Contractors Beware:  OSHA Penalties Set to Increase on August 1, 2016

By Corey N. Giroux

On August 1, 2016, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (“OSHA”), will raise the limits of its maximum penalties for the first time in nearly twenty-six years.

Current maximum penalties for “serious,” “other than serious” and “posting requirement” penalties will increase from $7,000.00 per violation to $12,471.00 per violation. Penalties for failure to abate hazards or violations will increase from $7,000.00 to $12,471.00 per day for each failure to abate the condition subsequent to the abatement date. Finally, the maximum penalties for “willful” or “repeat” violations will increase from $70,000.00 to $124,709.00 per violation.

All contractors, and especially those with a history of violations or alleged violations with OSHA, would be wise to insure that all personal protective equipment, tools and equipment are OSHA compliant in advance of the changes in maximum penalties. If your firm hasn’t recently revisited its safety procedures, practices and documentation, now is the time to review your firm’s safety program in order to avoid exposure to increased maximum penalties for OSHA violations set to take effect.

For contractors in states that operate their own, state run, “mini-OSHAs,” OSHA has required that those agencies adopt maximum penalties that meet or exceed those imposed by OSHA. Accordingly, contractors operating in states with “mini-OSHA” agencies should be mindful to consider whether they’re subject to penalties for any violation that may exceed the penalty that OSHA might impose for any similar violation.

Of course, the best way to avoid an increased OSHA penalty for a violation is to refrain from committing any violation. As a practical matter, violations frequently occur despite your firm’s best efforts and dedication to providing a safe and compliant work environment. If OSHA requests to inspect your work site or office, you’d be well-advised to immediately contact an attorney experienced in OSHA practice to help guide your firm through the process and to achieve best results.

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