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OSHA penalties to increase Aug. 1

April 22, 2016
Unlike the Environmental Protection Agency, whose penalties are regularly adjusted due to inflation, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration does not similarly structure its penalties; instead OSHA is required to obtain congressional approval to increase penalties. 
The result: OSHA maximum penalties have virtually remained the same for decades and are disproportionate to the severity of penalties enforced by other agencies, such as the EPA and the Department of Transportation.
The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 includes a provision giving OSHA the authority to increase penalties in line with inflation by allowing a "catch-up adjustment" dating back to 1990. From 1990 through the end of 2015, the consumer price index rose by about 80 percent. Applying this logic, the resulting increases in OSHA penalties are estimated as follows:
• Serious Violation Fine: Increase from $7,000 to about $12,600
• Repeat or Willful Fine: Increase from $70,000 to about $126,000
David Michaels is the longest serving assistant secretary of labor for OSHA, and he has consistently worked to increase OSHA’s enforcement strength and effectiveness. OSHA has been given the authority to increase penalties effective Aug. 1, 2016, but the agency has not confirmed the percentage of increase that will be applied. Following the initial increase, OSHA will be permitted to increase penalties annually based on the consumer price index. "OSHA penalties," Michaels said, "must be increased to provide a real disincentive for employers accepting injuries and worker deaths as a cost of doing business."   
Workplace injuries and illnesses cause an enormous amount of physical, financial and emotional hardship for individual workers and their families. At the same time, costs to employers also are substantial, such as for workers’ compensation payments, decreased productivity, and the costs of replacing injured workers. These harsh realities underscore the urgent need for employers to provide a safe workplace for their employees.  
The increase in penalties is scheduled to take effect Aug. 1 in all states regulated by the federal OSHA. The federal changes will not automatically apply in "State Plan" states. But since regulations in State Plans must be at least as effective as federal OSHA requirements, penalties in State Plans may also be increased to match federal penalties.
Are you ready?
Here are some recommendations for businesses to make sure their facilities are ready for an OSHA inspection:
• Evaluate your safety program
• Ensure your inspection frequency is adequate
• Verify training is up-to-date
• Confirm all paperwork and documentation is in order including OSHA 300 Logs, written programs, and medical evaluations and respirator fit-testing, if applicable.