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OSHA recently posted its fiscal year (FY) 2021 state-plan state evaluations. These “Comprehensive Federal Annual Monitoring Evaluation (FAME) Reports” are packed with statistics, but one important set of data covers the average penalty amounts per “serious” violation depending on employer size. A serious violation relates to a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result, and the employer knew or should have known of the hazard.

California ranked first with an average of $9,580 for each serious safety or health violation. This figure was followed by New Mexico’s average of $5,306. Nine states — California, New Mexico, Nevada, Iowa, Kentucky, Vermont, Alaska, Wyoming, and Virginia — had average penalty rates higher than the federal OSHA average of $3,100.

New Jersey and Oregon ranked the lowest for average serious penalties. However, penalties for Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, New York, and Virgin Islands were not available. Massachusetts just became a state-plan state and did not have a program in FY 2021.

List of average penalties

Here’s the complete list of state-plan states and their average penalty amounts for serious violations:

  1. CA — $9,580
  2. NM — $5,306
  3. NV — $4,648
  4. IA — $4,254
  5. KY — $3,893
  6. VT — $3,553
  7. AK — $3,496
  8. WY — $3,477
  9. VA — $3,289
  10. U.S. — $3,100
  11. HI — $2,966
  12. WA — $1,752
  13. SC — $1,592
  14. UT — $1,510
  15. MN — $1,340
  16. IN — $1,298
  17. NC — $1,255
  18. MI — $1,217
  19. PR — $1,104
  20. TN — $1,054
  21. AZ — $1,035
  22. MD — $871
  23. OR — $620
  24. NJ* — $143

  • CT* — Data not available
  • IL* — Data not available
  • ME* — Data not available
  • NY* — Data not available
  • VI* — Data not available
  • MA*— Not a state-plan in FY 2021

* These states are approved only for state and local government employers. Federal OSHA has jurisdiction over private employers in these states.

Any state not on the list is regulated by federal OSHA. Their penalty amounts are factored into the federal OSHA average penalty amount in the table, indicated by the U.S. item number 10.

What are FAME reports?

The purpose of the FAME reports is to assess the performance of each state-plan state during FY 2021 with regard to activities mandated by OSHA and to gauge the states’ progress toward resolving recommendations from the FY 2020 Follow-up FAME reports.

The average penalty amounts in the list above are found in Appendix D of each report, which offers FY 2021 state activity mandated measures. This Appendix also gives average penalties for serious violations based on the number of workers— 1-25, 26-100, 101-250, and over 250. Other measures are also provided such as average number of violations per inspection, planned versus actual inspections, percent of work fatalities responded to in one workday, and average number of workdays to initiate a complaint inspection.

What are state-plan states?

State plans are OSHA-approved workplace safety and health programs operated by individual states or U.S. territories. States with OSHA-approved programs must adopt standards that are at least as effective as OSHA's standards and are subject to OSHA approval and monitoring. Since the requirement is that state standards be “at least as effective” as the comparable federal regulations, the state standards may differ in some respects.

Key to remember

While federal OSHA had an average penalty rate of $3,100 per serious violation in FY 2021, nine state-plan states had higher and 14 state-plan states had lower average penalty rates. Data was not available for five state-plan states.