Whether you believe the prospect of OSHA penalties encourages employers to create and maintain safe workplaces or not, we can state one fact with certainty—the cost of a fall went up this year.
Thanks to the Bipartisan budget act of 2015, Congress empowered OSHA to raise maximum penalties for the first time since 1990.
The maximum penalty for serious violations increased from $7,000 to $12,471 per violation while the cost of a willful or repeat violation rose from $70,000 to 124,709. In addition to the 78% penalty increase that went into effect this fall, OSHA will now make additional, annual adjustments to keep pace with inflation. So, what does this news mean to you, and what should you do about it?
Some OSHA inspections are random, while others are triggered by whistle blowers or Local Emphasis Programs (LEP’s). That said, the vast majority of OSHA inspections take place on the heels of an accident that resulted in a recordable event (an injury requiring hospital treatment or resulting in death).
Recordable incidents that result from falls trigger inspections—and the resulting OSHA penalties just got more expensive. In a worst case scenario (willful and serious citations), the bar tab is 78% higher than last year. It’s also important to point out that the OSHA penalties triggered by a fall are merely the tip of the iceberg—your workers’ compensation premiums, health insurance, legal fees, and civil court costs will see corresponding increases too.
One of the biggest mistakes companies make when it comes to fall protection is working from a reactive posture. The emphasis on fall protection programs, rescue training, and the installation of fall protection systems often comes after the fact—in response to a serious or fatal accident. Becoming proactive and making changes before disaster strikes does require committing company resources to fall hazard remediation. That said, investing in fall protection pales by comparison when you consider the $1.5 to $3 million price tag the Centers for Disease Control and the National Safety Council associate with fatal workplace falls.
Circling back to our thoughts on taking a proactive stance, the best way to get started is to commission a fall protection company to perform a hazard assessment. Once completed, you’ll have a written document that identifies potential fall hazards, recommends solutions, and offers budgetary numbers for planning purposes.
A thorough fall hazard assessment is an important first step in minimizing your company’s financial exposure to OSHA fines, but the real goal is more than compliance and avoiding fines. The ultimate aim is creating a safe working environment that ensures everyone safely returns home at the end of their shift. To learn more about fall protection, or to discuss a specific application, contact the safety specialists at Diversified Fall Protection.