“For many employers, investing in job safety happens only when they have adequate incentives to comply with OSHA’s requirements,” said David Michaels, OSHA’s assistant secretary of labor. “Higher penalties and more aggressive, targeted enforcement will provide a greater deterrent and further encourage these employers to furnish safe and healthy workplaces for their employees.”
The current maximum penalty for a serious OSHA violation — one capable of causing death or serious physical harm — is $7,000, and the maximum penalty for a willful violation is $70,000.
Under the policy change, the average penalty for a serious violation will increase from about $1,000 to $3,000 to $4,000, which is an increase of 300% to 400%.
Among the steps OSHA is taking to revise its penalty classification system:
- In its assessment of penalties, the time frame for considering an employer’s history of violations is being expanded from three years to five years.
- Penalties are being increased by 10% for employers that have been cited for any high-gravity, serious, willful, repeat or failure-to-abate violations within the previous five years.
- The minimum penalty for a serious violation is being increased to $500.
- The reduction in a penalty that an OSHA area director can offer at an informal conference is being limited to 30%.
- The final penalties are being calculated serially, instead of the current practice that arrives at a proposed penalty by adding up all the penalty reductions and then multiplying that total percentage by the gravity-based penalty.
OSHA also recently announced a new Severe Violators Enforcement Program (SVEP) that increases its focus on repeatedly recalcitrant employers. The SVEP will contain significant changes to the 2008 revision of the Enhanced Enforcement Program (EEP). Noteworthy changes include:
- Focusing on certain high-emphasis hazards, including fall protection
- Ensuring nationwide inspections on related worksites of SVEP-identified employers
- Requiring mandatory follow-up inspections
- Directing the SVEP or a similar version to be implemented in state plans
For more specifics from OSHA on its policy change, click here.