The average proposed fine for a serious violation as well as the number of inspections in which proposed fines exceed $100,000 and the percentage of inspections resulting from complaints are up in fiscal year 2014, an OSHA official told participants at the National Safety Council’s August annual convention in San Diego.
Patrick Kapust, deputy director of OSHA's enforcement inspectorate, said that, as of July, the average proposed fine for a serious violation was $2,067. This is a 9% increase over last year’s average of $1,897, but below the recent peak of $2,153 for 2012, he reported. The federal government’s 2014 fiscal year ends September 30.
The number of significant cases (i.e., those with total proposed fines exceeding $100,000) stood at 125 through July, compared to 118 for all of last year, Kapust said. The recent peak year was 2011, which had 202 significant cases. Inspections prompted by complaints have risen to 27% this year, from 23% in 2013. He suggested the increase could be due to agency efforts aimed at encouraging employees to speak up about safety concerns.
The number of inspections is down from last year, however, a reflection of the 16-day government shutdown last October, at the beginning of the fiscal year. The Office of Management and Budget reported OSHA had opened just 283 inspections during the shutdown, compared to 1,770 for the same period the previous year.
According to Kapust, OSHA initiated 30,679 inspections and cited 55,163 alleged violations during the first 10 months of the current fiscal year. The agency had projected about 38,000 inspections. In comparison, the figures in 2013 were 39,228 inspections and 78,196 alleged violations. In 2012, 40,961 inspections produced 78,727 alleged violations.
Although inspection numbers are down, the distribution of inspections conducted among establishments and the results of inspections remains relatively unchanged. For instance, construction inspections have comprised about 50% of the total so far this year. In 2013, the percentage was 52%, and 55% in 2012. Kapust added that about 75% of all inspections have yielded citations this year compared to 74% last year, and 76% in 2012.
“We’re about on target for our expectations this year,” he said in reference to citations with inspections, as quoted by Bloomberg BNA.
Final 2014 inspection numbers likely will be calculated in November, Kapust said.