Big Change #1: Effective August 1, 2016 OSHA maximum fine amounts will increase 78.2%
Last fall, Congress passed a federal budget that allowed OSHA to have a one-time large increase in its maximum fines in order to adjust for inflation, since occupational safety and health infractions and penalties hadn’t increased since 1990. Moving forward, the maximum fines will increase annually based on inflation rates – as is the case for many other federal agencies.
The new maximum amounts for OSHA fines will be:
IMPORTANT NEWS – Any facility that has been inspected by federal OSHA since February, 2016 will be subject to these new fine rates if the fine is assessed after August 1st.
In addition to these substantial fine increases, the new Worker Endangerment Initiative formed under the US Attorney General has created amendments to the US Attorneys’ Manual encouraging prosecutors to prosecute worker safety violations utilizing not only the traditional worker safety laws, but also Title 18 offenses (such as obstruction of justice, false tatements, and conspiracy) and environmental laws.
What does that mean?
It means that employers who treat Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) penalties as a “cost of doing business and not a deterrent to non-compliance with the laws” are fiscally and criminally wrong!
Big Change #2: OSHA can cite an employer for retaliation without an official complaint – Anti-retaliation protections take effect August 10th
OSHA’s historic mission has been to issue health and safety standards and inspect workplaces. But OSHA has taken on a new role in recent years. OSHA is now the principal federal agency in charge of protecting whistleblowers against retaliation. Prior to August 10th , OSHA required that an employee file a complaint against an employer within 30 days of an employer retaliation or if an employer deterred or discouraged injury or illness reporting.
Under the new rules, OSHA can cite an employer for retaliation even if no complaint was ever filed.
OSHA launched a lawsuit against Southwestern Bell for taking disciplinary action and giving negative work performance evaluations to workers who reported injuries in Missouri and Kansas in 2011 and 2012. An employee based in Parkville, MO, injured his knee on Jan. 11, 2011 when he stepped into a depression during snowy conditions. The company found the worker at fault for the incident and his subsequent performance appraisal rated him “below expectations” in safety.
OSHA’s non-retaliation policy change is a part of its larger Final Rule to improve tracking of workplace injuries and illnesses that calls for electronic submission of injury and illness data. Although the new reporting requirements will be phased in over two years, establishments with more than 250 employees will be required to comply effective January 1, 2017 – which means high-risk establishments will be required to submit their 2016 Form 300A electronically.