Safety and OSHA News

When will OSHA penalty increases begin?

We’ve known since late last year that OSHA penalties will increase in 2016. Now we know exactly when the increase will take place and the most likely amount.

The federal government has released a document outlining the process.

New penalties will take effect on Aug. 1, 2016.

But what if you’ve been inspected by OSHA before that date, but the penalties are issued on or after Aug. 1?

The larger fines will be issued in those cases.

Since OSHA can take up to six months after an inspection to issue citations and fines, this means some businesses that were already inspected by OSHA on or after Feb. 1 this year may pay the larger fines if they’re issued on or after Aug. 1.

Here’s another way to look at it: OSHA’s larger penalties are already in place.

How much will they be? We have a good idea, but there’s no official word, yet.

The document explaining the increases states that OSHA can raise penalties 1.78156 times their current amount. That’s the amount of increase in the Consumer Price Index from 1990 which was the last time OSHA fines were increased.

Rounding to the nearest dollar, that would raise the maximum serious fine from $7,000 to $12,471. The max repeat or willful fine would go from $70,000 to $124,709.

The bill passed last fall that gives OSHA the ability to increase fines allows the agency to ask for a smaller amount. But so far, OSHA hasn’t asked for that, so it appears the increase will be the maximum allowed by the law.

When will we officially know the new maximum penalty amounts? OSHA must publish in the Federal Register an Interim Final Rule by July 1, 2016. We will definitely know then. Another possibility is when OSHA has to submit its proposal to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), by May 2, 2016.

What about the impact of larger fines on small businesses? OSHA’s penalty structure will continue to provide a reduction factor based on the size of the company. But OSHA fines are going to increase for businesses of all sizes.

States with their own OSHA will have to enact penalty increases that are at least as much as federal OSHA’s. There will be some lag time for the states to be able to put those increases into effect.

We’ll keep you posted about all the changes.

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