OSHA Triples Fines for Serious Safety Violations

Saying that the current limits don’t act as enough of a deterrent, OSHA is increasing penalties for serious safety violations. The new policy raises the average fine from about $1,000 to between $3,000 and $4,000 for a serious violation—one that could cause serious injury or death.

Plus, OSHA plans to launch a Severe Violator Enforcement Program that calls for “a more intense examination” of work sites where previous safety violations have been found. The new Severe Violator Enforcement Program is intended to focus OSHA enforcement resources on recalcitrant employers who endanger workers by demonstrating indifference to their responsibilities under the law. This supplemental enforcement tool includes increased OSHA inspections in these worksites, including mandatory OSHA follow-up inspections, and inspections of other worksites of the same employer where similar hazards and deficiencies may be present. SVEP will become effective within the next 45 days. Details of the SVEP can be found by visiting:

Last year, OSHA assembled a work group to evaluate its penalty policies and found currently assessed penalties are too low to have an adequate deterrent effect. Based on the group's findings and recommendations, several administrative changes to the penalty calculation system are being made. These administrative enhancements will become effective in the next several months. 

The penalty changes will increase the overall dollar amount of all penalties while maintaining OSHA's policy of reducing penalties for small employers and those acting in good faith.

The current maximum penalty for a serious violation, one capable of causing death or serious physical harm, is $7,000 and the maximum penalty for a willful violation is $70,000. For more information on the penalty policy, visit

According to Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA David Michaels, "OSHA enforcement and penalties are not just a reaction to workplace tragedies. They serve an important preventive function. OSHA inspections and penalties must be large enough to discourage employers from cutting corners or underfunding safety programs to save a few dollars."