OSHA Fines – Repeat and Willful vs. Normal – What Makes The Difference?

Filed under Resources
A willful violation is one committed with intentional or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health. - osha.gov

OSHA just showed up and is asking to see your lockout/tagout program.

That sinking feeling that something is wrong might be an indicator of how this visit is going to go. Just two months ago, they had issued a lockout/tagout fine to a sister company in a different state and the company CEO issued an internal statement declaring that all sites must ensure full compliancy with this regulation CFR1910.147 – The Control of Hazardous Energy (Lockout/Tagout).

It’s hard to believe that two months have passed already. You remember making this an initiative, but was anything accomplished? Time to check.

You pull out the safety binder in the maintenance manager’s office and hand it to OSHA hoping it passes inspection. The inspector pages through it making no sounds or indications one way or another. Finally he speaks and asks for the documentation for equipment specific lockout/tagout procedures. As you try to explain that the highly trained maintenance staff are the only ones who work on the equipment, you can see him writing down information. When you are finished with your explanation, he asks one more time for clarity: “So you are stating that you do not have lockout/tagout procedures available for me to inspect today. Is that correct?”

“Yes, that is correct. We are in the process of creating those, starting now.” He does’t look amused, or surprised. The inspector makes one last statement that because there has been a citation in the company owned network of businesses, this fine will 10 times higher than the last instance as it’s treated as repeat and willful.

Two weeks later, the fine arrives – $210,000 for lack of lockout/tagout procedures, lack of lockout/tagout training, and lack of lockout/tagout auditing. The same issue for the sister company only resulted in a $21,000 fine.

The good news is: OSHA fines are easy to avoid.

Unfortunately (for large companies) repeat and willful violations are most commonly issued to large companies that have many different locations. These situations are much more complex to resolve because the site safety manager may not feel like they’ve ever been cited before, but that doesn’t matter in OSHA’s eyes. A company is one company, regardless of the physical addresses and even site names.

“A willful violation is one committed with intentional or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.”  (source: www.osha.gov)

Quick Resources:

1. OSHA citation fact sheet (what to expect if you get visited)

2. Letters of Interpretation (OSHA issues letters that explain their regulation – a full list is here)

3. What can OSHA request (link to full directive) Excerpt here:

“Copies of any and all documents, including information stored
electronically, which reflect training procedures for the lockout/tagout
procedures and hazard communication program in effect at the [insert
site name} in [insert city, state], during the period [insert
month/day/year], to present.”

4. OSHA fine calculation details (how they calculate your total fine)


Still confused? Feel free to contact ESC and we’ll help you with whatever questions you have.

Lockout/tagout is perhaps one of the most difficult regulations to get and stay compliant with. Learning the rules shouldn’t be the hard part.




About ESC Services
ESC Services, a Rockwell Automation brand, is a leader in lockout/tagout procedures. Our services include many aspects of employee safety and OSHA compliance, and our core focus is delivering custom comprehensive lockout/tagout service that yields intuitive graphical lockout/tagout procedures and modern methodology. Learn more about ESC Services here.