In November 2015, President Obama signed the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 into law. Among the provisions of the bill – mandatory increases in penalties for safety violations established under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. The maximum penalty values were last adjusted in 1990, and the new act adjusts these penalties to reflect the increase in cost of living since they were last set. While the exact percentages still have not been announced, the increases will be adjusted according to the difference in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) between October 2015 and October 1990. Beginning in 2017, OSHA penalties will be indexed against annual changes in the CPI.
What does that mean for you? The initial adjustment is expected to be around 78%. There are five types of OSHA violations categorized by severity. Roughly, this increase translates to the following:
- Other-than-Serious Violations: The current maximum penalty is $7,000. This is expected to increase to $12,500.
- Serious Violations: The current maximum penalty is $7,000. This is expected to increase to $12,500
- Repeat Violations: The current maximum penalty is $70,000. This is expected to increase to $125,000
- Willful Violation: The current minimum and maximum penalties are $5,000 and $70,000. This range is expected to increase to $9,000 at minimum to $125,000 at maximum
- Failure-to-Abate: The current maximum penalty is $7,000. This is expected to increase to $12,500
Note that these numbers are not set in stone. OSHA has the ability to increase these penalties by less than the CPI-adjusted formula if it deems that the increase would have an overall negative economic impact. OSHA is required to announce the initial penalty amounts by July 1, 2016, with the changes taking effect August 1, 2016. Following this initial increase, OSHA will be required to update these penalties annually by January 15th of each year.
If you’re in a state that operates their own OSHA-approved health and safety plans, be aware that these agencies will also be required to adjust their state-plan penalties to be at least equal to the federal OSHA standards.
How You Can Protect Yourself
OSHA violations typically occur during random inspections conducted by federal or state-level OSHA inspectors. When it comes to safety, prevention is the best medicine. A dedicated self-inspection program can help you identify safety hazards before they cause injury, reduce your liability in the case of a worker compensation claim, and diminish your chance of having to pay serious fines if an outstanding safety violation is found during an inspection. Contact us at Mobile Inspection to learn how to start, or improve upon, your own self-inspection process using our state-of-the-art software.