As an employer, you’re probably aware of how important it is to maintain a safe working environment. Failing to comply with OSHA standards can result in costly fines and bad publicity. OSHA fines updates were recently announced, and companies who violate regulations will face much stiffer penalties moving forward.
What Are the Implications?
In November 2015, Congress enacted legislation that mandated federal agencies such as OSHA to raise their penalties to account for inflation. OSHA’s penalties had remained unchanged for over 25 years (since 1990), so this new adjustment is designed to ensure that violating companies pay accordingly.
According to information on OSHA’s website, “The new penalties took effect August 2, 2016. Any citations issued by OSHA on or after this date will be subject to the new penalties if the related violations occurred after November 2, 2015.”
The specific amount of the increase for violation is 78 percent, which is quite substantial. Here’s a breakdown of how the maximum penalties have increased:
|Type of Violation||Current Maximum Penalty||New Maximum Penalty|
|$7,000 per violation||$12,471 per violation|
|Failure to Abate||$7,000 per day beyond the abatement date||$12,471 per day beyond the abatement date|
|Willful or Repeated||$70,000 per violation||$124,709 per violation|
Continued Increases in the Future
Not only did this bill result in higher penalties in 2016, it will mean rising fines every year to keep up with the inflation rate. Although the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act kept OSHA and a handful of other federal agencies exempt from increasing their fines for years, you should now see an annual increase in fines by no later than January 15 each year.
How Will This Affect My Business?
These OSHA fines updates are a wake up call for companies who may not have been making safety a priority. If you incur a penalty moving forward, it’s going to be significantly more costly than it would have been in the past. This is especially true for a willful or repeated violation. In theory, a serious violation such as this could put a small company out of business.
Protecting Your Business
If your safety standards aren’t necessarily where they should be, it’s a good idea to consult OSHA’s Small Business Handbook. It contains a wealth of valuable information on OSHA regulations and can minimize your chances of being penalized.
You may also want to participate in a free, on-site consultation where an OSHA representative visits your workplace to assess your safety level and looks for potential hazards. You won’t receive any citations or penalties during this visit, and you may qualify for a one-year exemption from OSHA inspections. If you’re interested, you can learn more via this section of the OSHA website.
The recent OSHA fines updates prove just how vital workplace safety is. If you’ve been slacking in this area for whatever reason, it’s time to make safety a priority. Fortunately, OSHA is more than willing to help you improve your safety and can help you steer clear of penalties.