Fines Continue to Rise in 2019

The cost for taking safety risks on the job are continuing to soar. The Department of Labor has raised civil penalty amounts for violations another 1% this year. The new rates, effective January 23rd, push the maximum penalty to $13,260.

Since the implementation of the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015, civil penalties have risen 89%.

Type of Violation20152016201720182019
Serious or other-than-serious posting requirements$7,000$12,471$12,675$12,934$13,260
Failure to abate beyond initial violation date (per day)$7,000$12,471$12,675$12,934$13,260
Willful or repeat violations$70,000$124,709$126,749$129,336$132,598

 

How do Rising OSHA Penalties Affect My State?

States have one of three plans in place for handling Federal OSHA regulations:

  1.   “No Plan”:            No Plan states fully rely on Federal OSHA to complete inspections and dole out fines. For these states, penalty amounts will be in effect immediately.
  2.   “Full State Plan”:              Full State plans oversee their own work safety programs and control the rate of inspections, assess penalties, and conduct outreach. States must adjust their penalties to match Federal OSHA within 6 months to maintain authorization (and 50% funding).
  3.   “Partial State Plan”:           States with a partial State plan are those that only cover public employees. Federal OSHA oversees safety enforcement with private employers. This means new Federal penalty amounts will take effect for private employers immediately.

What Should Employers Expect?

It is important to note that the penalty increases stated above are exclusively for “maximum” per violation penalties. More commonly than not, OSHA does not exercise its maximum penalty authority. There are a variety of reduction factors that OSHA can apply before citation penalties are issued such as a “size discount” for small employers, “good history discounts” for employers who are normally in compliance, and finally, “good faith” discounts for employers who engage with OSHA in good faith during an inspection. So, despite the nearly 90% increase in maximum penalties over the past 5 years, the average violation remains a paltry $3,600 per Serious violation.