With 12 short months remaining before the next presidential election, OSHA and the Obama administration are in a mad scramble to finish issuing new rulings on a wide range of safety issues ranging from silica and combustible dust to record keeping. Only time will tell how these agenda items will fare, but one thing is certain—OSHA will start issuing stiffer civil penalties in the not-so-distant future.
A provision of Budget Act of 2015 (enacted in early November) allows OSHA to increase civil penalties for the first time since 1990. Under the terms of the new deal, a one-time “catch-up “ may raise the old, $7,000 cap on serious violations by as much as $12,600 and the $70,000 limit on willful and repeat violations to $126,000. After the one-time catch-up is applied, OSHA may adjust penalties each year using the annual percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index. To put these changes in context, the $143.6 million in penalties handed out during FY 2014 would have come in just shy of $260 million.
OSHA has lobbied Congress for years in an attempt to increase civil penalties for violations and Department of Labor officials routinely cite low civil penalties and weak criminal sanctions as major obstacles to enforcing safety standards. To OSHA’s way of thinking, stiffer penalties are the best way to discourage employers from accepting accidents as “a cost of doing business.” As a heads up, the increased civil penalties are scheduled for implementation no later than August 1, 2016. The moral of the story here is simple—future run-ins with OSHA will cost your business dearly.
When it comes to best practices to stay well clear of the new civil penalties, we are best qualified to speak on fall protection. You can start by reviewing your fall protection program, employee safety training, and documentation. Now is also a good time to request a comprehensive fall hazard assessment and to begin taking mitigation steps. Remember, making good faith efforts to create and maintain a safe workplace will serve you well if your company comes under the watchful eye of OSHA. To learn more about fall protection strategies to enhance worker safety and ensure OSHA compliance, contact the safety experts at Diversified Fall Protection for further assistance.
Diversified Fall Protection is a complete turnkey provider of OSHA compliant fall protection systems. Contact us for expert assistance with your pre-engineered and engineered fall arrest, fall restraint and fall protection safety requirements