For the first time in 25 years, Occupational Safety and Health Administration penalties will increase to catch up and then keep pace with inflation, based on a section of the budget bill just signed into law by President Obama. OSHA had previously been exempt from a penalty increase to reflect inflation but now must adopt a catch-up adjustment of its penalties by August 1, 2016. Though the exact amount is not yet known, since it is partly based on the as-yet unreleased October 2015 Consumer Price Index, it is widely estimated penalties will increase about 80 percent over current amounts. That means that other-than-serious and serious violations will go to a maximum of $12,600 (from the current max of $7,000) and willful and repeat violations will increase to $126,000 (from the current max of $70,000).
What can employers do to lessen the impact of this adjustment? As always, employers should ensure that they have a good understanding of the OSHA safety standards that apply to them, that they regularly audit their workplaces to check for compliance with those standards, and that they promptly correct any hazards or violations found in such audits. This preparation should help lessen the impact of these penalty increases if employers find OSHA at their door for an inspection.