In a number of our posts, we have noted that the penalties for not reporting workplace injuries or hospitalizations will increase in 2017, but we would be remiss if we did not mention that the penalties for safety violations will increase much sooner.
According to the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, all federal agencies with civil monetary penalties established by statute are required to update their fines and continue to increase them as the rate of inflation continues to grow.
This mandates that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to update its civil penalty fines. OSHA has not updated its fine schedule in over 25 years, so changes were more than just mandated by statute. They were long overdue.
The maximum penalty for serious violations will increase to $12,471 from $7,000. Similarly, the harshest penalty for repeat violations will now be $124,471 instead of $70,000. These are increases of over 70 percent, but it remains to be seen whether they will be effective in deterring fraudulent behavior.
Federal regulators believe that the new penalties will affect small employers, but as for large contractors, they are not expected to be particularly effective. For instance, a company that makes millions in fees on a weekly basis will be intimidated by what is essentially a $125,000 fine. Nevertheless, workers who are employed by these behemoths still are entitled to the protections created under federal law; and if an employer was not compliant or even negligent in its duties, an employee could be awarded much more than what may be paid out through workers compensation.