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What Is the Proposed $700,000 OSHA Penalty Increase, and How Might It Affect Your Organization?

What Is the Proposed $700,000 OSHA Penalty Increase, and How Might It Affect Your Organization?

OSHA is a part of The United States Department of Labor, and covers the majority of the workers in the private sector. According to The United States Department of Labor Website, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was created by Congress to ensure healthy and safe working conditions. This is accomplished by means of promoting and enforcing specified standards, compliance, providing training, outreach, along with education and assistance. 

 

What Is the Change In Violation Penalty?

According to White House website, a Congressional committee has given their approval in levying maximum fines of $700,000 per violation. The penalty amounts differ depending upon the type of violation, and penalty levels. 

The current maximum penalty for “willful”, “repeated”, and “failure to abate” violations is $136,532. The increase to $700,000, accounts for nearly a 500% increase in violation cost. The minimum violation cost, which currently sits at $9,753 will be raised to $50,000. Any serious offenses will be raised from $13,653 to $70,000.

Considering the monumental increase in maximums, a single violation could in theory put an organization out of business. The House Committee on Education and Labor has declared its intent to create better wages and increase the enforcement of labor laws. The White House has declared their position on the matter with the “Build Back Better Agenda”.  

According to the White House website, the build back better agenda is “an ambitious plan to create jobs, cut taxes, and lower costs for working families – all paid for by making the tax code fairer and making the wealthiest and large corporations pay their fair share.” It should be expected however, to see more companies contesting the violation charges as a means to lower penalty costs. 

Should Congress pass the new proposal, it would then go on to the Senate, where if passed would proceed to take effect. Congress has already funded the agency with a $707 million dollar budget, which given the history of such increases, seems necessary to combat what could be inevitable contest costs. 

 

What Are the Types of Violations

There are several different types of violations that can occur under OSHA:

Serious

  • Extremely unsafe working conditions that are likely to cause health related issues, imminent harm, and even death. In this violation, the employer was either aware of the poor conditions or held no reasonable excuse for remaining ignorant to said conditions.
  • The violation penalty will be levied.

Other-than-serious

  • The conditions were unfavorable, directly affecting the health and safety of employees, though not so much as to cause death or serious harm. 
  • The violation penalty is considered discretionary. 

Willful

  • The employer was fully aware and responsible for committing to poor health and safety standards. They were either aware that they were committing a violation or knowingly allowed said violations to occur without corrective action.
  • They may be subject to a violation penalty.

Repeated

  • When an employer commits a violation and then commits a different, yet similar, offense in the future.
  • Repeat violations can prompt a larger penalty.

Failure to abate

  • Failure to abate occurs when an employer fails to take corrective action after being charged with committing a violation prior.
  • They are levied another violation penalty.

 

What Is Considered a Violation?

OSHA is responsible for nearly 7 million worksites. In order to remain systematic, they rely on a priority list. They focus their energy primarily on the most hazardous conditions in the following order:

Imminent Danger

  • This refers to any condition that could cause serious harm or death. This will always receive top priority.

Severe Injury

  • Employers are required to report any work-related deaths within 8 hours, and any work-related hospitalizations within 24 hours.

Worker Complaints

  • Any allegations regarding or potential hazards and/or violations will receive a high priority. Employees are allowed anonymity should they file a complaint. 

Referrals

  • Any referral from another organization or local agency will receive consideration for inspection. 

Targeted Inspections 

  • These are inspections aimed at organizations with a history of hazardous conditions or injury and illness. These cases will receive high priority. 

Follow-Up Inspections

  • This is a check up to investigate potential abatement of violations previously cited. 

 

What Does This Change Mean for Your Organization?

As stated by SHRM, any organization that is considered covered under the Occupational Safety and Health Act can be  subjected to any inspections granted by OSHA compliance health and safety officers. It is crucial that you understand the significance of maintaining the health and safety of your organization. With these violation increases, it could soon mean the end for organizations who are not compliant.

To this point, this measure has not been voted into place. If you are concerned that you may be in violation, do not wait. Work to correct the issues immediately. Refer to this fact sheet presented by OSHA, if you need a better understanding of what constitutes a violation. It is essential to remain compliant and maintain a proper understanding of these changes. 

 

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