Learn about the 6 OSHA Citation Types and Fines


Are you worried about the possibility of OSHA showing up at your front door for a surprise inspection and not exactly sure how to prepare for that possibility? If that sounds like you, you’ve come to the right place because I’ve put together this series of videos called How to Pass Your OSHA Inspection.

In this edition, we’re going to talk about the six most common types of OSHA citations, how much the fines are that go along with each of those citations, and most importantly, how to avoid them.

All right, so my name’s Russell Carr, and as I mentioned in previous additions of this series, I’ve helped many small manufacturers navigate the entire OSHA enforcement process from the initial inspection, to helping companies fix the violations, and also helping them to fight back to get citations and even fines thrown out.

And in this series, I’m going to share with you everything that I’ve learned through that process so that you can get yourself prepared and pass your OSHA inspection. All right so with that said, let’s get into this.

How OSHA determines which citation to issue for a violation

Let’s go ahead and talk about the various OSHA citation types and associated fines that go along with each one of them. And before jumping into these citation types and fines, I want to explain how they decide which citations to apply to a violation and fines and so forth. And the basic criteria is actually pretty simple. They evaluate whether or not the violation that they find during the inspection could result in a serious illness or injury to an employee. So if there’s an imminent danger to employees, or the higher risk of that imminent danger, the more severe the citation and the higher the fine is going to be. So keep that in mind as we go through these.

“De Minimus” Citations

All right, so the, the first type of violation is called what’s called a de minimus violation.  A de minimus is really just a technical violation of an OSHA rule that has no direct impact on health or safety.

In other words, it doesn’t create that imminent risk, or danger to employees that I talked about. So, examples of this could include written program improvements, a ladder having a 12 inch gap between rungs rather than the 13 inches required in the standard and so forth. So again, these are our low risk violations. And as a result of that, there’s no maximum fine and typically no fine at all associated with de minimus uh, violations. So this is the lowest grade citation out there.

Other Than Serious” Citations

Now, the next type is called an “other than serious” violations. So this is a violation that would not usually cause death or serious injury, but there is nevertheless an impact on employee health and safety.

So the maximum penalty for each such violation is actually $14,502, which is a lot of money, but inspectors can choose not to levy a fine at all or to reduce the penalty by as much as 95%. So, inspectors make decisions about penalties based on factors such as the size of the company, how much the company cooperates with them during the inspection, that kind of thing.

And examples of “other than serious” include failure to provide copies of safety regulations, not posting, you OSHA in work areas, that kind of thing. So typically what we see with, other than serious violations, I’ve never seen a maximum $14,000 fine. Usually they’re going to be between $1000 – $5,000 depending on the judgment of the inspector and the size of the business, things that we talked about before.

“Serious” Citations

Now, let’s talk about the most common type of violation by far, which are called serious violations. So these are violations that create that imminent risk for serious injury, illness, or even a fatality that we talked about before. So the maximum fine for a serious violation is $14,502. But again, inspectors can discount based on the size of the company, the company’s previous record, whether or not you have written programs in place, the company leadership’s attitude toward safety, that kind of thing.

So in our experience, after everything is considered, the final serious violation results in a total fine, typically between $7000 to $8,000. But we have definitely seen them max out at $14,502 even for small companies. And that’s when you have a lot of violations, bad attitude about safety, nothing in place, that kind of thing.

So again, these are the most common type, these are serious violations are what you want to be worried about. Examples of this include lack of machine guarding to protect against pinch points and exposures on equipment, lack of employee PPE use, lack of lockout tagout procedures, lack of employee safety training, and many more.

So again, these can really stack up quickly and get very expensive.

“Willful” Citations

Now, we come to arguably the worst type of violation, which is called a willful violation. So a willful is when the violation creates the same imminent risk as serious violations, but the inspector also determines that the company either intentionally created the hazard, or knew about the hazard, but failed to take action to correct and fix it. So this is basically when they can prove negligence when it comes to safety at a company, and when this happens, the maximum fine, believe it or not, is $145,000, each.

But again, depending on circumstances, they can reduce the total fine based on the same criteria that we’ve talked about before. So the most important takeaway is that if you already know about a serious safety hazard at your company, it’s vital that you take action now to correct it. Or if you get inspected, you’re going to risk a willful violation. Again, very, very expensive. And these, these happen all the time to small companies.

So, willful violations, again, are the worst kind.

“Repeat” Citations

Now we’re going to talk about another severe citation, which are called “repeat” violations. And so, as the name suggests, this is when a company has already been cited for a specific violation in the past and then gets inspected again and the same or similar violation is found again.  And the maximum fine for this is the same as a willful violation, which is $145,502.

So keep in mind, if you get inspected at some point in time and you’re cited, that is going to stay on your record forever. There used to be a five year limit on that, but really it’s going stay on your record forever. And, and it’s also for all your different locations. So if you get cited at one location and they find a similar or the same violation at another location for your company, even if it’s in another state, they can cite you at that other location for a repeat violation.

“Failure to Abate” Citations

And finally, we come to the last type of violation, which is called a failure to abate. So these trigger after an inspection when OSHA gives a deadline to correct a hazard or hazards, but the company fails to do so, and when this happens, they can actually issue a maximum of 14,502 per day, per violation.  So these can add up very, very quickly.  These are cases where a company gets cited and the company just doesn’t pay attention, they’re negligent.

So let me begin to wrap up by asking you a very simple, but also a very important question. And that’s this:  Are you and your company really ready if OSHA shows up tomorrow in your lobby for a surprise inspection? The fact is, if you’re like most small manufacturing in industrial companies, the answer is probably “no.

And if that sounds like you then don’t feel bad, because you’re not alone. But the fact is, if that’s the case, you are currently at major risk. The fact is that OSHA goes across the country every single day and hits small companies just like yours and all kinds of citations, fines, and penalties that run in often run into the tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.

And you have ask yourself, could you really afford that?

So, having said that, I also want to make the point that the best preparation and the best way to pass an OSHA inspection is to have the confidence that you have a fully functioning OSHA compliance health and safety program.

I know that’s easier said than done, but at this point in time I want to make a very special, free, no obligation to offer to help you get on track if you don’t have a safety program.

Right now, I want to offer you free enrollment in our Small Manufacturers Safety School.

So let me tell you about this program. What it does is it gives you the training, the knowledge, and the resources so you can actually start to build a customized safety program and get prepared for that inspector.

So let me explain what comes with that with that program:

  • Number one, we have the mini OSHA crash course designed specifically to meet the needs of small manufacturing and industrial companies. So in this free training, I’m going to walk you step by step through the process of determining which OSHA compliance requirements apply to your company and how to build and manage that program for the long term. Another really important thing to understand about this training is that it’s built for non-expert. So most of the people, most of the companies that come to us, they don’t know anything about safety. So I built the program with that in mind. So even if you know nothing from safety, you’ll really benefit from it.
  • The other thing that you’re going to get is an OSHA compliance check sheet. So after you watch the course, you can use this as a self-assessment, gap assessment tool to see which one of these OSHA laws apply to see your company, figure out if you have it in place or not. If you don’t, this, document will also function as a roadmap forward to get your company on the road towards OSHA compliance.
  • The final thing that we’re offering in a small manufacturer safety school, I’m gonna invite you to live free monthly, uh, training sessions where I’m gonna do deep dives and cover everything that’s covered in the crash course so that you can learn step by step instructions for actually how to build a customized safety program for your company.

Again, it’s free, it’s no obligation. You have absolutely nothing to lose so register now and get started today.

Also, make sure to stick around for the next video in the series, which talks about what can trigger an OSHA inspection.