OSHA Maximum Fines Could Jump

Posted October 30, 2015 at 11:47 am

Congress' proposed spending plan deal includes a provision allowing OSHA to increase fines based on the inflation rate.

Maximum penalties from OSHA could increase 50% in 2016, according to a provision in the proposed two-year spending plan that Congress just passed. As this item was posted, both the House and Senate had approved the bill, and the measure was awaiting a signature from President Barack Obama to enact it into law.

The plan includes a section dealing with penalties by the Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The section would allow OSHA to raise fines annually in line with the Consumer Price Index and to have a one-time “catch up adjustment” of 50% to make up for OSHA maximum fines going unchanged since 1990. OSHA is among the few federal agencies with civil penalties that don't increase with inflation.

If OSHA adjusted its fines by 50%, the $70,000 maximum for repeat and willful violations would increase to $105,000 and the $7,000 serious violation maximum fine could climb to $10,500.

The appearance of the OSHA provision was unexpected. The bill offered no information on how the OSHA provision was added during closed-door negotiations among lawmakers and the Obama administration.

Increasing OSHA penalties has been considered and discussed before, but never implemented, during previous budget talks.