Phone: 630-495-2282 Fax: 630-495-2260 Map/Directions

Federal budget includes first increase in OSHA fines in 25 years

November 20, 2015
Fines assessed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are set to increase almost 80 percent after being stagnant the past 25 years, under a law signed Nov. 2.
In a section of legislation titled Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015, OSHA would be allowed a "catch up adjustment," apparently dating back to 1990, the last time OSHA fines were increased. From October 1990 to September 2015, the Consumer Price Index, upon which the increase would be based, rose 78.24 percent.
Applying that increase to the current maximum OSHA penalties would produce these results:
• The maximum repeat or willful violation fine would increase from $70,000 now to $124,768, and
• The maximum serious violation fine would increase from $7,000 to $12,477.
The bill calls for the adjustment to "take effect not later than Aug. 1, 2016."
Along with the one-time catch-up increase, OSHA penalties could increase each year using the CPI. The head of OSHA could choose not to increase fines the first year the new rules are in effect with the agreement of the director of the Office of Management and Budget.
Allowing OSHA to make the one-time increase and future inflationary increases would put it in line with many other federal agencies that can increase fines by inflation, including the Food and Drug Administration, the EPA, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the FCC, and several agencies under the Department of Transportation, including the Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Aviation Administration.
"Unscrupulous employers often consider it more cost effective to pay the minimal OSHA penalty and continue to operate an unsafe workplace than to correct the underlying health and safety problem," OSHA chief David Michaels said about previous bills that would increase agency penalties.