Remaining compliant with OSHA safety standards is important on any work site.  OSHA places violations in one the following five categories:

  • Willful violations;
  • Serious violations;
  • Repeated violations;
  • Other-Than-Serious violations; and
  • De Minimis violations


A Willful violation is a violation in which a contractor either knowingly failed to comply with a legal requirement (purposeful disregard) or acted with plain indifference to employee safety.   A violation is willful if the contractor had a heightened awareness of the potential hazard but failed to appropriately remedy the condition.   A Serious violation exists when a workplace hazard could cause an accident or illness that would likely result in death or serious physical harm.  Brevity of worker exposure may be relevant for purposes of penalty assessment but is irrelevant in determining whether a violation is Serious or not.

A Repeat violation is one where, at the time of the violation, an OSHA Final Order exists against the same contractor for a substantially similar violation.  A Final Order remains on a contractor’s safety record for five years.  The five year window represents a relatively recent change in federal OSHA rules that historically considered Final Orders for repeat violations for a period of three years.  Repeat violations can be particularly costly as contractors liable for repeat violations could face a civil penalty up to $70,000 for each violation.

An Other-Than-Serious violation is one in which the safety violation results in – or could have led to -injury or illness other than death or serious physical harm.  A De Minimis violation exists where there is no direct or immediate relationship to workers’ health or safety.

Our firm’s experience suggests that OSHA entities tend to classify most safety violations as “Serious” and classify very few violations as “Other-Than-Serious” or “De Minimis”. A contractor may contest  any safety citation it may receive, but must do so quickly as strict time constraints exist for contesting citations.  The attorneys at Manion Stigger have extensive experience successfully representing contractors in OSHA-related appeals ranging from lesser violations to safety issues resulting in worker death.  To learn more about how we can help with preparing you for a safety inspection and contesting safety citations, please contact the experienced attorneys of Manion Stigger LLP.