On January 23, 2019, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) published a final rule in the Federal Register increasing civil penalties assessed or enforced by the DOL, including the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The purpose of the increase is to adjust for inflation pursuant to the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act of 1990, as amended by the Inflation Adjustment Act.
OSHA penalties have been adjusted as follows:
- For serious and non-serious violations, maximum civil penalties have increased from $12,934 to $13,260. Serious violations exist if there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from the violation, unless the employer did not, or could not with the exercise of reasonable diligence, know of the presence of the violation. 29 U.S.C. 666(k).
- For willful violations, the maximum civil penalties have increased from $129,336 to $132,598.
- For repeated violations, maximum civil penalties have increased from $129,336 to $132,598.
- For violations of the OSHA posting requirement, penalties have increased from $12,934 to $13,260. When an employer receives an OSHA citation, it must post that citation or a copy at or near the place where each violation occurred for 3 working days or until the hazard is abated. 29 C.F.R. 1903.6.
- For failure to abate violations, penalties have increased from $12,934 to $13,260 per day beyond the abatement date.
Employers should be aware that these increased penalties apply to any penalties assessed on or after January 24, 2019. Because OSHA's statute of limitations to issue citations for violations is six months, these higher penalties would apply to violations alleged to have occurred as far back as July 24, 2018.