OSHA’s Revises Penalty Policies for “Serious” and Repeat Violators

OSHA recently announced administrative enhancements to its penalty policies, specifically addressing those penalties that are considered "too low to have an adequate deterrent effect." According to Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, Dr. David Michaels, "For many employers, investing in job safety happens only when they have adequate incentives to comply with OSHA's requirements. Higher penalties and more aggressive, targeted enforcement will provide a greater deterrent and further encourage these employers to furnish safe and healthy workplaces for their employees."

These policies will reportedly become effective over the next several months. Some of the more significant changes include:

· The average penalty for any violation deemed "serious" will increase from $1000 to between $3000 and $4000.

· The time frame in which a company will be considered a "repeat offender" will increase from 3 to 5 years.

· Companies with repeat violations within the 5 year time frame will be penalized 10% more than companies without repeat violations.

· Minimum fines will increase to $500 and maximum fines could go from $7000 to $12000 (if legislation currently before Congress is passed into law).

Additionally, employers with a history of serious OSHA violations and repeat offenses can expect more frequent OSHA inspections with mandatory follow-up inspections. If there are safety concerns at other workplaces under the control of the employer, OSHA may also more frequently inspect those associated workplaces.