OSHA violations carry civil and, in some cases, criminal penalties. The penalties vary and depend on the type of violation, its frequency and its severity:
- De minimis violations. When violations have no direct or immediate relationship to employee safety or health, no citation or penalty will be applied.
- Nonserious violations. When violations have a direct relationship to job safety but would probably not cause serious physical harm or death, OSHA may assess a fine of up to $7,000.
- Serious violations. A penalty of up to $7,000 will be assessed when there’s a substantial probability that a violation could have resulted in death or serious physical harm.
- Willful violations. When the employer intentionally and knowingly commits a violation, the agency can impose a penalty of up to $70,000. The mandatory minimum penalty is $5,000.
- Repeat violations. OSHA may assess a penalty for a repeat violation for violations involving a different piece of equipment or location within the workplace, provided that, upon re-inspection, the new violation involves the same standard that the employer had previously violated. OSHA may assess a penalty of $70,000 for each repeat violation.
- Abatement violations. If you fail to correct a violation for which a citation was issued within the abatement period, you can be fined up to $7,000 for each day that the violation remains uncorrected.
- Posting violations. Failure to post required materials may result in civil fines of up to $7,000 per incident.
If you let workers perform hazardous manufacturing operations out of their homes—such as assembling electronic components—you can be held liable for any federal safety or health violations committed there. But you’re exempt from home-office liability for white-collar telecommuters.
OSHA’s clarification on this issue came after an about-face in early 2000 on a policy letter that would have required employers to fix any home-office hazard “of which they are, or should be, aware." The agency said it doesn’t expect employers to inspect home offices, nor does its staff plan to randomly inspect them.