Back to Posts
Posts

OSHA Raises Maximum Penalty Amounts

EHSQ Alliance Contributor

OSHA again is increasing maximum penalties for violations of workplace health and safety regulations.

On Jan. 10, 2020, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced another increase in the maximum civil monetary penalties for violations of federal Occupational Safety and Health standards and regulations. The new monetary penalties will be nearly 2 percent higher than the current maximum penalty amounts.

Effective Jan. 15, 2020, the maximum penalty for “Willful” or “Repeated” violations is $134,937, a more than $2,000 increase from the 2019 maximum for the same kinds of violations. The maximum penalty for “Failure to Abate” violations is $13,494 per day after the abatement date. Finally, the maximum penalty allowed for “Serious,” “Other-Than-Serious” and “Posting Requirements” violations is $13,494, an increase of over $200 from the 2019 maximum amounts. Importantly, states that operate their own Occupational Safety and Health plans are required to adopt maximum penalties levels that are at least as effective as federal OSHA’s.

The Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Act Improvements Act of 2015 (Inflation Adjustment Act) requires OSHA to adjust its maximum monetary penalty levels to account for inflation no later than Jan. 15 of each year. Adjustments are made by issuing a final rule, which becomes effective when it is published in the Federal Register. The current adjustment is tied to the percent change between the October 2019 Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (“CPI-U”) and the October 2018 CPI-U.

It is important for employers to be cognizant of these increases. While it might sometimes seem like an attractive option to simply accept a “Serious” penalty and pay the $13,494 fine instead of paying to challenge the citation, such instant gratification could pose issues (and serious financial headaches) for an employer in the future. This is particularly true where the timeframe for challenging a citation is short, making the business decision on whether to challenge the citation that much more difficult. However, it is important to consider the following: while the maximum penalty for a “Repeated” violation is $134,937, in the next few years, the maximum penalty could reach over $150,000 after inflation adjustments are applied. It is also routine for an employer to receive multiple violations in one OSHA Citation and Notification of Penalty. Multiple penalties at $134,937, let alone any other penalty after inflation, could have drastic effects for a business and/or a worksite.

Therefore, it is imperative that employers consciously weigh the potential exposure the inflated rates may pose in the future when considering whether to challenge “Serious” violations today.

About the authors: Michael T. Taylor is Chair of GreenbergTraurig’s Labor & Employment Practice's OSHA group. He focuses his practice on the representation of employers in a variety of industries regarding OSHA and Chemical Safety Board (CSB) matters across the country. Over the last 18 years, Taylor has defended scores of employers during enforcement litigation before federal OSHA, Cal-OSHA, SC-OSHA, WA-DOSH, as well as other state plan states. Many of these representations have involved a significant injury, fatality or catastrophic event in the workplace. He also provides OSHA compliance counseling, OSHA inspection counseling, OSHA whistleblower representation, and OSHA due diligence reviews, and CSB investigations for clients. 

Adam Roseman focuses his practice at GreenbergTraurig on federal and state labor and employment investigations, counseling and litigation arising under Title VII, the Fair Labor Standards Act, whistleblower retaliation under Sarbanes-Oxley and Dodd-Frank, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, and restrictive covenants. Adam also has experience on white collar matters, representing clients during internal investigations and in civil and criminal government enforcement actions including the defense of qui tam/False Claims Act complaints.

January 22, 2020 @ 11:18 AM EST Manufacturing, Construction, Chemical, Energy - Oil and Gas Health & Safety

This Post hasn't been commented on yet.
Login or Sign Up to comment.