As a result of the Federal budget signed into law on November 2, 2015, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) will be able to increase its fines for the first time in twenty-five years. Even though most federal agencies have had the ability to periodically increase fines to account for inflation, OSHA was prevented from doing so.
Importantly, OSHA is expected to increase its fines by 80% as a catch-up assessment to account for inflation from 1990 through 2015. As a result, the fine for a Serious violation is expected to increase from $7,000 to over $12,000. The fine for a Repeat or Willful violation is expected to increase dramatically from $70,000 to approximately $125,000. This 80% increase should take effect by August 1, 2016.
In addition to the 80% increase in fines by August 1, 2016, OSHA will also have the authority to increase fines annually based on the rate of inflation. This annual increase will take effect in January of each year.
So what does this mean for employers? The increases in fines dramatically raise the financial stakes for employers during OSHA inspections, especially if an employer is cited for a Repeat or Willful violation. Employers should conduct periodic safety audits to ensure compliance with OSHA standards.
Attorney Clayton Franklin practices in the areas of OSHA compliance and investigations. The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice.