OSHA to Increase Fines for Serious and Willful Violations of Standards

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On November 2, 2015, Congress passed the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015. You’re thinking no biggie, the Feds are always passing legislation – it’s what they do… Think again!

A portion of the Act requires federal agencies – including OSHA – to increase monetary penalties based upon inflation for citations issued to employers who violate OSHA occupational safety and health standards. The increases are SIGNIFICANT and they take effect for all citations issued after August 1, 2016.

Under current rules, the maximum fine assessed for a serious violation of an OSHA standard is $7,000.00. After August 1, that penalty will increase to $12,500.00. That’s a $5,500 increase or about 56% more than the current fine.

Related: OSHA Proposes Raising Fines for Failure to Report Injuries by 400%

That’s not all… Currently, the penalty for a willful violation is $70,000.00. Willful violations are those in which the employer had knowledge that a safety / health standard was being violated at the time they were cited. The term “willful” is also applied to repeat violations – those for which the employer has already been cited once. Keeping the same percentage of increase, the new penalty for a willful violation will increase to $125,000.00 as of August 1, 2016.

What’s an employer to do?

  1. BE AWARE of the specific OSHA safety and health standards that apply to their business.  Don’t be naïve in thinking that your insurance office or bookkeeping firm is not covered under any OSHA standards. All businesses are covered under at least some of the OSHA standards.
  2. DEVELOP a written Employee Safety Program that states in plain language the safety rules that employees must follow while at work.
  3. PRESENT each current employee with a copy and have each employee sign an Acknowledgement Form showing that they received a copy. Incorporate the written safety program into the orientation process for all future employees.
  4. TRAIN your employees on how to follow the rules. Hold regular safety meetings that contain all the information an employee will need to work safely at your business. Allow plenty of time for discussion and be sure to have employees sign-in on an attendance form. Place a copy of the attendance form and any handouts or topic sheets used in the meeting into an Employee Training folder. Documentation of training is paramount.
  5. INSPECT your facility regularly for any hazardous conditions that may be present.  Depending upon your type of business, frequency of inspections may be as often as weekly or as few as bi-annually.
  6. CORRECT any hazardous conditions noted during the inspections. OSHA deems removal of the hazard as the best solution followed by engineering controls that restrict the potential for employees to be exposed to the hazard. The method LEAST recommended by OSHA is the use of personal protective equipment.
  7. HOLD EMPLOYEES ACCOUNTABLE for their actions – especially when a safety rule is violated. Violations of safety rules should be treated just like violations of any other work rule – like coming to work on time or wearing appropriate business dress. A progressive discipline policy will definitely help.

The difficulty of complying with OSHA regulations is directly proportional to the type of business your company is in as well as the number of worksite locations and the number of employees.  A well thought-out safety program and consistent enforcement of workplace safety rules will pay off big-time when OSHA knocks at your door.

Clients of Employers Resource Managers enjoy the assistance of a team of safety professionals who help in safety program development and implementation. Our team works with all kinds of businesses and we have over 100 years of combined experience in tailoring safety programs to exactly meet the client’s needs. Give us a call today to find out how Employers Resource can help your business.

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