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  • Writer's pictureDavid M. Olsen

OSHA Issues New Penalty Enforcement Guidance



On Jan. 26, 2023, OSHA announced it issued new enforcement guidance making its penalties more effective to stop employers from repeatedly exposing workers to life-threatening hazards or failing to comply with workplace safety and health requirements. The new enforcement guidance covers general industry, agriculture, maritime, and construction industries. It becomes effective on March 27, 2023.


Guidance Overview

New enforcement guidance was issued to make penalties more effective to stop employers from repeatedly exposing workers to life-threatening hazards.

A current policy has been in place since 1990 but only applies to egregious willful citations. Now, however, OSHA regional administrators and area office directors will have the authority to cite certain types of violations as “instance-by-instance citations” for cases identified as “high-gravity” serious violations. These violations must have OSHA standards specific to certain conditions where the language of the rule supports a citation for each instance of noncompliance. Examples of these conditions include:

  • Lockout/tagout;

  • Machine guarding;

  • Permit-required confined space;

  • Respiratory protection;

  • Falls;

  • Trenching; and Cases with other-than-serious violations specific to recordkeeping.

In addition, OSHA is reminding its regional administrators and area directors of their authority not to group violations but, instead, to cite them separately.


OSHA states these changes in enforcement guidance are important tools to help deter employers from disregarding their responsibilities to protect workers and ensure compliance with OSHA standards. Employers should review their programs and ensure they are in compliance with OSHA standards.


This Legal Update is not intended to be exhaustive nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as legal advice. Readers should contact legal counsel for legal advice.

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