Increased OSHA Penalty Structure Effective August 1, 2016

01 August 2016 Labor & Employment Law Perspectives Blog
Author(s): Daniel A. Kaplan

This past November, Congress passed a budget that included legislation requiring federal agencies to adjust their civil penalties to account for inflation. In response, the Department of Labor (DOL) is adjusting penalties for its agencies, including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The new civil penalty structure for violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act regulations went into effect August 1, 2016. This marks the first time since 1990 that OSHA has raised penalties for violations.

OSHA’s maximum penalties will increase by 78 percent. The following chart illustrates the penalty increases:

Type of Violation  Max. Penalty Before Aug. 1 Max. Penalty After Aug. 1
Posting Requirements
$7,000 per violation $12,471 per violation
Failure to Abate $7,000 per day beyond the abatement date $12,471 per day beyond the abatement date
Willful or Repeated $70,000 per violation  

$124,709 per violation

Any citations issued by OSHA after August 1, 2016, will be subject to this new penalties scale if the related alleged violations occurred after November 2, 2015.

In addition, under OSHA’s administrative policies, individual states that operate their own Occupational Safety and Health Plans are required to adopt maximum penalty levels that are at least as effective as Federal OSHA’s new levels. This is also not the final adjustment. On a going forward basis, OSHA will continue to adjust its penalties for inflation each year based on the Consumer Price Index.

Because it is not uncommon for OSHA to include multiple violations when it issues a citation, it will not be uncommon for employers to see citations with total penalties in excess of $50,000, $100,000, or even more, starting this week. Remember, if you receive an OSHA citation, you only have 15 working days from the date of receipt to contest the citation if you wish to do so.

We strongly recommend that you secure counsel knowledgeable with OSHA, its regulations, and the contest process whenever OSHA knocks on your door or a citation is received.

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