OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) is a federal regulatory agency of the United States Department of Labor. Their mission is to ensure safe and healthy workplace conditions. To enforce their rules and regulations, OSHA defines specific violation categories along with a structure of penalty fines. 


Types of OSHA Violations



OSHA classifies workplace violations according to the following four categories:


1. Willful

When the employer knowingly disregards a legal requirement or responds with indifference to employee safety concerns


2. Serious

When the hazard (known by the employer) is severe enough to cause illness or an accident that would probably or most likely result in significant harm or death


3. Other than serious

When the violation directly affects job safety or health, but is not classified as serious


4. Repeated

When the employer had previously been cited for a “substantially similar condition and the citation has become a final order of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.” Repeated violations apply to employers, documented within OSHA’s inspection history who had received an OSHA notice in the last five years for an “other than serious” violation.


OSHA’s Penalties for Violations


OSHA’s current inflation-adjusted penalties for violations are as follows:


  • $13,653 for a single serious violation

  • $13,653 per day for failing to abate the violation

  • $9,753 (minimum) for repeated and willful violations

  • $136,532 (maximum) for repeated and willful violation



The exact penalty amounts are typically determined by an OSHA Area Director who is responsible for signing off on citations.

The final penalty issued is determined by four factors.


  • gravity or seriousness of the violation

  • size of the business

  • employer’s good faith standing

  • company’s history of compliance


Enforcement - What to Do If You Are Cited By OSHA


If you receive a notice (OSHA-2H Form), “Notice of Unsafe or Unhealthful Working Conditions,” after an inspection by a Compliance and Safety Health Officer, it discusses:


  • your rights and responsibilities under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970

  • the nature of your violation

  • (possible) abatement steps to correct the violation

  • (possible) abatement dates



OSHA requires that you post your notice (or a photocopy of it) at or near the location of the violation so that employees are aware of their exposure to a potentially hazardous risk. The notice needs to remain in place for three days or until the violation issue has been abated.



What Are Your Options After Receiving an OSHA Notice



Once you receive an OSHA notice, you have two options:


1. correct the violation by the date specified on their notice

2. request an “informal conference” with your OSHA Area Director to discuss abatement dates, the cited violations and any other questions or concerns within 15 working days after receiving the notice. During this meeting, you may request an abatement extension (I.e. more time to correct the violation)



If there is no resolution, a summary of the informal conference including your position on the issue, will be forwarded to the Federal Agency Program Officer (FAPO) within 5 working days.

How to Comply After Receiving an OSHA Notice


Once you have received an OSHA notice and have decided to comply by correcting your violation(s), here are the steps you need to take.


1. notify your OSHA Area Director that you have corrected your violation(s) within the designated timeframe specified in your notice

2. send a Letter of Corrective Action which describes the corrective actions you took and their dates


Your company may still be subjected to a follow-up investigation to verify the correction of your violations.


If You Cannot Make Your Abatement Date


If you need to change your abatement deadline, due to uncontrollable circumstances, you may file a Petition for Modification of Abatement (Date). You may also work with an attorney on your PMA.



PMA Guidelines and Criteria


Your petition needs to meet the following criteria:


  • must be in the form of written documentation

  • submitted no later than 1 day after the abatement deadline

  • describes a sincere, “good faith” effort to comply


Also, your PMA must discuss:


  • why you need extra time (e.g. unavailability of materials, equipment, technical or professional support, longer construction time needed to alter facilities, which cannot be achieved by the abatement)

  • how much time you need

  • the steps you took in attempting to comply and their dates

  • what you did in the interim to keep your employees safe against the hazards cited until your abatement

  • verification or certification that you posted the petition or served the appropriate employee representative, along with the date or posting and/or service.


Once submitted, only your OSHA Area Director can grant or object to your PMA. If your petition is granted, OSHA may still conduct an inspection to verify that the conditions you described in your filing are accurate and that you’ve made adequate progress to improve your cited violation.