For the first time in 25 years, companies could be paying significantly more for OSHA violations within the workplace. A budget bill President Obama has signed permits OSHA to increase its fines annually based on the consumer price index.
Therefore, OSHA would be allowed to make a one-time “catch-up” adjustment that would increase maximum penalty levels by about 80% to make up for the lack of increases since 1990. The effective date of the new final maximum penalty amounts is August 1, 2016.
Currently, the maximum initial fine for a serious violation is $7,000 and the maximum fine for a repeat or “willful” violation (even one that results in the death of a worker) is $70,000. These penalties are often viewed as ineffective and inadequate enough to incentivize companies to make drastic safety changes since some employers simply see them as the ‘cost of doing business.’ In comparison to other governmental agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Federal Communications Commission and Environmental Protection Agency, the potential new OSHA penalty cap of $124,709 is still quite low.
While Chief David Michael had been lobbying for fine increases for a long time, others worry that a sudden hike, rather than a gradual raise, could lay the groundwork for more legal battles by companies who choose to contest the high fees. The industries that would likely be most vulnerable to increased penalties include: construction, manufacturing, mining, utilities, and oil and gas extraction. Some argue that it would be more effective for OSHA to give more guidance on how to handle safety issues, like the severe labor shortage that is putting more inexperienced workers on hazardous work sites, rather than increase the penalty fines.
If you have any questions regarding OSHA regulations, feel free to give us a call at 877-765-3030 or visit our PureWay Store. PureWay’s OSHA compliance programs are built from the ground up and fully customized to your office based on a hazard assessment.