OSHA issued new enforcement guidance allowing its staff to impose increased fines on employers with a history of failure to comply with government safety and health requirements.
OSHA regional administrators and area office directors can now cite certain types of violations as “instance-by-instance citations” for cases of “high-gravity” serious violations of OSHA standards.
The agency said this applies to violation types involving lockout/tagout, machine guarding, permit-required confined space, respiratory protection, falls, trenching and for cases with other-than-serious violations specific to recordkeeping.
“Smart, impactful enforcement means using all the tools available to us when an employer ‘doesn’t get it’ and will respond to only additional deterrence in the form of increased citations and penalties,” explained OSHA Chief Doug Parker.
“This is intended to be a targeted strategy for those employers who repeatedly choose to put profits before their employees’ safety, health and wellbeing. Employers who callously view injured or sickened workers simply as a cost of doing business will face more serious consequences.”
Agency staff now can treat each violation on an individual basis, applying a separate penalty to each one, note attorneys for the law firm of Constangy Brooks Smith & Prophete.
For example, employer with 10 machines missing a guard could face a penalty of $156,000 or more if the violations are deemed serious, and $1,560,000 or more if the violations are deemed willful.
Employers, especially those with a history of previous citations, should redouble their compliance efforts with respect to those standards, the attorneys warn. “The price for non-compliance just got much, much higher.”
The impact of inflation increased OSHA penalties this year for serious violations up to $15,625 and for willful or repeat violations up to $156,259.