OSHA is attempting to increase penalties for employer violations of the OSHA; however, according to Allen Smith, these efforts “have been blocked on Capitol Hill.” Despite red tape and laborious attempts to circumvent OSHA’s efforts, OSHA is taking steps to increase penalties within its ability to do so.
OSHA penalties are far too low to deter employers from violating OSHA standards. Smith describes an incident where an oil refinery worker in Delaware was killed and his body dissolved in a tank full of sulfuric acid that exploded at the refinery. The OSHA penalty was only $175k; where as there was a penalty in the same incident for $10 million “for violating the Clean Water Act for the death of fish and crabs.” Yes, there is something seriously wrong with the amount and way fines and penalties are assessed and implemented for violation of OSHA standards.
According to Smith, below are a few areas where penalties have already been increased:
- Lengthening the time for considering an employer’s history of serious, willful, repeat or failure-to-abate violations from three to five years.
- Lowering the reduction levels provided to employers based on size – for example, no size reduction will be allowed for employers with more than 251 workers…
- Increasing minimum penalties for serious violations to $500.
- Limiting OSHA area directors’ discretion to offer penalty reductions without obtaining approval from OSHA regional offices.
- Eliminating the 10 percent reduction for employers participating in a strategic partnership.
- Raising final penalties from a range of $1,500 to $7,000 to a range of $3,000 to $7,000.
In addition, repeat citations for OSHA violations can be up to five times the penalty of the first-offense citation.
As an employer, wouldn’t you want to eliminate, or at least decrease, the possibility of receiving these fines by providing a safe and secure environment for your employees?