In January, OSHA announced a 5% increase in the civil penalties assessed for violations of its regulations, but worse may be yet to come if certain legislative reforms are adopted by Congress.
As of Jan. 13, the maximum penalty for willful or repeated violations rose to $145,027, a nearly $10,000 increase from the 2021 maximum for the same kind of violations.
The maximum penalty for failure-to-abate violations also increased to $14,502 for each day after the abatement deadline in cases where no abatement has taken place.
The maximum penalty allowed for serious, other-than-serious” and posting requirements violations also is now $14,502, representing an increase of nearly $1,000 above the maximum amounts that the agency had adopted last year.
States that operate their own occupational safety and health plans are required by law to adopt maximum penalties levels that are at least as effective as federal OSHA’s penalties.
Since 2015, OSHA maximum penalty amounts have more than doubled. For example, serious, other-than-serious and posting requirement violations are up from $7,000 to $14,502 per violation.
Attorneys warn that employers should not agree to settle for one of these amounts because multiple maximum penalties at $145,027 for different violations could have drastic impacts on a business.
A bigger threat lies on the horizon. Biden’s Build Back Better bill, which stalled in Congress in late 2021, included staggering hikes in OSHA penalties. Under the bill, for serious violations, the maximum penalty would rise from $14,502 to $70,000. For willful and repeat violations, it would jump from $145,027 to $700,000.
Although the massive BBB bill appears to be dead, Biden recently said that he intends to see parts of it reintroduced as separate pieces of legislation, and the OSHA penalty hikes could be included in one.