As OSHA fines increase, twenty-five years worth of inflation are added in one fell swoop

The fine for running afoul of the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) just got higher for the first time in a quarter of a century.

The increases are a result of President Barack Obama’s signing of Public Law No: 114-74 (11/02/2015) also known as the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015.

Under Title VII Judiciary is a section titled “Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015” that allows OSHA to increase fines for citations along with inflation.

In layman’s terms, this gives OSHA the authority to raise the “fines” for citations based on the cost of living increases that have occurred since 1990. That amounts to an impressive increase of 82%. The current fine for a “serious” citation goes from $7,000 to $12,700. The fine for a “willful” or “repeat offender” citation would move from $70,000 to $127,000.

A 1990 bill required federal agencies to raise their fines to keep pace with inflation, but OSHA, and a few other federal agencies, were specifically exempted.

For those manufacturers who have never had an OSHA inspection, the first thing an OSHA inspector asks for during an OSHA inspection are copies of the plant OSHA 300 log and the written program, training records and hardware/plant floor MSDS for those programs. If the employer does not have those records etc., OSHA will issue a citation for not being in compliance. Through the end of 2015 the fine was $7,000 for each separate citation. Under the new fines schedule that OSHA imposed after January 1, 2016, those fines increased to $12,700.

It would be prudent for entities covered by OSHA to check to be sure they are in compliance with the sections of OSHA dealing with the OSHA 300 log, 1910.147 LOTO and 1910.1200.

While an increase of over 80% is obviously jarring at face value, OSHA fines remain small compared to those issued by many other regulatory agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency.

The AFL-CIO said the average fine last year for an incident in which a worker died was $7,000, reduced to $5,050 following settlement talks, according to the Washington Post.

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