For the first time in 25 years, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration will increase fines for worker safety violations.
The increase was part of a bipartisan budget deal signed in November 2015. It raises maximum penalties for worker injuries and deaths from $70,000 to $125,000 for willful violations. Serious violations increase from $7,000 to $12,500. In addition, OSHA will be required to review fines each year and adjust for inflation if necessary, which is the policy of other federal agencies such as the FDA, EPA and EEOC.
Although part of the incentive for the increase was to put fines more in line with inflation, OSHA management also stressed that the increase will help provide a disincentive for companies to accept worker deaths and injuries as a cost of doing business. “Unscrupulous employers often consider it more cost effective to pay the minimal OSHA penalty and continue to operate an unsafe workplace than to correct the underlying health and safety problem,” said OSHA chief David Michaels.
The new fines will go into affect no later than August 1, 2016. Going forward, agency officials will use the consumer price index each year to assess whether fines need to be brought up in line with inflation.
OSHA fines were last increased in 1990.
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