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De Minimis OSHA Violation

What Does De Minimis OSHA Violation Mean?

A de minimis OSHA violation is a breech of safety regulations that have little significance and almost no chance of actually resulting in an incident.

De minimis violations do not have a meaningful impact on the health and safety of employees. As such, they are treated as technical violations of OSHA regulations and do not lead to penalties or citations.

Safeopedia Explains De Minimis OSHA Violation

"De minimis" is a Latin term that indicates something is of little importance. In legal contexts, it is used to denote an action or situation so trifling that it has no legal significance.

De minimis violations are the least severe type of OSHA violation and do not impose monetary fines on employers or organizations that commit them.

Where De Minimis Applies

The 5th circuit court has expanded the definition of a de minimis violation to specify that it applies where:

  • There will be no or only minor injury
  • The possibility of injury is remote
  • There is only a minor difference between safety measures provided by the employer and OSHA’s applicable standard

Examples of De Minimis OSHA Violations

  • A ladder with 13 inches between rungs instead of the standard 12 inches
  • A window clearance half an inch lower than the clearance specified by OSHA
  • Non-standard lettering size on workplace safety signs

De Minimis Citation

While de minimis violations are not serious offenses, OSHA nevertheless requires inspectors to issue citations or notices to employers who are found to have committed them.

These citations are to be issued after the inspection and no more than six months from the occurrence of the violation. This requirement stands even if the employer has taken action to remedy the infraction and is now in compliance with the relevant OSHA standard.

Other Types of OSHA Violations

One way to better understand what what constitutes a de minimis violation is to compare it to the other types of OSHA violations. There are six categories of OSHA violation. In addition to de minimis, these include:

  • Other-Than-Serious Violations A violation that may not lead to a serious injury or fatality can put the safety and health of a worker at risk (e.g. failing to post mandatory safety documentation on the jobsite)
  • Repeated Violations – Failure to rectify an issue that has been cited by OSHA
  • Failure to Abate Prior Violation – Failure to correct a cited issue by the date provided by OSHA, resulting in fines up to $7,000 per day until the hazard is remedied
  • Serious Violations – Failure to correct a known health and safety hazard, resulting in a fine or penalty based on the severity of the violation and the employer's safety record
  • Willful Violations – Intentional violation of OSHA regulations or willful disregard for the health and safety of employees (a willful violation can become a criminal offense if it results in a loss of life)

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