DOJ Assist Could Bolster OSHA Penalties

Posted on 12/28/2015 by Roger Marks

A new Memo of Understanding between the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA)—and other US work safety agencies—could result in much stricter penalties for employers who violate work safety standards.

Penalizing employers for violations of the Occupational Safety & Health Act, or OSH Act, generally allows for only misdemeanor sentences (including up to 6 months in jail). To bolster criminal penalties and deter employers from ignoring the rules, the DOJ is taking action to increase the possible penalties for violating the OSH Act.
In a memo sent to all ninety-three US Attorneys nationwide, DOJ encourages prosecutors to consider ‘Title 18’ felony offenses and criminal environmental offenses that often occur alongside OSH Act violations when determining penalties.  By including criminal violations, such as making false statements, witness tampering, and environmental crimes, prosecutors may issue much more severe criminal penalties and sentences for violations, including prison terms ranging from 5 to 20 years.

See the US DOJ press release here.

This is the second time in 2015 that OSHA’s enforcement authority grew stronger. In November, OSHA was authorized to raise civil penalties for work safety violations for the first time in 25 years.

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