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Surprise! Budget calls for 80% hike in OSHA fines next year

Surprise! Budget calls for 80% hike in OSHA fines next year

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Outgoing GOP house speaker John Boehner’s final peace offering – negotiating a compromised budget deal that would extend the debt limit and boost spending – took labor officials by surprise after finding that the agreement included a provision to hike OSHA fines to keep pace with inflation.

The House and Senate approved the bill last month. The measure is sitting on President Obama’s desk, awaiting his signature.

The bill allows OSHA a one-time “catch up adjustment,” dating back to the last time OSHA fines were increased in 1990, which could increase maximum penalties almost 80%. OSHA is one of few federal agencies whose penalties don’t increase with the rate of inflation.

From October 1990 to September 2015 the Consumer Price Index rose 78.24%. That means:

  • the maximum fine for a repeat or willful violation would increase from $70,000 to $124,768; and
  • the maximum fine for a serious violation would increase from $7,000 to $12,477.

Along with the one-time catch up increase, OSHA fines could increase each year using the CPI.

OSHA has clearly been concerned that its current regulatory structure does not present employers with a sufficient deterrent to non-compliance.

“Unscrupulous employers often consider it more cost effective to pay the minimal OSHA penalty and continue to operate an unsafe workplace than to correct the underlying health and safety problem,” OSHA chief David Michaels said about previous bills that would hike penalties.

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