Severe Violator Enforcement Program

By Tabitha Mishra
Last updated: July 25, 2022

What Does Severe Violator Enforcement Program Mean?

The Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP) is an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) program whose mission is to enforce accountability for employers who display an indifference to safety regulations through repeat and willful violations.

The SVEP was implemented in June 2010 to replace the Enhanced Enforcement Program (EEP) after that program came under criticism from government auditors.

The SVEP itself is not without controversy, however. It has received mixed reactions, with safety advocates hailing it as a positive step and employers criticizing the severity of its penaties and its practice of name shaming.

Safeopedia Explains Severe Violator Enforcement Program

OSHA issues and enforces regulations aimed at protecting workers and ensuring the safety of workplaces and jobsites. To motivate compliance, the agency conducts inspections and issues fines and penalties for safety violations. When those prove insufficient, OSHA can then resorts to its Severe Violator Enforcement Program to rein in employers.

A Brief History of the Severe Violator Enforcement Program

In 2003, OSHA implemented the Enhanced Enforcement Program to curtail repeat safety violations. In 2009, the U.S. Department of Labor's (DOL) Office of Inspector General (OIG) released a report on the program's effectiveness, efficiency, economy, and integrity. One of its key findings is that reported fatalities were not adequately identified and inspected.

Building on the OIG's findings, OSHA supplanted the EEP with the SVEP in 2010. The new program narrowed its criteria and focused solely on the worst offenders.

According to OSHA, states are required to either adopt the SVEP program or establish their own equivalent program, including procedures to identify and take action with regard to recalcitrant and indifferent employers.

The Focus of the Severe Violator Enforcement Program

OSHA’s SVEP concentrates on employers who willfully and repeatedly demonstrate a lack of concern toward safety regulations. Such violations are see in the following situations:

  • Fatality or catastrophe
  • Severe occupational hazards
  • High-emphasis hazards, including fall hazards, amputations, combustible dust, and crystalline silica
  • Hazards related to the release of highly hazardous chemicals
  • Egregious enforcement actions

SVEP Status and Its Consequences

Employers who meet the criteria for the SVEP are entered into the program as soon as they are cited, with no opportunity to defend themselves against its allegations.

SVEP status has negative consequences, both direct and indirect, for these employers, including:

  • Published status as a severe violator
  • Mandatory follow-up inspections
  • Harm to corporate reputation
  • Loss of clients or contracts
  • Difficulty securing employees and top talent
  • Obstacles to obtaining loans and credit

Getting Right with OSHA

SVEP status is highly undesirable, but it is not a permanent mark against an employer. Organizations can be taken out of the program through one of two formal processes, known as “lining out” and “removal."

To line out, an organization has to successfully contest the citation that placed them in the program to begin with. This can be done through a formal or informal settlement agreement, or adjudication from the court to reclassify the citation.

Removal from the SVEP, meanwhile, takes three years of good behavior following the SVEP citation. If OSHA can confirm that the employer has taken efforts to control hazards on their worksites, paid the penalties they incurred, and have not received new serious citations, the employer is then removed from the program.


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