Starting in August, the United States Department of Labor will apply its adjusted penalty amounts to all new violations of Occupational Safety & Health Administration regulations. The United States Congress enacted legislation in 2015 requiring all federal agencies to adjust their civil penalties to account for inflation, and it has taken nine months for OSHA to put an inflation plan in place and roll it out. According to OSHA.gov, the new penalties will take effect after August 1, 2016, and any citations issued by OSHA after that date will be subject to the new penalties if the related violations occurred after November 2, 2015.
As stated on the website, the agency’s maximum penalties were last adjusted in 1990, and to make up for the 26 years of rising prices, the penalties have been increased by 78 percent. To avoid another dramatic increase to penalties in the future, the agency will continue to adjust its penalties for inflation each year based on the Consumer Price Index.
Starting after August 1, 2016:
- Serious or Other-Than-Serious Posting Requirements violations will rise from $7,000 to $12,471 per violation.
- Failure to Abate violations will rise from $7,000 per day beyond the abatement date to $12,471 per day beyond the abatement date.
- Willful or Repeated violations will rise from $70,000 per violation to $124,709 per violation.
To provide guidance on the implementation of the new penalties, OSHA will issue revisions to its Field Operations Manual by Aug. 1. States that operate their own Occupational Safety and Health Plans are required to adopt maximum penalty levels that are at least as effective as Federal OSHA’s.
To address the impact of the penalty increases on smaller businesses, such as independently owned dentistries, OSHA will continue to provide penalty reductions based on the size of the employer and other factors. But to avoid penalties all together, small businesses are encouraged to take advantage of OSHA’s On-Site Consultation Program, which offers free and confidential safety and occupational health advice. While priority is given to high-hazard working sites, the program aims to help all small- and medium-sized businesses in all states across the country.
According to the OSHA consultation program website, On-site Consultation services are separate from enforcement and do not result in penalties or citations. “Consultants from state agencies or universities work with employers to identify workplace hazards, provide advice on compliance with OSHA standards, and assist in establishing injury and illness prevention programs,” reads the website.
I know this post contains a lot of links and a lot of information, and I realize it’s a lot to get through and understand; but I highly suggest that all of our readers look over the material contained in this blog and take advantage of the OSHA-provided resources. Not only will having this information protect your business from steep fines, it will also help make your workplace more safe for you and your employees.