know that the CO or agency will significantly reduce fines for small and mid-size companies.

Some characteristics that work in your favor include:

1. A good safety record
This means no serious, willful or repeat citations for the previous five years. This can cut fines up 10%, as long as you don’t have any willful, serious, repeat or failure-to-abate citations.

2. You qualify for a size reduction
There is an automatic adjustment based on the size of your company. OSHA will reduce fines between 10% to 40% if you have fewer than 250 employees.

3. Exposure was limited
If you can show few or no employees were exposed to the hazard, OSHA will likely give you a break.

4. Good faith
When a company is guilty, but can show that it made a good-faith effort at safety compliance (i.e., implementing a safety and health program), fines can be reduced 15% through the Quick-Fix program.
To qualify for that program, you must immediately fix the hazards uncovered during inspections.

To show good faith you must have:

  • updated a written safety program
  • established safety rules
  • conducted the required annual and refresher training
  • maintained up-to-date, accurate records
  • established disciplinary rules for supervisors
  • followed up to make sure supervisors are conducting inspections, and
  • enforced safety rules consistently, and have the disciplinary records to back up that claim.

Note: Sometimes OSHA will negotiate penalty reductions in exchange for safety improvements. However, these can include expensive engineering controls that go well beyond OSHA standards.

At that point, you’d need to decide whether you’re better off challenging a citation or keeping control of your own safety program.

And the bad news …
OSHA has gotten tougher in the past two years. Some of the get-tough policies include:

  • Companies can face something called a “history increase.” It’s a 10% higher fine if you are cited in the current inspection, but in the previous five years you had any willful, repeat, serious, or failure-to-abate violations.
  • OSHA also has created a severe violators program – your OSHA area director, at his or her discretion, can “ungroup” citations (such as a single machine-guarding citation for the entire facility) and instead issue citations for each individual instance of violation.
  • Severity-based penalties can range from $3,000 to $7,000 for serious citations. These are for safety violations where there’s a high probability of injury.

photo credit: House Of Sims

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2 Comments on This Post

  1. Terry
    July 25, 2011 - 7:58 pm

    OSHA must the four or so basic critical answers to an allegred violation before it can be cited.
    Under “Exposure was LImited” you state if no employees were exposed OSHA will give you a break.  Just for the record……if no employees were exposed to the hazardous condition or work practice they….OSHA can not cite.  You must have employee exposure for there to be a violation.

  2. Terry
    July 25, 2011 - 7:58 pm

    OSHA must the four or so basic critical answers to an allegred violation before it can be cited.
    Under “Exposure was LImited” you state if no employees were exposed OSHA will give you a break.  Just for the record……if no employees were exposed to the hazardous condition or work practice they….OSHA can not cite.  You must have employee exposure for there to be a violation.

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