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OSHA Authorized to Raise Civil Penalties for First Time in 25 Years

Posted on 11/6/2015 by Roger Marks

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 became law this week, and in addition to setting a budget for the US government, the Act addresses civil penalties for employer violations of US Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) work safety regulations.

In Section 701 of the bill, titled Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015, the new legislation sets criteria for OSHA to use to adjust civil penalty amounts to keep pace with inflation.

Initial 2016 OSHA Civil Penalty Adjustment

Because OSHA was in the past precluded by law from adjusting its civil penalty amounts, the first adjustment—to take effect no later than August 1, 2016—will be significant. Employers can expect OSHA civil penalty amounts to increase by at least 50%.

The Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act of 1990 required most Federal agencies to review and adjust their civil penalties once every five years. OSHA was excluded from this penalty-adjusting authority at the time. Observers of the Consumer Price Index (CPI)—a measure of inflation in the US—estimate that inflation since 1990 amounts to about 82%. OSHA penalties could rise at that rate if OSHA takes the most dramatic action allowed under the new bill.

OSHA civil penalties to rise


Subsequent OSHA Civil Penalty Adjustments

After the initial, sticker-shock adjustment, OSHA will—like other Federal agencies—review and adjust its penalty amounts to keep pace with inflation once every five years.

The full text of the new budget bill, H.R. 1314, is available at Congress.gov.

Rising Penalties Makes OSHA Training Even More Important

With the imminent rise in OSHA civil penalties, providing effective employee safety training just became that much more critical. Enroll your team in the 10 Hour OSHA General Industry Online Course, and be confident your employees can protect themselves and their colleagues at your site, and avoid the on-the-job injuries that already cost employers and estimated $1 billion per week—and are likely to cost even more in the future.

Tags: fines and penalties, osha, workplace safety

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