In Case You Missed It…

There are lots of reasons to work hard to provide your employees a healthy and safe workplace. Here’s one more—on August 1, OSHA increased all of its civil monetary penalty amounts[1] and issued related revisions to its Field Operations Manual.[2] These updates were promulgated pursuant to the 2015 Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act (the “Act”), under which Congress mandated that federal agencies adjust the level of statutory civil penalties with a one-time “catch-up” adjustment for inflation through an interim final rulemaking effective August 1, 2016. Following the “catch-up” adjustment, agencies will have to make subsequent annual adjustments for inflation. Because these changes were mandated by Congress, OSHA was able to publish the updates as a direct final rule and was not required to provide a notice-and-comment period. These new amounts will become effective for penalties assessed after August 1, 2016 for violations that occurred after November 2, 2015, when the Act was finalized.

Authorized state occupational safety & health programs are required to adopt these new figures in order to remain as effective as OSHA’s program. OSHA’s penalties previously had not been updated since they were last revised in 1990; therefore, the increase in penalties is substantial. Although OSHA is revising these maximum penalty amounts, OSHA may not seek the maximum penalty in all cases; however, OSHA head Dr. Michaels has stated that he believes that penalties under the OSH Act continue to be inadequate, and that he wishes OSHA could issue the sizeable fines that EPA can. Therefore, OSHA enforcement personnel may not be inclined to use their enforcement discretion to lower penalties.

The revised penalty figures can be found in the following table:

Please click here to view table