A New Era for OSHA

Included in the budget signed by Congress and the President on November 2, 2015 was an increase in OSHA penalties. This is the first time OSHA penalties have increased in 25 years.

OSHA has yet to issue its interim final rule, clarifying the fine increases; however, it is anticipated that the standard fines will increase approximately 80 percent. Thus, the new fine schedule is anticipated to change as follows:

  • “Serious violations” and “other than serious violations” previously were a maximum fine of $7,000; they are likely to increase to a maximum fine of $12,600.
  • “Willful violations” and “repeat” violations previously were a maximum fine of $70,000; they are likely to increase to a maximum fine of $126,000.

These new fine amounts will go into effect once OSHA issues a final interim rule, confirming the new fine amounts. The rule will go into effect by August 1, 2016, at the latest.

In the meantime, OSHA has continued to vigilantly enforce the standards. This month, a Lancaster County residential homebuilder was cited $64,400 in proposed penalties. The majority of the fines arose from two willful citations. One willful citation for $28,000 arose from three separate uses of forklifts to create a scaffold without proper fall protection. A second willful citation of $28,000 was for employees installing roofing shingles without the proper use of fall protection.

Certain common sense techniques are the best protection from OSHA citations. Emphasize safety by routinely training employees; create a safety program, and hire a safety director, if within the budget; and always prioritize safety on the jobsite. Also ensure that employees are familiar with the most common safety issues and proper protection. In 2015, the top 3 OSHA (construction) standards frequently cited for penalties were as follows:

  1. Fall Protection.
  2. Scaffolding.
  3. Ladders.

When creating a safety program, it is best to rely upon specialized consultants. When resolving or defending OSHA citations, it is best to seek legal advice. Safety has always been a priority for construction companies; now, with the increase in fines, properly handling OSHA citations is too.

What’s Happening Now . . .

       12.3%

  • 2015 Increase in private construction spending.
  • 2015 had private construction spending of $806.1 billion.
  • 2014 had private construction spending of 717.7 billion.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau News, December 2015 Construction at $1,116.6 billion annual rate, US Dept. of Commerce (Feb. 1, 2016).

 

Newsletter written by Jeffrey C. Bright, Esq. , an attorney licensed in Pennsylvania and Maryland. For more information, contact an attorney at Harmon & Davies, P.C.

Employment          Construction           Business

2306 Columbia Ave. | Lancaster, PA 17603

T: 717.291.2236 | www.h-dlaw.com

 

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