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OSHA Raises Penalties for Safety Violations

Posted on January 14, 2021 by Roger Marks

OSHA increased its civil penalties for violations of 29 CFR workplace safety Standards, effective January 15, 2021.

For willful and repeat violations, the maximum civil penalty increased to $136,532.

For serious violations, other-than-serious violations, failure to abate hazards, and violations of OSHA information posting requirements, the max civil penalty increased to $13,653.

The minimum penalty for a willful violation increased to $9,753

See OSHA's announcement in the Federal Register

Top 10 Most-cited OSHA Violations

While OSHA’s annual Top 10 most-cited violations list is not yet available for fiscal year 2020, the list does not change much from year to year.

The most recent Top 10 list features the five most commonly cited safety Standards that apply to general industry facilities.

Hazard Communication

Employers must communicate chemical hazards using written HazCom programs, hazard labels/warnings, Safety Data Sheets, and employee HazCom training. Failure to provide and document employee hazard communication training is among the most-commonly-cited violations of this Standard every year.

Since it was updated in 2012 to adopt elements of the Globally Harmonized System for Classifying and Labeling Chemicals, the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) has consistently ranked among the top three most common OSHA citations.

Lockout/Tagout

According to OSHA, failure to control “hazardous energy” accounts for a significant percentage of industrial accidents. When energy is released during maintenance or servicing of machinery, employees can be badly injured and even killed.

Following a worker’s accidental death, a metal stamping plant in Alabama agreed to pay $1,500,000 earlier this year to settle allegations that the company allowed workers to ignore OSHA safety Standards.

OSHA requires lockout/tagout training for employees as part of a workplace program of energy control procedures.

Respiratory Protection

An OSHA Standard that’s taken on extra importance during the COVID-19 public health crisis is Respiratory Protection (29 CFR 1910.134). Common violations of this Standard include failure to maintain a written respiratory protection program and failure to provide required training and annual re-training for employees.

Check out our November 2020 COVID-19 Enforcement Report for details about employer violations related to the pandemic.

Forklifts/Powered Industrial Trucks (PITs)

Failure to train, certify, or re-certify forklift drivers is typically the most-cited violation of OSHA’s forklift Standard at 29 CFR 1910.178.

No employee may operate a forklift until he or she has been trained to safely operate it. The Forklift Safety Online Course is designed to help satisfy OSHA’s training standard for forklift operators at 29 CFR 1910.178(l).

Machine Guarding

OSHA requires employers to identify and guard workplace machinery that can cause injury to employees. Machine injuries can occur at the point of operation, from rotating or moving parts, or from flying chips or sparks.

Read more: Protecting Workers from Machine Injuries
Read more: Machine Guarding vs. Lockout/Tagout  

Violations common to the construction industry round out OSHA’s annual top 10 list: Fall protection, personal protective equipment, eye and face protection, ladders, and scaffolding. OSHA safety regulations for the construction industry are found in 29 CFR Part 1926.

Protect Employees and Avoid Common Safety Violations

Check out Lion.com/OSHA to find safety training to inform and protect your workforce. From 10-hour training for general industry workers to HazCom, HAZWOPER, and more, Lion offers courses that are informative and easy-to-use. 

Our OSHA course catalog includes training to help employees protect themselves from many of the most common workplace hazards in general industry, including: 

Hazard Communication 
Respiratory Protection 
Forklift Safety
Lockout/Tagout 

Browse all online safety training at Lion.com/OSHA.
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US EPA, US DOT, and OSHA increased civil penalties for violations of environmental, hazardous materials, and safety regulations, respectively. This guide puts all of these 2021 penalty figures in one place to help you demonstrate the value of effective compliance to your organization.

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Civil Penalty Increases For 2021