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Penalty Increases And A Stronger, Tougher OSHA In 2016

TheOccupational Safety and Health Administration penalty structure, which hasn’t changed since 1990, is about to get a boost to catch up with current prices. The long-standing maximum penalty amounts of $7,000 for a serious violation and $70,000 for a willful or repeat violation may jump to as much as $12,400 and $124,000, respectively. On the other end of the spectrum, in an extreme example of an enforcement action, OSHA, in conjunction with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, recently prosecuted an employer for violations under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) and other federal laws, for making false statements to OSHA investigators which carries a maximum sentence of 25 years imprisonment. These trends, along with a new policy by OSHA on how it counts inspections for statistical purposes, will likely lead to increased numbers of citations and penalty amounts.

Penalties to Increase

The OSH Act of 1970 specified that the maximum penalty for a serious violation was $1,000, and the maximum penalty for a repeat or willful violation was $10,000. In 1990, the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act increased serious violations to $7,000 and willful/repeat violations to $70,000. Also in 1990, the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act directed some agencies to raise their penalties, but exempted OSHA. So, for the past 25 years the OSHA penalty amounts have remained static. In November 2015, President Obama signed the budget bill, which included the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements of 2015 and will change that.

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