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What Does Noncompliance Mean?

Noncompliance is a term that broadly refers to any failure to obey instructions or requirements put forth by an authority.

In occupational safety settings, noncompliance typically refers to a failure to comply with the legal rules and regulations set by the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ), the standards put forth by an industry-recognized quality management association, or the rules presented by the particular company that controls the workplace within which the noncompliant entity is operating.

Safeopedia Explains Noncompliance

Noncompliance can be attributed to the failure of individual employees to observe safety requirements or to the failure of individual managers to enforce or require adequate safety behavior. More broadly, a company may be found to be noncompliant with regulatory or quality standards if it has failed to institute required safety provisions as part of its corporate policies. Examples of this could include failing to provide employees with necessary safety training or requiring employees to engage in hazardous activity that contravenes a recognized safety standard.

Compliance issues are typically considered in part with two fundamental aspects of occupational safety and health promotion: recognition, which occurs as a result of compliance, and penalization, which occurs as a result of noncompliance.

Within many high-risk settings, some form of recognition of safety compliance is necessary before a company is legally allowed to begin work. Many companies also require that their suppliers and other business partners hold recognized safety certifications as a prerequisite to contracting with them. Certifications and other types of formal recognition may be revoked if an entity is found to have become noncompliant with a given standard after its compliance was initially recognized.

In addition to having their compliance certification rescinded, entities that are found to have become noncompliant or to have otherwise acted in a noncompliant manner will often incur legal penalties. For individual employees, this likely means disciplinary action from a supervisor. For companies, this noncompliance can result in a legally enforceable stop-work order, a fine, or a civil or criminal action. Financial penalties for noncompliance are usually pursued by the AHJ. However, failure to comply with safety standards can also be considered as part of safety-related lawsuits brought by individual employees against their employer.

The extent of any penalty for noncompliance depends on a number of factors, including whether the noncompliant entity has a history of noncompliance, what consequences occurred as a result of the noncompliance, and other contextual factors within which the noncompliant behavior occurred. For instance, in cases where a minor safety violation has occurred, the employer may face no penalties and instead may be required to provide the AHJ with a written notice assuring voluntary compliance with the rule that was previously breached.


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