As you likely know, new maximum fines from OSHA have been in effect since the beginning of August. They are:
-$12,741 for serious and other-than-serious violations, up from $7,000
-$124,709 for repeat or willful violations, up from $70,000, and
-$12,741 per day for failure-to-abate, up from $7,000.
That 78.2% leap was made to catch up with inflation since 1990, the last time OSHA maximum fines were increased. From now on, as part of the 2016 federal budget law, Federal OSHA can increase maximum fines each year based on inflation.
If you’ve been keeping up with OSHA news, this might all be review. But what might not be is how the agency determines exact fines. The four main factors are:
-The gravity of the violation;
-The size of the company;
-A good faith effort to comply, and
-A history of previous violations.
As the name suggests, gravity carries the most weight.
According to OSHA’s existing Field Operations Manual for inspectors (https://www.osha.gov/OshDoc/Directive_pdf/CPL_02-00-159.pdf) the gravity of each individual violation is determined before any other calculations are made, with high gravity violations holding the maximum amount for serious, repeat and willful violations. Moderate gravity carries penalties between 57% and 86% of the allowable maximum, while low gravity can have penalties of 43% to 57% of the maximum.
Fine reductions are possible – for example, a good-faith reduction of up to 25% is possible if a company has a written safety and health management system.
Not surprisingly, penalty reductions come with restrictions, too. Some of those are that:
-Repeat violations are reduced only for company size.
-Willful violations are reduced only for company size and history.
-High gravity serious violations are reduced only for company size and history.
- A good faith reduction is not available when a willful, repeat or failure-to-abate violation is issued.
-So-called quick fix reductions are not issued when there is a fatality or serious injury, and this type of reduction is not issued when blatant violations are easily corrected, such as simply activating a ventilation system that is already in place or by putting on a hard hat when it is readily at the work site.