You have likely heard the rumblings for some time now, but a long-predicted increase in the maximum fine amount that can be imposed by OSHA became a reality this month.
OSHA's maximum penalties will see an increase of 78.2% as of Aug. 1. Any citations issued by OSHA after that date will be subject to the new penalties if the related violations occurred after Nov. 2, 2015.
Specifically, the new maximum amounts for OSHA fines will be:
-$12,471 for a serious violation, up from $7,000
-$124,709 for a repeat or willful violation, up from $70,000, and
-$12,471 per day for failure-to-abate, up from $7,000.
Although that might come as a shock, it’s worth considering that the last time the maximum fines were adjusted was in 1990. OSHA said it will continue to adjust its penalties for inflation each year going forward based on the Consumer Price Index.
OSHA isn’t acting alone. According to the agency, the increase is in response to legislation enacted by Congress last year that requires all federal agencies to adjust their civil penalties to account for inflation.
There is also a trickle-down effect: States with their own OSHA will have to enact penalty increases that are at least as much as federal OSHA. Some lag time is expected for increases to show in such state-plan states, however.
OSHA will continue to provide a reduction in fines for small companies. The reduction percentage will remain the same, however, so small businesses will also see higher OSHA fines.
Assistant Secretary of Labor David Michaels at the June conference of the of American Society of Safety Engineers noted that OSHA’s fines are still relatively small compared to those of other federal agencies. In a slide show during a presentation at the conference, Michaels referenced a money.com headline, “Amazon fined almost nothing for failing to report workplace injuries” that referred to a maximum $7,000 for an infraction.