OSHA Fines and Enforcement 2023
The U.S. Department of Labor last month announced changes to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) civil penalty amounts.
Congress in 2015 passed an act that requires governmental agencies to publish “catch-up” rules that adjust the level of civil monetary penalties and make annual adjustments for inflation.
The new OSHA penalty amounts went into effect Jan. 17, 2023. (A touch later than they would have otherwise because of a federal holiday.)
Based on cost-of-living adjustments for 2023, OSHA’s maximum penalties for “serious and other-than-serious violations” increased from $14,502 per violation to $15,625 per violation.
Also, the maximum penalty for “willful or repeated violations” increased from $145,027 per violation to $156,259 per violation, which is of particular interest due to OSHA’s plans for updates to existing protocols and increased enforcement for so-called severe violators.
Employers should also note that these fines can extend to labor law poster violations.
Visit the OSHA Penalties page and read the final rule for more information.
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The new fine amounts come on the heels of increased enforcement OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP.
Announced in the fall of 2022, it calls for expanded criteria for placement on the SVEP, which targets repeat and willful violators of workplace health and safety regulations. In addition to being included on a public list of the nation’s severe violators, employers are subject to follow-up inspections.
The changes are intended to increase compliance with workplace safety standards and reduce worker injuries and illnesses.
Among the notable updates:
- Expansion to include all hazards and OSHA standards
- Just two violations could land an employer on the SVEP
- New timelines for inspections
- New timeline for removal from the program
- Updated protocols for settlement agreements
“The Severe Violator Enforcement Program empowers OSHA to sharpen its focus on employers who — even after receiving citations for exposing workers to hazardous conditions and serious dangers — fail to mitigate these hazards,” Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Doug Parker said in a statement last fall. “Today’s expanded criteria reflect the Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to ensuring OSHA has the tools it needs to ensure employers protect their workers or hold them accountable when they fail to provide safe and healthy workplaces.”
Read a previous Employment Law News blog for further details on the OSHA severe violator enforcement update.
At the same time, there are upcoming OSHA measures for employers to consider, including:
- New subpoena regulation
- Instance-by-instance citations in cases the agency identifies as “high-gravity”
As the Biden administration continues to put its imprint on employment law, there has been little movement regarding nationwide laws on minimum wage (aside from federal contractor minimum wage), paid sick leave and other sweeping legislation.
But there have been several measures from federal agencies that impact employers. And the activity from OSHA of late should give employers pause.
No employer, for the most part, sets out to violate federal law. Yet the latest updates from OSHA demonstrate the importance of adhering to the basics of employment law compliance.
Plus, there are nuances coming from OSHA that employers should be aware of. Taken together, employers should evaluate their policies and procedures to align with federal health and safety requirements.