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(888) 879-9492

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How to Avoid an OSHA Penalty

Since Congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 and created OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), working conditions have become safer and more healthy for American workers. The caveat is when companies ignore the standards, intentionally or unintentionally. When that happens, OSHA fines them. Knowing how to prevent them can help ensure that businesses can remain in operation and keep workers safe.

Preventing OSHA violations is important for the future of the business and the health and safety of its employees.

People don’t want to work for companies that put their health and safety in jeopardy, yet it happens. There are several ways businesses can reduce their chances of receiving OSHA fines. These three are the most common:

  1. Let employees speak without fear of retribution.

    A company’s workforce is out in the field or on the ground every day. They can see potential problems and hazards more easily than management, who aren’t “out there” on a daily basis. When employees can report hazards anonymously or without fear, management can then handle the situation. Additionally, designated employees who have received training about OSHA standards can perform regular safety checks to make sure that the workplace is compliant.

  2. Use technology to your advantage.

    Everyone has smart phones and tablets these days, so remain compliant by leaning on mobile technology. When you let technology and mobile apps track data and evaluate processes and procedures in real time, it’s easy to know if you’re following the rules. It also can save you time and money without using outdated processes and relying on paperwork.

  3. Develop a prevention plan.

    Educate workers on OSHA standards. Conduct surprise workplace inspections similar to those OSHA conducts. The stakes are really high, so putting a plan in force early can be very helpful.

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How OSHA penalties are determined

If your company receives an OSHA fine, it’s no slap on the wrist. It can be very costly. As of January 2020, the average OSHA fine for a first-time serious offense is $13,494. If the organization fails to abate by the specified time, the fine increases to the same amount PER DAY beyond the abatement date. For repeated or willful offenses, the fine increases tenfold to $134,937 per offense. That can break many companies.

OSHA determines penalties by the gravity of the violation, and that requires assessing the severity of the illness or injury that could result from the offense—and the probability that one could occur. Other factors, such as the company’s size, history of previous violations and the employer’s “good faith” carry some weight. For example, OSHA realizes that some smaller companies may not have the expertise or resources to recognize some safety hazards.

OSHA provides a list of standards and regulations to all companies, which they must post in a public location—often in their company’s lounge or lunchroom. That enables employees to know the rules and can tell if their company is violating any of them and risking their health or safety.

What are OSHA’s top violations?

OSHA issues thousands of citations and fines to businesses every year for violating their standards. Some may seem really insignificant, such as not having a fully stocked first aid kit on premises, having electrical outlets that are missing protective covers, lacking OSHA employee training records when requested and not inspecting office ladders. These are the 10 most cited OSHA violations:

• Protection against falls (general requirements)
• Protection against falls (training requirements)
• Communication about hazards
• Safe scaffolding issues
• Respiratory protection
• Ladder safety
• Lockout/tagout of machine startup
• Powered industrial trucks
• Machine guarding
• Face and eye protection

Are OSHA fines negotiable?

Although OSHA has the authority to fine companies for violating their rules, maximum fines for even repeat offenders are rate. Quite often, OSHA negotiates lower fines in exchange for fixing the problem that created the violation. The guidelines imposed by Congress set the minimum safety standards that can be enforced by inspections. The main problem is that there are not enough OSHA personnel to inspect all workplaces. The best they can do is watch out for unscrupulous employers or repeat offenders.

How long do OSHA citations stay on record?

In 2015, OSHA upped its practice from going back three years to five years to establish repeat violations, but that’s not really bound by law, according to the United States Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit. However, OSHA’s Field Operations Manual (FOM)—their guiding document for enforcing regulations—generally considers a repeat violation to have occurred within five years of the previous citation or final abatement date.
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How to deal with an OSHA penalty

If a an OSHA violation results in a Citation and Notification of Penalty, companies must follow established procedures.

• Post the citation or a copy of it near the place where the violation occurred. This makes employees aware of the hazards. It must remain there for three working days or until the violation is remedied, whichever is longer.
• Post abatement certification documents near the site of the violation.
• If you agree with the violation, correct the condition by the set (abatement) date and pay the penalty, if given one.
• If you disagree, you have 15 working days from the date you receive the citation to contest it in writing.
• You may also request an informal conference with the area OSHA director to discuss the violation.

Train forklift drivers.

According to OSHA, forklifts account for nearly 100,000 injuries per year. There are about 900,000 forklifts operating in workplaces, so that’s almost a 1 in 10 chance that each will be involved in some type of accident every year. Maintaining safe conditions and training the forklift drivers could reduce injuries and accidents, as well as your company’s chance of receiving an OSHA citation and/or penalty.

Heavy equipment training and safety

Since so many workplace injuries involve forklifts and heavy equipment, it’s critical that their drivers have been properly trained on their operation and safety. Heavy Equipment Colleges of America offers training programs designed to help you become an effective and safe worker. Choose to train for a Certificate of Heavy Equipment Operations Level I, Level II, Mobile Crane and Lattice Boom Crawler; each level is three weeks of study. You can also train for an Associate of Applied Science in Construction Management degree (available only at HEC’s Georgia location).

For more information, contact HEC today.

OPEN THE DOOR TO A NEW CAREER!

Locations

CA – San Bernardino:  1955 W. 9th Street | San Bernardino, CA 92411
 
CA – Ft. Irwin:  306 Langford Lake Road | Bld # TR0403 | CA 92310
(Location is on a military base and is VETERAN ONLY – Career Skills Program (CSP)*)
 
Georgia:  581 Sigman Road, Suite 300 | Conyers, GA 30013
 
North Carolina:  1909 Bragg Blvd, Suite 94 | Fayetteville, NC 28303
 
Oklahoma:  6101 W. Reno Avenue, Suite 1000 | Oklahoma City, OK 73127
 
Washington:  4701 McChord Drive SW | Lakewood, WA 98499
(Location is on military base and is VETERAN ONLY – Career Skills Program (CSP)*and VA Education Benefits)

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CALIFORNIA LOCATION ONLY: Heavy Equipment College of America is a private institution approved to operate by the California Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education. Approval to operate means the institution is compliant with the minimum standards contained in the California Private Postsecondary Education Act of 2009 (as amended) and Division 7.5 of Title 5 of the California Code of Regulations. (https://www.bppe.ca.gov/). Access all Catalogs, Student Performance Fact Sheets and Brochures here.

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Heavy Equipment Colleges of America cannot guarantee employment or career advancement or any particular earnings or salary.

OKLAHOMA LOCATION ONLY: Heavy Equipment Colleges of America has a Certificate of Approval from the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC). The school’s programs are approved by TWC. Students must address their concerns about this school of any of its educational programs by following the grievance process outlined in the school’s catalog. Students dissatisfied with the school’s response to their complaint or who are not able to file a complaint with the school, can file a formal complaint with TWC, as well as with other relevant agencies or accreditors, if applicable. Information on filing a complaint with TWC can be found on TWC’s website at www.texasworkforce.org/careerschoolstudents.

Heavy Equipment Colleges of America endorses the national certification program offered by the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO) and provides training to prepare candidates for CCO examinations.

*The Army’s Career Skills Program (CSP) prepares Soldiers for civilian employment through first-class apprenticeships, on-the-job training, job shadowing, internships and employment skills training. Soldiers are eligible to participate in an Army CSP up to 180 days prior to separation from the Army and after completion of the mandatory 5-day SFL-TAP workshop. To be considered for an open seat in a CSP you must contact the POC at the installation where you want to attend a CSP and submit your commander authorized/signed participation memo in advance of the start date.

WIOA/TAA funded training may be provided only to individuals who qualify for the program and not only if funds are available.