On June 30, 2016, the U.S. Department of Labor announced increases in penalties to various agencies within DOL. This is the first increase in penalties since 1990 and is part of an overall federal penalty adjustment mandated by Congress in 2015.
As of August 1, 2016, penalties for OSHA violations will increase by 78%. The maximum penalty for a serious violation will rise from $7,000 to $12,471. The maximum penalty for a willful or repeated violation will increase from $70,000 to $124,709.
A ‘Serious Violation’ is defined as a workplace condition that could cause an accident or illness that would most likely result in death or serious physical harm. Examples of a ‘serious’ violation include not having a required written program, not performing required employee training, or not conducting required audits and/or inspections.
A ‘Repeated Violation’ exists when a company has been cited previously for the same or a substantially similar condition. For example, if a company was cited for not having a written lockout/tagout program and then, at a later inspection, is cited for not performing annual inspections of machine specific procedures, that citation could be classified as a ‘repeated’ violation because it was the second time the company was cited for violations under the lockout/tagout standard. A repeat violation occurs when the violation is cited again by OSHA within the last five years. Additonally, OSHA looks at national data so a violation of 1910.147( c) that is issued in Wisconsin could be classified Repeat if it was cited in another state within the last five years.
A ‘Willful Violation’ is when an employer either knowingly failed to comply with a legal requirement (purposeful disregard) or acted with plain indifference to employee safety. This is when management knows they are to perform a particular action and make conscious decisions to take different actions.
For example, recently OSHA issued 57 citations (many classified as ‘willful’ violations) to a Hebron, Ohio company for not providing required employee training relative to lockout/tagout and machine operations and other violations. In their findings, OSHA found the company deliberately avoided providing required training to temporary employees that resulted in serious injuries. Total citations issued to that company totaled $3.42 million dollars.
OSHA’s change in reporting requirements for severe injuries or employee hospitalizations that became effective January 1, 2015 has spurred an increase in inspections for amputations and other serious injuries. As a result, OSHA is finding many violations to lockout/tagout and machine safeguarding requirements along with other types of violations to OSHA standards. The Wisconsin Safety Council stands ready to assist member companies with their questions and needs relative to OSHA compliance and employee training.
-Paul Lawonn, Partner; North Point Knowledge & Training