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Posted by Stephanie on April 22, 2024

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) maintains workplace safety and ensures employers abide by specific guidelines. In addition to creating the requirements that warehouses and distribution centers must adhere to, OSHA also enforces safety protocols. If OSHA discovers a company has violated these protocols, it can levy fines and citations.

Multiple violations usually lead to a substantial increase in the penalty amount. If you own or manage a warehouse, you must understand how OSHA citations work and what you can do to avoid them. This comprehensive guide explains everything you need about OSHA guidelines and safety compliance management.

What Are OSHA Violations?

OSHA violations occur when an employee or company unknowingly or willingly ignores safety hazards in the workplace. These hazards can be natural or potential, meaning that an accident doesn’t need to occur for OSHA to state that a company has violated its guidelines. Infractions can be detected when OSHA performs an inspection. When the employer receives an OSHA citation, it must be posted near or where the violation occurred.

If the citation can’t be displayed correctly in that area, it must be posted where all affected employees will notice it. Employers must also ensure the citation isn’t defaced, altered, or covered. The primary types of violations that can occur include severe, other-than-serious, willful, or repeated posting requirements, failure to abate, and de minimis violations.

warehouse supply planning

A de minimis violation has no immediate or direct relationship to a person’s health or safety, so OSHA doesn’t issue citations for them. Instead, they’ll tell the employer that there’s a slight problem they need to address. In comparison, a serious violation occurs when a manager knows a hazard can lead to a worker’s injury or death.

OSHA Citations vs. Violations

While OSHA maintains strict guidelines, there’s a difference between citations and violations. A citation notifies a company that a violation has occurred and needs to be addressed. You still have time to avoid a costly fine if you receive a citation.

The citation you receive should include information about how to resolve the issue. You’ll notice that the citation also provides a deadline. Initial citations need to be listed on your company’s safety records. However, repeated citations will be. If you receive the same citation type multiple times during three years, it will be labeled a repeat offense.

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Top 10 Most Cited OSHA Violations

OSHA can cite dozens of violations when inspecting a warehouse. Every year, they list the most cited violations, which include the following:

  • Fall protection: More than 7,000 violations involving fall protection were reported in 2023. Falls can take place in many areas of a warehouse and may lead to injury and death.
  • Hazard communication: Companies must tell their employees about chemical hazards that can occur in the workplace. OSHA requires chemical importers and manufacturers to label their products in a manner that communicates the issues to customers. Employees must provide safety data sheets and labels to every exposed worker.
  • Ladders: Thousands of ladder violations are issued every year. From self-supporting portable ladders to job-made ones, employees must know how to remain safe when working on any ladder.
  • Respiratory protection: OSHA guidelines require workers to use respirators when working with dangerous chemicals and substances. Employers are responsible for obtaining the best respirators.
  • Scaffolding: Along with ladders, warehouse employees are routinely tasked with working on scaffolding that positions them well above ground level. OSHA maintains strict and complex standards for scaffolding that can prevent thousands of injuries every year.
  • Lockout/tagout: Many businesses need to maintain heavy machinery, which has numerous risks associated with it. Violations often occur because the machinery isn’t properly shut off. The lockout-tagout is a unique safety procedure that isolates hazardous energy sources immediately.
  • Powered industrial trucksLift trucks and forklifts are powerful and potentially dangerous vehicles that must meet specific standards when used in any industrial facility. Powered industrial truck violations can occur because of design issues or inadequate fire protection.
  • Fall protection – training requirements: Along with fall protection issues, many employers also forget to provide training that can help protect workers from falling.
  • Personal protective and lifesaving equipment – eye and face protection: OSHA maintains strong eye and face protection guidelines to prevent blindness and severe eye injuries. They require employers to provide this protection to safeguard against environmental, mechanical, and chemical hazards.
  • Machine guarding: Machine guarding is necessary to protect operators and other personnel from being injured by flying chips, sparks, and rotating parts.
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How to Look Up OSHA Violations

You can find a complete list of violations on OSHA’s website by filling in some details about the issue, including everything from the cited establishment to the zip code. It’s highly recommended that you stay informed about violations to avoid making costly mistakes in your facility.

Types of OSHA Violation Penalties

As mentioned previously, there are six distinct penalty categories, which include the following:

  • Serious
  • Other-than-serious
  • Willful or repeated
  • Posting requirements
  • Failure to abate
  • De minimis violations

Serious violations are assessed when a business manager or owner knows that a hazard can lead to injury or death and does nothing to resolve it. Fines can reach well above $10,000 for these violations. The penalties are based on the gravity of the situation. A low-gravity violation comes with a fine of just over $6,000, while a high-gravity one involves a fee of $14,502.

Other-than-serious violations occur when the hazard doesn’t lead to death or an injury but still compromises the health and safety of employees. The maximum fine is the same as it is with a serious incident. Remember that OSHA may reduce the acceptable amount by up to 95%.

A repeated violation can occur multiple times in three years. In this scenario, the penalties can be as high as $161,000 per violation. Willful violations are even more severe and occur when the employer knows that personnel are at risk but doesn’t take action to address the issue.

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The fines for these violations can be reduced depending on the number of people in your workplace. For example, if you employ 11-20 people, the fine can be reduced by 60%.

As for posting requirements, employers who receive a violation or citation must post it in a visible area. Every employee needs to have easy access to the notice. The document must remain in place for three days or until the violation is resolved.

Failure to abate is a severe problem that comes with high penalties. Every OSHA notice includes a date by which the violation needs to be resolved. If a company doesn’t adhere to this date, they will face the maximum daily fine. A de minimis violation is a minor issue that doesn’t usually require a citation. OSHA might choose to provide a verbal warning.

Common OSHA Violations

From scaffolding requirements to fall protection, there are some common OSHA violations that employers need to avoid. Fall protection is a common hazard, so employers should provide safety training to limit the number of falls. You can prevent this hazard by maintaining a safe working environment with dry and clean floors. All workers must have access to personal protective equipment (PPE) at no cost. Hazards must also be appropriately labeled to ensure every employee knows about them.

When considering OSHA’s scaffolding requirements, remember that fall protection equipment must always be stored on the scaffold. Companies are also responsible for providing PPE. Ensure that your facility uses scaffolding correctly and that weight maximums are never exceeded. Regularly perform inspections to ensure the scaffolding is stable. You’re not allowed to place scaffolding near power lines. To maintain workplace safety, address the most common violations immediately.

Employer Responsibilities Regarding OSHA Citations

Employers have specific responsibilities once they receive an OSHA citation. For example, the OSHA notice must be posted in an area that ensures visibility to all employees. The employer must correct the issue by the date listed on the notice. They can also request a conference in 15 working days to discuss the violation.

Consequences of Non-Compliance

If you don’t comply with OSHA citations, you’ll face serious consequences, which include substantial fines. As mentioned, a severe or other-than-serious violation can result in penalties as high as $16,000. By not complying with OSHA’s guidelines, they could classify the issue as a repeated offense, which results in a fine of $161,000. If you don’t fix the issue by the reported date, additional penalties could be levied daily until you do. Remember that citations and violations can be placed on your company’s record, damaging your relationship with employees and customers.

How to Reduce OSHA Violations

You can take specific steps to reduce OSHA violations in your workplace, which should also keep your costs down. For example, consider conducting regular safety audits to ensure no fall hazards in your facility. It’s also highly recommended that you obtain professional safety management services to identify areas for improvement. You must take a proactive approach to maintain a safe environment for all your employees.

Conclusion

While OSHA guidelines are strict and often complex, they can also be helpful when you’re trying to maintain a healthy working environment that your personnel enjoy working in. Understanding OSHA citations allows you to comply with regulations and protect your workers. When you identify potential violations, address them immediately. It’s also a good idea to stay informed about annual changes to OSHA guidelines.

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