In June 2016, the US Department of Labor announced rules to adjust its penalties for inflation. OSHA last increased their penalties in 1990, and was given permission for a 78% increase. This was done to advance the effectiveness of civil monetary penalties, as well as to maintain their deterrent effect. The new law directs OSHA to adjust its penalties for inflation each year using a more straightforward method than previously available, and requires OSHA to publish "catch up" rules to make up for lost time since the last adjustments. The top penalty for “Serious” and “Other-than Serious” violations will rise from $7,000 to $12,471. The maximum penalty for willful or repeated violations will increase from $70,000 to $124,709.
To stay in compliance, each state run program must do the same. Iowa did so in the 2018 legislative session, and the effects are being seen now. For example a 10’ step-ladder with a damaged boot on one of its legs cost the contractor $7,500. There are numerous other examples as well.
If an employer gambles and doesn’t insist that safety rules are followed down to the last detail, the downside of paying an increased penalty on top of the increasing costs of workers compensation insurance when an employee is injured will make a huge difference. Employees should not fear losing their jobs because they turn in an extension cord with a broken-off ground pin, employers should thank them for making the worksite safer. Employees need to know that they can stop and think through an activity before charging ahead so safety measures are planned and implemented.
Working safely goes hand in hand with working efficiently, and when everyone on a jobsite is doing so there’s no need to worry about an OSHA penalty increase.
For assistance in making your job sites safer, enroll one in WORKSAFE.