Overview of OSHA Standards, Citations, & Penalties

Reading OSHA Standards:

  • Code of Federal Regulations is divided into 50 titles
  • Title 29 is designated for the Department of Labor
    • All OSHA regulations are found within Title 29
    • Published annually on July 1
  • Breakdown of OSHA standards are as follows:
    • Title
      • Chapter
        • Parts
          • Subparts
            • Sections
              • Paragraphs
                • Sub paragraphs
  • Chapters represent issuing agencies
  • Subparts are individual topics within an overall part
    • example: 29 CFR Part 1910, Subpart S
      • Title 29 is Dept. of Labor
      • Chapter 17 is OSHA (implied in coding)
      • Part 1910 is General Industry Standards
      • Subpart S are the electrical standards
    • example: 29 CFR Part 1926, Subpart L
      • Title 29 is Dept. of Labor
      • Chapter 17 is OSHA (implied)
      • Part 1926 is Construction Standards
      • Subpart L are the scaffold standards

Citations & Penalties:

  • Citations are not issued at time of inspection by OSHA Safety Officers, they are issued by OSHA Area Directors by certified mail with 45 days of inspection.
  • Types of citations:
    • other than serious - would not cause death or serious harm
    • serious - high probability of death or serious harm
    • willful - knowingly engaging in an act that is known to be dangerous or possibly fatal to employees
    • repeated - similar violations found on reinspection
    • failure to abate - former citation not abated
    • falsifying records
    • assaulting a compliance officer
  • Penalties:
    • other than serious: less than or equal to $7,000 per violation (usually a much lower amount than max)
    • serious: less than or equal to $7,000 per violation
    • willful: $5,000 to $70,000 and/or jail time
    • repeated: less than or equal to $70,000 per violation
    • failure to abate: less than or equal to $70,000 per day
    • falsifying records: $10,000 and/or jail time
    • assaulting a compliance officer: less than or equal to $5,000 and less than or equal to 3 years prison time


  • Employer has 15 days from certified notification of citation to notify Secretary that they wish to contest the citation.
    • If no notice is given within 15 days, then the citation and penalty will be deemed final.

Always consult the OSHA standards for more details.

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