OSHA to Increase Penalties and Fines

What's Changing

On November 3rd it was announced that the Federal Budget Agreement, which was quickly worked out behind closed doors and signed the day before, includes unexpected provisions authorizing the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to increase penalties for the first time since 1990. The new provision is entitled the "Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015." To the surprise of most observers, the amount of the increase could be as much as 82%.

This law seems designed to compensate for the “freeze” on financial penalty increases that had been in place for the last 25 years. (OSHA had previously been limited by the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act of 1990 which prevented it from increasing penalties.) The Agreement requires OSHA to make a one-time “catch-up” increase to compensate for the more than two decades of no increases. The catch-up increase can't exceed the inflation rate from 1990 through 2015 as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which is expected to be around 82%.

Assuming OSHA applies the maximum catch-up increase allowed, the current maximum $70,000 fine for a Repeat and Willful violation would grow to as much as $125,000 each. The new act does include a potential exception to the increases. OSHA is allowed to forego following the  guidelines if “increasing the civil monetary penalty by the otherwise required amount will have a negative economic impact [on America]” or “the social costs of increasing the civil monetary penalty by the otherwise required amount outweigh the benefits.” This language gives OSHA considerable latitude to apply these fines as they see fit.

After the one-time “catch-up” increase is implemented, OSHA will then annually increase maximum penalties at a rate equal to the amount of the inflation rate for the prior fiscal year.

OSHA has not yet commented on this development and it is not clear whether it will choose to increase penalties to the full extent allowed. However, based on the consistent comments from the current OSHA administration about the benefits of stiffer regulatory punishments, it’s highly likely that they will implement most, if not all, of the increases.

The initial penalty increases must become effective by August 1, 2016, but we should expect to learn well before then the extent to which OSHA will increase these penalties and fines. The Federal Office of Management and Budget is expected to issue guidance on implementing the bill's provisions by January 31, 2016.


What Should Employers Do Now?

Employers may have several months to anticipate these higher penalties, but action on safety should begin immediately. Workplace safety has benefits that go beyond avoiding expensive penalties.  Workplace safety protects workers, improves morale and can actually help the bottom line profits for all workplaces. Rather than just treating safety as an expense, management should work to develop a business plan to achieve safety goals, avoid fines, and reduce insurance expense and lost time.

To read more articles and information about workplace safety and OSHA compliance, please visit these free online resources from National Safety Compliance:

Workplace Safety & OSHA Forum - your comments, questions and answers

OSHA Trade News Release: Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries

Trade News Release Banner Image

October 20, 2015
Contact: Office of Communications
Phone: 202-693-1999

OSHA and the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries sign alliance to address
machinery, chemical, other hazards in scrap recycling industry

WASHINGTON - A new alliance between the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries Inc. was recently established to protect the safety and health of workers in the scrap recycling industry, as well as promote understanding of worker rights and employer responsibilities under the OSH Act.

The alliance will focus on workplace hazards associated with powered industrial trucks and other machinery, chemical exposures, hazardous energy sources, and the handling and storage of materials.
“These hazards can result in serious injuries and death for workers in the scrap recycling industry,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. “We are pleased to partner with ISRI in developing effective tools to control or eliminate safety and health hazards in this industry.”

During this two-year alliance, OSHA and ISRI will collaborate in creating and revising informational and training resources, encouraging the use of safety and health management systems and other safety performance programs, and promoting OSHA’s compliance assistance resources.
“ISRI’s alliance with OSHA underscores the recycling industry’s commitment to worker safety,” said Doug Kramer, chair of ISRI. “Now with the support of OSHA behind us, ISRI will be able to provide even greater resources for our members to ensure their workers return home to their families every night.”

ISRI is a trade association representing more than 1,600 member companies that include manufacturers, processors, brokers and industrial consumers of scrap commodities such as paper, rubber, plastics, glass and ferrous and non-ferrous metals. Members range from small businesses to multi-national corporations.

Through its Alliance Program, OSHA works with unions, consulates, trade and professional organizations, faith- and community-based organizations, businesses and educational institutions to prevent workplace fatalities, injuries and illnesses. The purpose of each alliance is to develop compliance assistance tools and resources, and to educate workers and employers about their rights and responsibilities. Alliance Program participants do not receive exemptions from OSHA inspections or any other enforcement benefits.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance.

Protecting Workers During Severe Flood Events

Floods can be serious catastrophes and they are one of the most common hazards in the United States. Floods can be caused by a variety of factors, including a sudden accumulation of rain, rising rivers, tidal surges, ice jams and dam failures.

OSHA and NOAA are working together on a public education effort aimed at improving the way people prepare for and respond to severe weather. This page is designed to help businesses and their workers prepare for floods, and to provide information about hazards that workers may face during and after a flood event.

Workers who have to respond to flooded areas face the greatest risks from floods, but all workers can help protect themselves by preparing evacuation plans and learning about the hazards commonly associated with floods.

The Preparedness page provides information on making an evacuation plan, emergency supply kits, and flood watches and warnings. This planning information can help you ensure that you are ready to evacuate in an orderly manner before rising waters impact your business or residence, or your evacuation routes.

The Response/Recovery page provides useful details on the hazards to avoid when flooding has occurred. This includes areas to avoid when using a vehicle, and safety and health hazards such as downed electrical lines, mold and wild animals.
Employer Responsibilities and Workers' Rights
Each employer is responsible for the safety and health of its workers and for providing a safe and healthful workplace for its workers. Employers are required to protect workers from the anticipated hazards associated with the flood response and recovery operations that workers are likely to conduct.
OSHA's role is to assure the safety and health of America's workers. The OSHA at a Glance (PDF*) publication provides information on the strategies and programs OSHA uses to promote worker safety and health. For additional information on Workers' Rights, Employer Responsibilities, and other services OSHA offers, visit OSHA's Employers Page, Workers Page and Publications.

OSHA Trade News


Trade News Release Banner Image


September 21, 2015
Contact: Office of Communications
Phone: 202-693-1999

OSHA extends comment period for proposed rule clarifying employers' continuing
obligation to make and maintain accurate records of injuries, illnesses

WASHINGTON - The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is extending the deadline for submitting comments on the proposed rule that clarifies an employer's continuing obligation to make and maintain an accurate record of each recordable injury and illness. The comment due date has been extended to Oct. 28, 2015.

OSHA issued this proposed rule in light of the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in AKM LLC v. Secretary of Labor (Volks)* to clarify its long-standing position that the duty to record an injury or illness continues for as long as the employer must keep records of the recordable injury or illness. The proposed amendments add no new compliance obligations; the proposal would not require employers to make records of any injuries or illnesses for which records are not already required.

The proposed rule was published in the July 29, 2015, issue of the Federal Register. Members of the public can submit written comments on the proposed rule at http://www.regulations.gov, the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. See the Federal Register notice for submission details.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit www.osha.gov.

US Labor Department awards grants to 80 nonprofit organizations

US Labor Department awards $10.5M in workplace safety and health training grants to 80 nonprofit organizations

Susan Harwood Training Grant Program
OSHA has awarded $10.5 million in one-year federal safety and health training grants to 80 nonprofit organizations across the nation for education and training programs to help high-risk workers and their employers recognize serious workplace hazards, implement injury prevention measures and understand their rights and responsibilities.

OSHA's Susan Harwood Training Grant Program funds grants to nonprofit organizations, including community/faith-based groups, employer associations, labor unions, joint labor/management associations, colleges and universities. Target trainees include small-business employers and underserved vulnerable workers in high-hazard industries.

In its 2015 award, OSHA is awarding approximately $2.2 million in new, targeted topic training and training and educational materials development grants to 19 organizations to develop materials and programs addressing workplace hazards and prevention strategies. Both grant types require that recipients address occupational safety and health hazards designated by OSHA, including preventing construction hazards and hazardous chemical exposures. In addition, 15 organizations will receive approximately $2.3 million in new capacity-building developmental grants to provide occupational safety and health training, education, and related assistance to workers and employers in the targeted populations. Organizations selected to receive these grants are expected to create organizational capacity to provide safety and health training on an ongoing basis.

OSHA also awarded approximately $3 million in follow-on grants to 20 capacity building developmental grantees and $3 million in follow-on grants to 26 targeted topic grantees that performed satisfactorily during fiscal year 2014. These grantees demonstrated their ability to provide occupational safety and health training, education, and related assistance to workers and employers in high-hazard industries, small-business employers, and vulnerable workers. For more information, see the news release below.

News Release

US Labor Department awards $10.5M in workplace safety and health training grants to 80 nonprofit organizations to help high-risk workers, employers

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has awarded $10.5 million in one-year federal safety and health training grants to 80 nonprofit organizations across the nation for education and training programs to help high-risk workers and their employers recognize serious workplace hazards, implement injury prevention measures and understand their rights and responsibilities.
For more on the 2015 Susan Harwood training grants, visit www.osha.gov/dte/sharwood/ or contact Kimberly Mason at mason.kimberly@dol.gov or 847-759-7700.
The department's Susan Harwood Training Grant Program funds grants to nonprofit organizations, including community/faith-based groups, employer associations, labor unions, joint labor/management associations, colleges and universities. Target trainees include small-business employers and underserved vulnerable workers in high-hazard industries.

The fiscal year 2015 award categories are capacity-building developmental, capacity-building pilot, targeted topic training, and training and educational materials development.

"Susan Harwood training grants save lives," said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. "The hands-on training supported by these grants helps assure that workers and employers have the tools and skills they need to identify hazards and prevent injuries."

In its 2015 award, OSHA is awarding approximately $2.2 million in new, targeted topic training and training and educational materials development grants to 19 organizations to develop materials and programs addressing workplace hazards and prevention strategies. Both grant types require that recipients address occupational safety and health hazards designated by OSHA, including preventing construction hazards and hazardous chemical exposures.

In addition, fifteen organizations will receive approximately $2.3 million in new capacity-building developmental grants to provide occupational safety and health training, education, and related assistance to workers and employers in the targeted populations. Organizations selected to receive these grants are expected to create organizational capacity to provide safety and health training on an ongoing basis. Two of the 15 organizations received capacity-building pilot grants designed toassist organizations in assessing their needs and formulating a capacity-building plan before launching a full-scale safety and health education program.

OSHA also awarded approximately $3 million in follow-on grants to 20 capacity building developmental grantees and $3 million in follow-on grants to 26 targeted topic grantees that performed satisfactorily during fiscal year 2014. These grantees demonstrated their ability to provide occupational safety and health training, education, and related assistance to workers and employers in high-hazard industries, small-business employers, and vulnerable workers.

"The Susan Harwood Training Grant Program is an essential component of OSHA's worker protection efforts. This program provides thousands of workers and small employers with hands-on training and education in some of the most dangerous industries," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels.

Since 1978, approximately 2.1 million workers have been trained through this program. The training grant program honors Susan Harwood, a former director of the Office of Risk Assessment in OSHA's former Directorate of Health Standards, who passed away in 1996.

For more information about the FY 2015 Susan Harwood Training Grant Program recipients, visit
More information on the Susan Harwood Training Grant Program is available on OSHA's website at www.osha.gov/dte/sharwood/.

Public inquiries should be directed to Kimberly Mason at mason.kimberly@dol.gov or 847-759-7700.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance.

OSHA News Release: [09/02/2015]
Contact Name: Laura McGinnis or Carrie A. Thomas
Phone Number: (202) 693-4653 or x4667
Email:
McGinnis.Laura.K@dol.gov or thomas.carrie.a@dol.gov
Release Number: 15-1640-NAT


One-fifth of chronic lung disease in construction workers linked to...

One-fifth of chronic lung disease in construction workers linked to asbestos, silica and other on-the-job exposures

Center for Construction Research and Training
A recent study* by the Center for Construction Research and Training and Duke University found that 18 percent of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease among construction workers is caused by on-the-job exposure to vapors, gases, dusts, and fumes such as asbestos, silica dusts, and welding fumes. 

The disease progressively diminishes a person's ability to breathe and is characterized by mucous-producing cough, shortness of breath, and chest tightness. It afflicts more than 13 million people in the U.S., and construction workers are at an increased risk.
Researchers compared the work history, smoking habits, and medical screening results of roughly 2,000 older construction workers with and without COPD between 1997 and 2013. Their findings indicate that, while smoking remains the main cause of COPD, workplace exposure to these hazards pose a more significant risk than previously thought and employers should take appropriate actions to protect workers.

National Safety Stand-Down

Employers and workers all across over the nation and internationally are ready to make history by reaching more than 3 million workers during the two-week 2015 National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction. From May 4-15, millions of participants will pause during their workday to focus on preventing fatalities from falls through talks, demonstrations and trainings. 

Check out the National Safety Stand-Down webpage for details on events across the country; instructions on how to conduct a stand-down and receive a certificate of participation; and free resources in English and Spanish. Videos to promote participation in the Stand-Down, including one with a message from Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, are also available on OSHA's website.

The national stand-down is part of OSHA's fourth annual Fall Prevention Campaign, launched in partnership with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, National Occupational Research Agenda, and CPWR, the Center for Construction Research and Training. For more information, see the news release.