Inspection Results | OSHA Inspection

After the compliance officer reports findings, the OSHA area director determines if citations will be issued and if penalties will be proposed.


Citations inform the employer and employees of the regulations and standards alleged to have been violated and of the length of time set for their abatement. The employer will receive citations and notices of proposed penalties by certified mail.

The employer must post a copy of each citation at or near the place a violation occurred, for three days or until the violation is abated, whichever is longer.


In order to determine the amount of a penalty, the violation itself must first be categorized. Violations can be classified as serious, other-than-serious, willful, repeat, or failure to abate. Once a violation is classified, the gravity of the violation is considered in order to determine a "base penalty" amount. The base penalty may then be adjusted downward when other factors such as size, good faith, and violation history of the employer are considered.

The four adjustment factors used by OSHA include:

  • Gravity of violation - Gravity is the primary consideration in determining penalty amounts. It is the basis for calculating the basic penalty for both serious and other violations. Gravity of a violation is based on the severity of the injury or illness which could result from the alleged violation and the probability that an injury or illness could occur as a result of the alleged violation.

  • Size adjustment factor - A maximum penalty reduction of 60 percent will be given to employers with one to 25 workers; 40 percent for employers with 26 to 100 workers; and 20 percent for employers with 101 to 250 workers. Employers with more than 250 workers will not receive a penalty reduction for size.

  • Good faith adjustment - There may be up to an additional 25 percent reduction for evidence that the employer is making a good faith effort to provide a safe and healthy workplace. In order to qualify for the full 25 percent "good faith" reduction, an employer must have a written and implemented safety and health program such as is described in OSHA's voluntary "Safety and Health Management Guidelines" and has deficiencies that are only incidental. A 15 percent reduction is normally given to an employer that has a documentable and effective safety and health program, but with more than only incidental deficiencies. No reduction is given to employers with no safety and health program or where a willful violation is found.

  • History adjustment - A 10 percent reduction may be given if the employer has not been cited by OSHA for any serious, willful, or repeat violations in the past three years.

The computation of base penalties for the various violations is based on the following OSHA guidelines.

  • Serious violations - A serious violation is one where there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result, and the employer knew or should have known of the hazard. The typical range of proposed penalties for serious violations is $1500 to $5000. The Regional Administrator does have the discretion, however, to propose a penalty fine of up to $7000 if warranted.

  • The severity of the violation and the probability of an injury or illness occurring are then considered in order to determine the dollar amount of the proposed penalty. For example, the base penalty for a severe serious violation where the probability of an injury or illness occurring is great is $5000. A base penalty of $2500 is proposed, however, if the serious violation is severe but the probability of an injury or illness occurring as a result of the violation is low.

  • Penalties for serious violations are only adjusted downward for size and violation history of the employer.

  • Other-than-serious violations - This is a violation that has a direct relationship to job safety and health, but probably would not cause death or serious physical harm. No penalties are usually proposed for other-than-serious violations which have a low probability of resulting in an injury or illness. A base penalty of $1000 is used if the violation has a greater probability of resulting in an injury or illness. Again, the Regional Administrator does have some discretion to increase this base penalty up to $7000 if he or she feels it is warranted.

    04/02 Violations to posting requirements are usually assessed as follows:

    • $1000 for failure to post the OSHA employee job safety and health notice (Form 2203 or 3165).

    • $1000 for failure to post the annual summary of workplace injuries and illnesses (OSHA 300A).

    • $3000 for failure to post an OSHA citation in the workplace.

    04/02 Violations to recordkeeping requirements are usually assessed as follows:

    • $1000 for each year that the OSHA 300 Log was not properly kept and/or for each OSHA 300A that was not filled out (up to $7000).

    • $5000 to $7000 for failure to report to OSHA within eight hours any incident involving a fatality or requiring the hospitalization of three or more employees.

  • Willful violations - A willful violation is one which the employer intentionally and knowingly commits. For a willful violation, OSHA may assess a civil penalty of not more than $70,000 but not less than $5,000 for each violation.

  • Repeat violations - A repeat violation is a violation of any standard, regulation, rule, or order where, upon reinspection, a substantially similar violation is found and the original citation has become a final order. Repeat violations may be assessed a civil penalty of not more than $70,000 for each violation. The penalty is adjusted depending on how many workers are employed.

  • Failure to abate - Failure to correct a prior violation within the prescribed abatement period could result in a penalty for each day the violation continues beyond the abatement date. The daily penalty is usually equal to the amount of the initial penalty with an adjustment for size only.

All penalty amounts issued with a citation are proposed. Employers may contest the penalty amount as well as the citation within the 15 day contest period. After that, the penalty may be adjudicated by the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission or OSHA may negotiate with the employer to settle for a reduced penalty amount if this will lead to speedy abatement of the hazard.

Additional violations for which citations and proposed penalties may be issued are as follows:

  • Falsifying records, reports or applications can bring a fine of $10,000 or up to six months in jail, or both.

  • Assaulting a compliance officer, or otherwise resisting, opposing, intimidating or interfering with a compliance officer in the performance of his or her duties is a criminal offense and is subject to a fine of not more than $5,000 and imprisonment for not more than three years.

Citation and penalty procedures may differ somewhat in states with their own occupational safety and health programs.

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