In Houston, like every other city in America, people spend most of their time at their jobs. In all work environments, but especially those that are more dangerous, employees trust that their superiors have their best interest in mind by providing a safe working environment. Unfortunately, this does not always happen, and things fall through the cracks. This is why the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) exists.
As OSHA continues to monitor businesses, the rules and regulations adapt to the ever-changing technology used in the workplace. Both employers and employees must stay current with those regulations and the common OSHA violations that can follow when they’re non-compliant.
In our latest blog post, the Houston workplace injury attorneys from Reich & Binstock dissect the most common OSHA violations that could have significant implications for both employers and employees. Understanding the nuances of OSHA violations and the legal recourses available to employees is critical, especially when they suffer injuries on the job.
Call Reich & Binstock today at 713-622-7271 to learn more about the legal options available if you or a loved one suffered an injury at work.
What Is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)?
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) monitors workplace safety by periodically inspecting businesses and handling employee safety complaints. OSHA sets and enforces standards, conducts inspections, provides training, and issues penalties for non-compliance.
What Is the Purpose of OSHA Regulations?
The purpose of OSHA regulations is to create a work environment free from hazards like toxic chemicals, excessive noise, mechanical risks, and extreme temperatures, plus ensure that working conditions are sanitary.
OSHA’s regulations are also designed to improve workplace safety by reducing dangers and the risks of injuries and illnesses. These regulations exist to promote safe work practices, crucial in preventing accidents and safeguarding workers’ health. Both employers and workers are accountable for compliance, creating a consistent standard for maintaining a safe and healthy working environment.
What Are the Most Common Types of OSHA Violations?
Understanding the most common types of OSHA violations is crucial for businesses aiming to maintain compliance and protect their employees. These violations, identified through inspections and enforcement actions, reveal patterns of non-compliance that can lead to injuries, illnesses, or worse.
There are six types of OSHA violations that lead to fines and penalties for employers. Depending on the OSHA violation, it can end up costing businesses thousands in fines.
A willful violation is the most serious OSHA infraction. This OSHA violation occurs when an employer intentionally disregards OSHA regulations or acts indifferently to employee safety. For a violation to be considered willful, it must be proven that the employer was aware of a dangerous condition that violated an OSHA standard or was a clear danger and made no reasonable effort to eliminate it.
Willful violations carry the highest penalties, and if they result in an employee’s death, they may lead to criminal charges. The penalties for a willful violation can cost thousands of dollars per violation, and they can be much higher if there are multiple instances of the same willful violation or prior violation.
A serious violation is issued when a workplace hazard could cause an accident resulting in death or serious injury, and the employer knew or should have known about the risk. Penalties for serious violations can be substantial, reflecting the potential harm from such hazards.
An other-than-serious violation is a category used by OSHA for violations that are directly related to job safety and health but are not likely to cause death or serious physical harm. These violations can impact workers’ health and safety, but the potential for injury is less severe than in cases of serious violations. For example, a business could receive this violation if they don’t post mandatory safety documentation in the break area.
While other-than-serious violations are less severe, they can still result in penalties. OSHA may propose fines for these violations, but the fines are typically lower than those for serious or willful violations. Even if a penalty is not proposed, OSHA requires the employer to correct the hazard.
A repeated violation occurs when an employer receives a citation for a particular violation, and a similar violation occurs upon a later inspection. This indicates a pattern of noncompliance and a disregard for OSHA’s safety regulations.
To be classified as a repeated violation, the original citation must be final and not under contest, and the subsequent violation must occur within a certain time frame, typically within five years of the final order of the previous citation. Repeated violations are more serious than first-time ones and carry higher penalties.
Failure to Abate Prior Violations
When an employer has not corrected a violation and the compliance date has passed, OSHA can give them a failure to abate prior violation citations. When OSHA issues a citation, it includes a proposed penalty and a date by which the hazard must be remediated or the violation corrected.
If an employer fails to provide proof of the abatement or a subsequent inspection reveals that the danger still exists beyond the prescribed date, OSHA may issue a “failure to abate” notice. Penalties for failure to abate can accrue daily from the abatement date to when OSHA verifies that the hazard has been addressed or a final order has been issued.
De Minimis Violations
A de minimis violation is a technical OSHA violation that does not impact health or safety. These violations are the least serious and do not carry monetary penalties. They are considered minor infractions that do not directly relate to job safety. When an OSHA inspector observes a de minimis condition, they may not issue a citation but instead notate it and discuss it with the employer.
What Are the Most Frequently Issued Workplace Safety Citations?
There are some OSHA violations that occur more frequently than others. The following are the most cited OSHA violations.
Fall protection violations often occur in the construction industry. This fall protection aims to prevent injuries and fatalities caused by falls from heights. When employers fail to install guardrails, safety nets, or personal fall arrest systems, employees are at risk of serious injury or death.
Respiratory protection is critical to worker safety, especially in environments where employees are exposed to harmful dust, fog, smoke, mist, gasses, vapors, or sprays. OSHA’s Respiratory Protection Standard outlines employers’ requirements to protect their workforce from respiratory hazards. Citations are issued for failing to provide appropriate respirators, conduct necessary fit testing, or provide training and medical evaluations for workers who use respirators.
Ladders & Scaffolding
Ladders and scaffolding are essential tools in many industries. However, they also present significant risks if not used correctly, leading to some of the most common OSHA citations related to their safety.
Improper ladder use can result in falls or other injuries. OSHA rules dictate specific requirements for the safe use of ladders, including:
- It must be capable of supporting the maximum intended load.
- They should be used on stable and level surfaces unless secured.
- Ladders must not be loaded beyond their capacity, including the user’s weight, tools, and materials.
- The top step of a stepladder should not be used as a work platform.
- When using a ladder to access another level, the ladder must extend at least three feet above the landing point to ensure stability when dismounting.
Improper erection and maintenance of scaffolding lead to numerous citations in the construction industry each year. The OSHA rules regarding scaffolding are as follows:
- Scaffolds must support at least four times the maximum intended load.
- They should have guardrails, mid-rails, and toeboards to prevent falls and falling objects.
- A competent person must inspect the scaffolding before each shift to ensure safety.
- Proper access, such as ladders or stairwells, must be provided for safe entrance onto scaffold platforms.
- Workers on scaffolding need training in the safe operation and risks associated with scaffold use.
Hazard communication involves informing and training employees about the chemical hazards they may encounter on the job. When companies neglect to implement a proper hazard communication program, they put their workers at risk. They also violate OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (HCS), which is a common citation for non-compliance.
Lockout/tagout (LOTO) refers to the practices and procedures to protect employees from the energization or startup of equipment or the release of hazardous energy during service or maintenance activities. This approach is regulated by OSHA’s Control of Hazardous Energy.
What Are the Penalties for OSHA Violations?
Businesses and employers are penalized with monetary fines when they violate OSHA rules. The fines vary depending on the nature of the violation, its severity, and whether it is a repeat or willful violation. Below are the fines and penalties for the six types of OSHA violations as of 2023.
- Willful Violation: A maximum penalty of up to $156,259 per violation. If the violation becomes a criminal offense due to the death of the employee, the minimum penalty is $250,000 plus jail time.
If the corporation is responsible for the employee’s death, it may incur a minimum penalty of $500,000.
- Serious Violation: For a serious violation, the minimum penalty is $1,116, and the maximum penalty is $15,625 per violation.
- Other-Than-Serious Violation: There is no minimum penalty, but the maximum penalty is $15,625 per violation.
- Repeat Violation: Similar to a willful violation, the maximum fine is $156,259.
- Failure to Abate Prior Violation: OSHA can fine a business or employer up to $7,000 daily until the violation is corrected.
- De Minimis Violation: These OSHA violations do not result in monetary fines.
How Can Employers Work to Reduce OSHA Violations and Improve Safety in 2023?
Employers can take proactive steps to reduce OSHA violations and improve safety by creating a comprehensive safety program and promoting a safe workplace. Listed below are some strategies that employers can adopt:
- Perform regular risk assessments
- Create and implement safety programs
- Provide training and education
- Continuing education
- Maintain open communication
- Ensure proper use of equipment
- Require personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Conduct inspections and audits
- Create an emergency response plan
Contact a Skilled OSHA Violation Attorney with Reich & Binstock Today
Acknowledging the impact of OSHA violations on workers, the prevention of potential injuries, and the avoidance of impending accidents is important. At Reich & Binstock, our goal reaches beyond mere legal representation; we advocate for preventing workplace injuries by emphasizing the necessity of safety compliance. To workers injured on the job due to overlooked regulations, know that your voice matters and your rights stand at the forefront of our practice.
The Houston OSHA violation attorneys will navigate the aftermath with you. We will demand justice and ensure that such oversights are corrected for all safety. Let this be a call to action for safer workplaces and the promise of diligent, informed advocacy when it matters most.
To schedule a free consultation with one of our workplace accident attorneys, call Reich & Binstock today at (713) 622-7271.