Safety and OSHA News

Now OSHA can issue fines for each worker without PPE

OSHA now has a new, powerful weapon in its arsenal to hit companies hard for PPE and training violations when a new rule takes effect.

Starting Jan. 12, 2009, OSHA can issue per-employee citations for those types of violations.

While OSHA says it intends to use these new measures only in egregious cases, the standard doesn’t spell that out specifically.

The agency is relying on a directive to its inspectors to determine when per-employee citations will be made, but directives can change without going through the formal rulemaking process.

What will this mean financially to companies who have some workers who don’t always wear their PPE?

The multiplication factor is the number of employees.

In the case that sparked this rulemaking, an employer hired 11 undocumented Mexican workers to handle asbestos without providing each a respirator.

OSHA wanted to issue 11 separate citations, but a court consolidated them into one.

Under the new rule, the fine would have been 11 times as much.

All sorts of employers are affected by this. OSHA amends PPE and training standards for:

  • general industry (Part 1910)
  • shipyards (Part 1915)
  • marine terminals (Part 1917)
  • longshoring (Part 1918), and
  • construction (Part 1926).

For now, OSHA claims it will rely upon its guidance document, Handling of Cases To Be Proposed for Violation-By-Violation Penalties.

That document says cases under consideration for per-employee fines must be classified as willful and meet at least one of these requirements:

  • Violation resulted in worker fatalities, a worksite catastrophe or a large number of injuries or illnesses
  • Violations resulted in persistently high rates of worker injuries or illnesses
  • Employer has an extensive history of prior OSHA violations
  • Employer has intentionally disregarded its OSHA responsibilities
  • Employer’s conduct taken as a whole amounts to clear bad faith in the performance of its OSHA duties, or
  • Employer has committed a large number of violations that significantly undermine the effectiveness of any OSHA safety or health program that might be in place.
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  1. William Cowser says:

    It sounds like they are double dipping on this one.

    “While OSHA says it intends to use these new measures only in egregious cases, the standard doesn’t spell that out specifically.”

    Once again leaving the findings “Egregious” or not, up to the inspector.
    I so far, knock on wood, have not suffered a fine with OSHA yet, find this
    a bit unsettling.

  2. Andy Norval says:

    This comment is not OSHA related but the company should be also fined for hiring illegal undocumented workers.

  3. The problem with supplying PPE and providing training for its use is when EEs fail to wear or use PPE when supervisors are not around to over see the behavior. Ultimately, the company is responsible for behavior and enforcement but, one needs to ask where is the line when employees don’t wear PPE of their own accord? The company can impose penalties on their employees when they fail to use appropriate safety equipment however, they have to be caugt first and hopefully before an incident occurs.

  4. Cheri Wilhelm says:

    I believe that if the company does not supply the PPE or make it readily available, then and only then should OSHA be able to fine for each individual. I think that OSHA should fine the individual employees if the company can prove that PPE is supplied and training has been provided and they still do not use their PPE. If we are going to keep our employees safe and can prove we have done so, then they should share in being fined by OSHA, this would encourage them to do the right thing. Most Safety Professionals would agree, that one of the hardest parts of our job is getting employees on board with safety wether anyone sees them or not.

    • RE: Cheri Wilhelm: Supported. It is individual behavior and as the saying goes, “you can lead someone to water but you can’t make’m drink.
      Who’s the proper authority or what is the proper procedure to lobby for this change? what kind of justification is needed for procedural support?

  5. Keith Odom says:

    I agree with Cheri. There are many companys out there that are trying so hard to be complient such as safety meetings and furnishing all the PPE for the employees and some employees are just not going to do it. One might say,get rid of the employee. That sounds like the solution but that is easier said than done. We as safety people are just that. Not their Moma`s. We can`t be there all the time. It would be a big help to us(as safety people) if OSHA did fine the employee. That might give them some incentive to wear the PPE that we provide!

  6. follow the rules or be fined. what part of that is hard to understand.
    fire the employees who wont follow the rules.
    train your supervisors on how to do things the osha way.
    make sure a supervisor is on site and supervising.

    end of problem. theoretically.

    • That may be a bit of a shortsighted response. The problem is NOT that only the employer does not follow rules and this is the reason that fines are issued. And maybe twenty years ago the ‘you’re fired’ response would have been the solution. But times have changed. Good luck finding able bodied and trained millennials to work, much less follow rules at work when they do show up. Its difficult enough to find workers who are employable, so when the company contracts for work, the contract MUST be fulfilled. Employees are constantly taking off the safety glasses, plugging in the cell phones, and WERE getting the fines that should go to them. I show up on every job site to make certain that rules are being observed. And if I leave for ten minutes, I come back to at least one or two rule breakers. Fire them, and the work does not get done, and the whole company suffers. Don’t fire him, and we get fined, and the whole company suffers. If the employee was held accountable, things would surely be different. In my opinion, fining the employee if the employer has done their part, and can prove it, then THAT should be the “end of the problem.” Theoretically.

  7. Chris Maloy says:

    I agree with Cheri. As the EH&S Official for my facility, I can telll you that safety – especially ppe usage – can sometimes be a hard sell. We train on PPE, we coach, we provide several types of PPE for worker comfort, and we disipline repeat offenders. But ultimately when you turn your back, the employees are on their own.
    P.S. You just can’t fire them for the first offense unless it is IDLH.

  8. B hit the nail on the head. I go ver the site safety plans and the company’s safety policies ad nauseum to our employees, only to find them not wearing the required PPE. More often than not, they are working next, or within sight of their supervisors. My safety director has been able to get our corporate senior staff to begin to hold the supervisors accountable for thier charges, but its been an uphill battle.

    OSHA should fine workers who are found not to be wearing the proper PPE. To have a effective safety culture everyone should be held accountable.

    • I repeatedly asked my Employer for protective gear. I was cleaning for the company at Macy’s and my boss would not provide anything, not even training. I had to borrow gloves from the restaurant in the store. I had to clean up Diarrhea in the fitting rooms twice and a flooded bathroom where the toilet that overflowed was filled with feces. I suffered an exacerbation (1st one ever}, ended up in the hospital and now need oxygen

  9. I cannot believe that in this day and age, with all the accidents, with all the nurse visits, with all the live footage we show people and just plain old common sense, that there are people who refuse to wear PPE. This is a no brainer and I agree with anyone who says get rid of these non-compliant people! Not only will these people get themselves hurt, they endanger the lives of others. OSHA would be doing right if this is their mindset. If there are any other reasons for OSHAS new rules, and god help us if there is, then we are all screwed because the higher ups have become negligent!

  10. I agree with B’s appraoch … Perhaps another solution is to have employees sign off on PPE training while clearly specifying on the sign-document that it’s their own responsibility to comply and any fines received for a blantant violation(s) will be paid by the employee or else face termination … I’ve not come accross any specifc labor law that might “protect” neglegent employees from having to pay such penalties. If an employee signs off on a clearly-stated contract, then there should’nt be an issue – a contract is a contract – as long as the required training is provided and the employer holds up his end of respinsibilities.

    Or, perhaps a more simpler approach is to inform employees that “3-strikes” do not apply when it comes to PPE. They don’t wear it, they go. Safety proefssionals cannot be timid when it comes to making an example out of someone. When others witness the consequences of disobedience, they suddenly wake up to the reality of what’s at stake.

  11. Ted Velasquez says:

    I agree with the approach and idea of perhaps all of the above. I also believe that safety on the job and away must become a culture and a passion for survival, one that must be passed on to the younger employees, and shared by those more experienced workers who have witnessed or had an occurance (accident) or near life threatning incident, it is important to provide constant reminders of work place accidents with graphic pictures and posters especially of those that might relate to the tasks of those in your own related work agenda. they should be reminders of the severity of a lax attitude, and reinforce awarness to attention of the task at hand at your work place.

  12. Jack J Shockley Jr says:

    As a small business owner and a service based company, not a construction site or major company with safety departments, I have one person (Safety Officer) that is responsible for making sure that our employees have PPE and know the safety policies of the company as well as safety procedures required by law. We are actively working to make safety the top priority for my company. We have a difficult time. We do spot checks but that is our only response to make sure that employees are doing what we expect. One person and a truck runs to get our work done which means the employee runs their own safety program while they work, and unlike bigger companies, we do not have a large pool of experienced employees to just replace (FIRED) people. At this point of time my employees are very aware that if OSHA sites a person from our company, that it does not reflect on them, just the company and due to the nature of our business my employee will have a job elsewhere before he leaves my shop. It seems to me that the fines for a infraction should be the employee’s responsibility if the company is doing what it should and not 25,000.00 for not wearing your safety glasses because you won’t get paid, (no one wins) As of now the ‘parent’ is being sent to the corner for the child misbehaving.

  13. I don’t follow the river of scorn that says “Fire’em if they won’t toe the line”. Yes the first one fired will make the others wear theirs … for a week or two. Then they will try doffing them when they think they don’t need them. Then before you know it they will be back to old habits again.
    Now if any of you super-enforcers really think serial firings is going to help your bottom line, you have to be some kind of chuckleheads on power trips. Since we are talking about real people, and not some equation that says “push harder until compliance is reached”, you have to ask what it is worth – would you really risk losing your employees who have the best work ethic because they won’t wear safety glasses every minute of the work day? You need to engage his/her cooperation willingly so as many others as possible will join him. This method lasts much longer and contributes to high shop morale as well. There are other positive approaches besides firing otherwise-perfectly-good workers, but you have to relax and work with the workers. Not Work-On them.
    People don’t leave a bad job as often as they leave a bad boss. If you are a tyrant who doesn’t measure, doesn’t care, or doesn’t pay any attention to an employees value for your organization, we are going to leave you like a hot rotten potato. End result – watch the desperate lazy (non-productive) workers (wearing PPEs) fill up your shop. Hurray you are compliant… and dead in the water. Fire enough good workers and pretty soon you will get your walking papers. The fines usually aren’t big enough to sink companies, so don’t compete with them (in cost). The tightest run ships might be impressive to regulators. But the ones that make the most product and money, are the ones that find ways to walk the tightrope between the power hungry regulators or supervisors, and the comfort and safety of their employees. I will bet that I am not the only one typing and reading here while not wearing my safety glasses or respirator (I am in my laboratory). I only do the work that requires PPE one or two hours a week.
    Get off your horse and see the people in your shops. Be polite to them and to the regulators/inspectors so you can have respectful conversations with them, they are people too. And have enough balls to politely stand up to Regulators/Inspectors when they overstep the rules or just over-enforce. Make it clear you will ask for clarification and guidance if they over-enforce into the gray zone. If they threaten retaliation for same, ask them for the name of their boss, (have witnesses). The world is not black and white. It is mostly shades of gray. I tip my hat and say “Kudos to all of you who want us to always wear our PPEs, but thank you very much for respecting my intelligence and productivity if I elect to make a decision that I don’t need them every minute I am on the jobsite”. Some risks are not deadly.

    Tim, who wears both hats, A PPE user and an embedded compliance inspector.

  14. Tim, I was with you right up until the “Some risks are not deadly”.
    It’s true that all risks aren’t deadly, but those risks could effect your quality of life.
    My biggest issues are hearing conservation and employees who by-pass safety switches. We work in a high noise environment with a very real possibility of hearing loss (4 employees last year alone).
    As for by-passing switches, we’ve had several employees who’ve placed their hands or fingers in running equipment, resulting in lost appendages and other severe injuries. The impact on our 300 Log was ridiculous. That’s the part that employees don’t understand; that his behavior impacts the company in so many ways.
    PPE regulations aren’t put in place to just protect us from what will happen, but from what could possibly happen no matter how minute the possibility.
    Imagine how your family would feel if that unexpected accident did occur in the lab while you’re not wearing you safety glasses. While it may not kill you, would you miss seeing your children grow through the various stages of life.
    That’s a gift that I’m not willing to risk.

  15. Da Safety Guy says:

    I agree with the comments made by some of you. Workplace Culture is the very important key in getting employees to wear PPE, follow procedures, etc. Training, issuing PPE and verifying that each employee wears the PPE is also important.

    If an employee decides he/she does not want to wear the PPE, the employer must take action. Verbal or written discipline, days off or termination–each time telling the employee of the requirement to wear PPE. This documentation, helps to reduce your fines for the one or two employees that are found to not be wearing their PPE. The employer is making a good faith effort to comply with the regulation.

    I think in this case, the employer should be fined per employee. I believe the article mentioned that the employees were working with asbestos. OSHA has only a few specific standards and Asbestos is one of those. The standard is very clear on the training, procedures, medical survillance, area monitoring and PPE required for each employee. I think this employer was trying to save a buck at the employee end. The employer just did not care about the employee. His/Her workplace safety culture was profit now and when the employee develops medical issues later, he probably will not be working for me. Someone elses problem.

    Also, he hired illegal workers to perform the work. I wonder if the training was done in Spanish?

  16. Safety is up to me! The individual worker. Each worker decides on a daily basis to take the risk of not using their PPE’s. We can teach them and terminate them. But when the day is done each employee must understand “it is up to me”(him or her).
    But we must continue to teach, train and terminate to get the safety job done. I want to go home tonight and I want you to also go home tonight.
    Never give up.

  17. I agree with Da Safety Guy: Employers must show due diligence in enforcing the policies, procedures, including discipline when employees by neglect or wilfully elect not to wear employer provided PPE. If you as the employer do not enforce your written disciplinary procedures as an employer/supervisor are just as guilty of neglect or wilful neglect.

    Hiring of illegal undocumented individuals is another matter that employer should be held accountable for and should be fined by the appropriate enforcement agency.

  18. Ted Velasquez says:

    Every person in a responsible position that has to enforce a rule for lack of a better word, has to continue to encourage all of the workers to be safety aware. It has been said that if you say it loud enough and often enough it will in fact become true, and hopefully become the word that brings each and every worker home safe at the end of the day.

  19. Hi ALL
    I wonder if any one can assist me, i work for Babcock Equipment. Earth moving equipment. I am looking for info regarding PPE. We want to issue PPE in a much easier way at our premises, but just not to sure how. Perhaps some of you have different ideas on how to do so. This includes visitors and anyone who enters the workshop.

  20. There are no regs designed to protect workers or companies that are a a tenth as effective as peer pressure designed to get employees to encourage each other to be safe, to be protected.
    If you think there is a government parental program that will someday be very good at overseeing you and everybody else’s safety, you are wrong. Responsibility for our own safety is the thing that matters the most, not how to make regulations harder, firmer, more escape proof. Bureaucrats think like that. How to make themselves look better on paper.
    Just as t

  21. Roney Scarbrough says:

    As of Jan 12, 09 Can a employee be fined by Osha for being in violation on any unsafe act,Or is the company soley responsible for the employee and his violation fine?

    Roney scarbrough

  22. Roney: Workers can not be fined by OSHA. OSHA can only fine companies.

  23. Alfred Zentgraf says:

    Question: Can an employee be eligible for unemployment compensation for the General Contractor (not the actual employer), on a jobsite ordering the employee off His jobsite for repeatedly being warned for not wearing his safety glasses?

    One of our employees was ordered off the jobsite for repeated warnings for not wearing his safety glasses even after attending the required jobsite safety training. The General Contractor, ordered the employee off the jobsite not us and we warned all of our employees each morning and throughout the day to remember to wear their safety glasses.

    The employee has now filed for unemployment benefits and it just doesn’t seem right that he is able to that???
    Thank you,
    Alfred & Michelle Zentgraf
    Alfred Zentgraf Company, Inc.

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