OSHA Penalties For Health & Safety Violations Are Going Way Up Starting August 1, 2016

In November 2015, Congress enacted legislation requiring federal agencies to adjust their civil penalties to account for inflation. The Department of Labor (DOL) adjusted penalties for its agencies, including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

OSHA’s maximum penalties, which were last adjusted in 1990, will increase by 78%. Going forward, the agency will continue to adjust its penalties for inflation each year based on the Consumer Price Index.

The new penalties will take effect after August 1, 2016.  Any citations issued by OSHA after that date will be subject to the new penalties if the related violations occurred after November 2, 2015.  Below is a table of the current and new penalty amounts depending on the type of violation.

Type of Violation Current Maximum PenaltyNew Maximum Penalty
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

While these are federal penalties that will be imposed by OSHA, states that operate their own OSHA plans are required to also adopt maximum penalty levels that are at least as effective as Federal OSHA’s.  This means that in California, employers found to be in violation of CalOSHA’s health and safety standards are also at risk of increased penalties.

Takeaway:  Employers should take this opportunity to review the effectiveness of their Injury and Illness Prevention Plan (IIPP), including, but not limited to, evaluating whether they are meeting certain safety training and safety equipment standards. IIPPs should be living, breathing documents that are regularly reviewed and updated as circumstances change in the workplace that could impact employee health and safety.  Failure to do so can result in significant penalties from CalOSHA.  If you find yourself being investigated by CalOSHA, contact the attorneys in Weintraub Tobin’s Labor and Employment Department.  They have years of experience representing employers during CalOSHA investigations and in appealing CalOSHA citations.