In 1970, President Nixon signed the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act into law.
The OSH Act made sweeping changes in the way employers handled the issue of workplace safety and substantially improved working conditions for many Americans. It also created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a federal agency that was given the task of ensuring that U.S. businesses comply with the legislation on an ongoing basis.
As a result of the OSH Act, most employers have become more aware of workplace safety concerns and have made every effort to comply with OSHA requirements. However, some employers continue to jeopardize the health and well-being of their employees by cutting corners. OSHA's Compliance Safety and Health Officers (CSHOs) are responsible for inspecting workplaces with high injury rates or in which serious accidents have occurred. Backed by OSH Act legislation, these officers have the ability to impose substantial penalties and fines on offenders, including the following:
Other Than Serious Violations
Any violations that have no direct impact on workplace health and safety require no penalty, remedy, or citation. Violations that directly affect safety and health but pose little threat of death or serious injury are classified as "other than serious" violations -- but CSHOs can still recommend a fine of up to $7,000 per violation.
Serious violations are ones in which the employer should have known about a potential hazard, and the hazard was likely to cause serious injury or death. When a "serious violation" occurs, there is a mandatory $7,000 fine per violation.
Willful violations are knowingly and intentionally committed. If a serious safety hazard exists and the employer does nothing to correct it, he can be hit with fines ranging from $5,000 to $70,000 per violation. If a willful violation results in a worker's death, the employer can face as much as a $500,000 fine and six months in prison.
A pattern of repeated, similar violations can result in significant penalties for the business. If later inspections reveal a problem that was previously cited, you could be hit with a $70,000 penalty per violation.
Failure to Abate Violations
If you fail to remedy or abate a serious OSHA violation within the required timeframe, OSHA can apply a $7,000 fine for each day the problem persists.