A Look at OSHA

A Look at OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program

Let’s look at how employers can end up in the program and how they can be removed from it.

Any employer or organization that fails to follow OSHA standards likely ends up with an OSHA citation. You can read multiple news releases about this year’s citations, from smaller instances with only a few violations to major ones with millions of dollars in proposed penalties.

For some companies, continued violations might result in placement in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program. Started in 2010, OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP) is a program for employers and companies that exhibit what OSHA calls an “indifference to their OSH Act obligations.”

Employers can be placed in the SVEP based on three criteria: fatality/catastrophe, non-fatality/catastrophe and egregious. With the fatality/catastrophe criterion, OSHA can place employers in the program if the agency finds willful or repeat violations that were involved in a worker's death or at least three workers’ hospitalizations. If the employer was cited for a serious violation after a worker died or at least three were hospitalized and did not fix the violation, resulting in a “failure-to-abate notice,” they could be placed in the SVEP.

Employers who are issued two willful or repeat violations or a failure-to-abate notice in a work environment with “a high gravity serious violation” may also be placed in the SVEP under the Non-Fatality/Catastrophe Criterion. For the egregious criterion, “all egregious (e.g., per-instance citations) enforcement actions shall be considered SVEP cases,” OSHA said.

Once employers are placed in the program, they may be subject to additional inspections. In addition, inspections are available for public view on OSHA’s SVEP Public Log.

Employers can be removed from this log three years after they receive verification that their changes are "acceptable." Before OSHA's September 2022 update, employers would have to wait three years after the “final date order.” In addition to meeting the length of time, employers must also ensure all hazards have been resolved, not have outstanding penalties, have not been cited for the concerns again and make sure one OSHA inspection has taken place, according to OSHA. 

Employers can be removed as soon as two years with “an enhanced settlement agreement,” the agency said.

About the Author

Alex Saurman is a former Content Editor for Occupational Health & Safety,who has since joined OH&S’s client services team. She continues to work closely with OH&S’s editorial team and contributes to the magazine.

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