Every business has its costs; payroll, operational expenses, supplies, maintenance and of course, coffee. But one cost that many companies can’t—nor want to—account for is the high cost that result from OSHA violations.
These violations run the gamut, from wiring errors to ergonomic oversights; but no matter the offense, even small mistakes can penalize companies in a big way. However, with proper OSHA training, these errors can be avoided…for the most part.
When OSHA compliance standards are clear, costly mistakes still happen, although they are less likely. According to statistics from the National Safety Council, the 10 most common OSHA violations from 2014 include (with the numbers of violations in parenthesis):
Staying up to date with OSHA training and education helps businesses manage and minimize threats to employees and customers.
1926.501 – Fall Protection (8,241)
1910.1200 – Hazard Communication (6,156)
1926.451 – Scaffolding (5,423)
1910.134 – Respiratory Protection (3,879)
1910.305 – Electrical, Wiring Methods (3,452)
1910.178 – Powered Industrial Trucks (3,340)
1926.1053 – Ladders (3,311)
1910.147 – Lockout/Tagout (3,254)
1910.303 – Electrical, General Requirements (2,745)
1910.212 – Machine Guarding (2,701)
The costs of these and other OSHA violations can add up fast. According to OSHA's website, companies can face a number of penalties with varying costs, such as:
What it is: Results in death or serious bodily harm; employer knew/should have reasonably known about the hazard.
How much it will cost: A mandatory penalty of up to $7,000 for each violation is proposed.*
What it is: There is a direct relationship to job safety and/or workplace health, but it’s unlikely to result in death or serious bodily injury.
How much it will cost: A proposed penalty of up to $7,000 for each violation is discretionary*.
(*Penalties for Serious and Other Than Serious Violations may be adjusted downward, based on the employer's good faith, history of previous violations, the gravity of the alleged violation and size of business.)
What it is: An employer knows what he or she is doing is in violation with OSHA standards; he or she is aware of a hazardous condition and makes no reasonable effort to remedy the conditions.
How much it will cost: Penalties anywhere from $5,000-$70,000 may be proposed for each willful violation. While a proposed penalty for a willful violation may be adjusted downward such as the two types of violations previously mentioned, usually no credit is given for good faith.
Additionally, if an employer is convicted of a willful violation that has resulted in death, the offense is punishable by a court-imposed fine or by imprisonment for up to six months—or sometimes, both. A fine of up to $250,000 for an individual or $500,000 for a corporation may be imposed if criminally convicted.
What it is: Any time a standard is violated after the initial charge for the same (or similar) breach.
How much it will cost: Each repeat violation can carry a fine up to $70,000 each.
What it is: Failure to pay a prior OSHA violation
How much it will cost: Up to $7,000 for each day the violation continues beyond the prescribed abatement date.
What it is: No direct or immediate relationship to safety or health. They are documented in the same way as any other violation, but are not included on the citation.
How much it will cost: N/A
Falsifying records, reports or applications (can bring a fine of $10,000 or up to six months in jail, or both).
Violations of posting requirements (a civil penalty of up to $7,000).
Assaulting a compliance officer while they are engaged in the performance of their duties (a fine of not more than $5,000 and possible imprisonment for not more than three years).
In addition to the high dollar costs associated with these violations, injuries caused by not being on par with occupational health and safety standards can lead to even greater costs, such as the revenue lost from time missed at work, workers’ compensation payments, higher insurance premiums and legal fees. The easiest way to avoid these costs is to stay compliant with OSHA regulations.
Staying up to date with OSHA training and education helps businesses manage and minimize threats to employees and customers. And the availability and convenience of OSHA online training and other readily available resources has made it easier for businesses to obtain the necessary resources to remain in compliance with OSHA regulations.
According to its website, OSHA's area offices are “full-service centers, offering a variety of informational services such as availability for speaking engagements, publication, audiovisual aids on workplace hazards, and technical advice.”
For non-profit organizations, OSHA provides the funds necessary to conduct workplace training and education spanning a variety of topics pertaining to safety and health education in the workplace.
Additionally, OSHA’s outreach training programs offer an array of services for companies including Consultation Assistance, which provides free resources for employers who want to establish and maintain a safe and healthful workplace. And the Voluntary Protection Programs (VPPs) are part of OSHA's effort to extend worker protection beyond the minimum required by OSHA standards.
Remember, as employers, the best way to maintain low costs is by keeping your employees safe, educated and up-to-date on all OSHA compliance issues.
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