Exempt from penalty increases due to inflation since the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act of 1990, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will be raising the cost of citations for the first time in a quarter century.
The Omnibus Reconciliation Act of 1990 was a measure to reduce the United State budget deficit, which, in turn, was the last time OSHA carried out a penalty increase. Now, the new budget recently approved by President Obama, allows a provision for OSHA to catch up with inflation for the past 25 years. Inflation in that time is estimated to be around 80%, which could equate to 80% increases in OSHA penalties for contractors. The final decision will have to be made no later than August 1st, 2016 according to the amendment, so it’s not necessarily final that all penalties will jump up the full 80%.
That’s not the end of the increases, however. The very next section in the budget allows OSHA the ability to raise their penalties every year, but the maximum increase cannot exceed the determined inflation percentage. The current maximum penalty from OSHA is $7,000 for serious violations, but can jump to $70,000 for repeated or willful violations. An 80% increase in those amounts would jump those to $12,600 and $126,000, respectively. Those numbers don’t sound that high, but if OSHA is coming to your job site for a reason, they probably aren’t going to only find one infraction.
OSHA fines to increase significantly | Safety and Health Magazine
Just over a year ago, in September of 2017, Hurricane Irma blew through Miami, Florida, bringing extremely high speed wind with it. The wind caused 3 cranes to collapse in southern Florida, 2 in downtown Miami and 1 more in Ft. Lauderdale. Interesting video of the dismantling of one of the failed cranes was shared on Youtube.
In September of 2017, OSHA’s new standard on exposure to respirable crystalline silica went into effect in the construction industry. The rule lowered the allowable exposure to the harmful substance to 50 micrograms per cubic meter, a measurement that we’re all familiar with [/sarcasm]. After a full year of enforcement, OSHA is considering making a change to the rule.
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Last week, we shared some newly updated Trenching and Excavation safety information from OSHA, which was part of their priority goals for 2018. Those updates included a public service announcement and updated online resources. The administration has just announced the update of their National Emphasis Program (NEP) on trenching and excavation safety, which features a period of education and prevention outreach.
Earlier this year, it was announced that reducing injuries and deaths caused by trenching and excavation collapses would be a priority goal for OSHA in 2018. The administration planned to achieve this through increased inspection rates, public service announcements (PSA), updating online resources, and creating a better public-private partnership. Recently, OSHA made good on their promise to issue PSAs and update their online resources.
In a time where many industry groups are strongly fighting against new regulations of any kind, more than 130 organizations have co-signed a petition for OSHA to establish a national standard for heat protection across many industries.
As other organizations, like the NTSB, are busy analyzing the root cause of the pedestrian bridge collapse that killed 6 people and injured 8 others in Florida in March, OSHA has finished their investigation and issued safety violations to 5 different contractors.
OSHA had to fight hard to finally get its relatively new crystalline silica dust exposure regulations passed, and, once it did, the agency wasted no time enforcing the law. In the regulations first 6 months, OSHA issued 116 violations, but the highest penalty at that point was $9,239. More recently, the Virginia Occupational Safety and Health Compliance Division (VOSH) has possibly issued a record citation to a highway contractor, a whopping $304,130 penalty.