The Federal Government has decided that the current fine structure for private businesses no longer carries the weight it once did. Having kept the same fine structure since 1990, the US Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez states, "Adjusting our penalties to keep pace with the cost of living can lead to significant benefits for workers and can level the playing field for responsible employers who should not have to compete with those who don't follow the law."
OSHA uses their often heavy-handed fines as a deterrent to employers who would not seek to follow a robust safety program. At SSG we want to help employers both build their safety culture but also to keep them compliant so OSHA can't hand out these heavy handed-penalties. The reality is, the far majority of companies we work with already felt the weight of the expiring fine structure. This massive, 78% spike that takes effect August 1, 2016 may not account for the cost of living increase since 1990, but it also doesn't seem to consider the cost of doing business in most industries has gone up due to increased health insurance, workers comp premiums, and many other factors. Hence, SSG realizes this significant raise in OSHA fine "opportunities" will be felt each time one is issued. Our determination to keep your business compliant is a consistent motivator for each of the consultants you work with.
As we try and swallow this new reality of heavy-handed penalties, we also have a to keep a close eye on the entire OSHA landscape. There seems to be a perfect storm brewing as we assess ways in which they are expanding their scope during routine site inspections as well as handing out these new penalties. We seem to be dealing with an OSHA that is more challenging than any other times in recent history.
If you have not kept up with our newsletters this year, please refer to the one on the Regional Emphasis Program (here) that discusses a few of the MANY items OSHA has begun auditing this year under a vast umbrella that consists of blood borne pathogens, machine guarding, ergonomics, process safety management, LOTO, silica, isocyanates, lead, etc.; all within one scope. Meaning they automatically have immediate access to your entire facility. It's rare that they wouldn't be able to assess your entire operation while auditing these numerous categories simply because they cover so many areas of operation. Our most recent newsletter (here) was about forklifts which is also mandated to be assessed during EVERY site audit so you can add that to the list as well.
Our job is to keep you abreast to what we are seeing out in the field as well as keep you up-to-date on the most recent emphasis programs like we have this year. We will continue to work with you to keep the literal thousands of items under compliance and focus on the most hazardous items as well as those "low-hanging fruit" items that OSHA seems to try and leave every inspection with. Yes, it's very frustrating for us as well but we will continue to guide our clients in the right way to go and use our decades of dealing with OSHA to your advantage. Should OSHA ever cite your location, we do have an average 60% reduction in fines when we contest them directly. So please know that's always an option when it makes sense to do so.
Below is a snapshot of what this 78% increase in fines looks like:
Serious - $7,000/item to $12,471/item
Repeat - $70,000/item to $124,709/item
Willful - $70,000/item to $124,709/item