On April 22nd, OSHA released information about their Severe Violator Enforcement Program. As we have noted in prior blogs, OSHA has been working on a new penalty structure. According to the press release:
“For many employers, investing in job safety happens only when they have adequate incentives to comply with OSHA’s requirements,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Dr. Michaels. “Higher penalties and more aggressive, targeted enforcement will provide a greater deterrent and further encourage these employers to furnish safe and healthy workplaces for their employees.”
OSHA still wants to recognize companies for making a good faith effort and ease the burden on small businesses. Here are some of the changes:
History: OSHA will look at a 5 year history, rather than 3 year. This is for “high gravity serious, willful, repeat and failure to abate” citations. If there is no prior history of similar violations in the last 5 years, a company is eligible for a 10% reduction in fines. If there is a prior history, fines may go up 10%.
- For employers with 1-25 employees, a 40% reduction may apply
- For employers with 26-100 employees, a 30% reduction may apply
- For employers with 101-250 employees, a 10% reduction may apply
Quick Fixes: 15% reduction if an employer fixes a hazard during the inspection
Good faith effort: no changes (up to a 10% reduction)
Minimum penalties: The minimum penalty for a serious violation goes up to $500. If reductions bring the amount below $500, the minimum will apply (so we won’t see $170 penalties any more).
Posting violation: If OSHA has previously given an employer safety posters and they are not posted, a $250 penalty will apply.
The Area Director will still have authority to decide if reductions will be allowed. The maximum she or he can apply during an informal conference is 30%, without obtaining approval from the Regional Administrator. The Area Director can offer an additional 20% reduction for companies under 250 employees, if the employer “agrees to retain an outside safety and health consultant.”
Some high gravity serious violations will no longer be grouped–each violation will have its own citation and penalty.
Final penalties will be calculated on a serial basis. So, rather than add up all of the discounts and apply that, the reductions will be applied one at a time. That means that under the old system, if a company was entitled to a total of 70% reduction (history, good faith, quick fix, and size), a $5000 penalty would be reduced to $1500. Under the new calculations, a $5000 penalty will be reduced to $2275.
OSHA’s goal is to make clear to employers the importance of safety and to significantly impact employers who show a disregard to safety.
For more information on safety consultants, assistance with inspections and improving your safety program, please contact us at CHESS.