The Department of Labor (DOL) announced a 2% increase in penalties levied against employers that violate the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) labor regulations.
This marks the second adjustment in under two years and both hikes were implemented in order to comply with the Inflation Adjustment Act. The new penalties will be applied to any violation of the OSHA rules or standards that occurs after January 2, 2018.
In August of 2016, the DOL instituted a 78% increase in OSHA penalties–a radical departure from over two decades of unchanged rates. The DOL raised the fines to match inflation and mandated that a recurring increase be assessed in January every year. This increase is pegged to the inflation rate measured by the Consumer Price Index.
What are the changes?
OSHA categorizes fines by their severity and neglect. Violations are either “not serious,” “serious,” or “willful.” Additionally, a failure to correct a previous violation during the abatement period or a repetition of a previous offense will result in additional fines. Here’s a quick breakdown of the new fines:
|Violation||Penalties As Of January 2, 2018|
|A “Not Serious” violation of OSHA Rules or Standards||Up to $12,934|
|A “Serious” violation of OSHA Rules or Standards||Up to $12,934|
|A “Willful” violation of OSHA Rules or Standards||Minimum of $9,239 up to $129,336|
|A repeat violation of OSHA Rules or Standards||Up to $129,336|
|Failure to correct a violation||Up to $12,934 for each day the condition continues|
|A violation of posting requirements||Up to $12,934|
This year’s 2% increase might not seem like much, but it’s important to keep in mind that in 2016 fines were already increased by 78%. That means that where a maximum penalty was once $7,000 two years ago, it’s now $12,934.
What employers should do to avoid fines like these:
Some of the largest penalties imposed on businesses are the result of scheduling failures and oversight mishaps. OSHA mandates that businesses under their regulatory jurisdiction assign tasks to the appropriate personnel. Employees are categorized in a number of ways such as “competent,” “qualified,” “authorized” and, “certified.”
The citation notices issued by OSHA are public record and informal and formal training requirements are strictly adhered. When polled, employers often indicate that adhering OSHA regulations is one of their greatest challenges.
Since it is impossible to predict when an OSHA Compliance Officer will show up for an inspection, your best bet is to be proactive about scheduling and record-keeping. The best way to do this is with Deputy’s all-in-one and cloud-based employee management system. By utilizing such a program to schedule your employees for the proper tasks, you’re not only proactively avoiding costly (and potentially life-threatening mistakes), but you’re also establishing an electronic record of good behavior.
That’s crucial since OSHA penalties are somewhat discretionary and area directors are able to adjust the fines downward by as much as 95%. Adjustments are based on a number of qualifications, but chief among them is evidence of good faith. Finally, and above all else, employers should always ask for an “informal conference” when they are issued a citation. If you’re using the right tools to track your employee assignments and have thoroughly documented their assorted tasks along the way, an honest mistake will be readily understood.
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