The new federal budget recently passed included a surprising provision requiring OSHA and other federal agencies to increase their fines on an annual basis based on fluctuations in the Consumer Price Index (roughly, inflation). The budget also requires OSHA to “catch up” its current fine levels to account for increases in the CPI over the last twenty-five years -- the last time OSHA updated in its fine schedule. Section 701 of the budget is the relevant Section, which can be viewed here.
Under the new fine schedule, OSHA fines will increase substantially -- some reports indicating as much as 80% -- meaning maximum fines could increase from $7,000 to $12,600 for a “serious” violation and from $70,000 to a staggering $126,000 for a “willful” violation.
It is worth noting that the budget was passed by the Republican-led Congress, signaling that even Republican lawmakers are amenable to the idea of using a larger, more aggressive OSHA to help generate additional revenue. This about-face makes it clear that regardless of the outcome of the 2016 elections, the “new,” more aggressive OSHA is here to stay.
Going forward, employers should start preparing for OSHA inspections now. The failure to do this will likely result in significant fines the next time OSHA comes knocking.