In 2015, Congress passed a law called the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015. It appears that the word “Improvements” may have been added in an unsuccessful attempt to make the law sound more palatable. Because of its tongue-twisting title, the law is usually just referred to as the “Inflation Adjustment Act.” Under the terms of the Act, the U.S. Department of Labor annually adjusts the penalties for violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, as well as the penalty levels for a number of other statutes, by the amount of inflation for the past year.  Some states that have their own OSHA enforcement programs adjust their maximum penalties as well, but not all states mirror the federal penalty increase.

On January 15, the DOL announced the following changes to the OSHA penalty levels:

Serious Violations


Increased from $13,260 to $13,494

Other Than Serious Variations


Increased from $13,260 to $13,494

Repeat Violations


Increased from $132,598 to $134,937

Willful Violations


Maximum penalties increased from $132,598 to $134,937
Minimum penalties increased from $9,472 to $9,639

Those of you who have received OSHA citations in the last three years know that OSHA now routinely issues Serious Citations with the maximum penalty amount. These increased penalty amounts should give you all the incentive that you need to be in compliance.

In addition to reporting work-related fatalities, employers are now required to self-report whenever their employees have an amputation, are admitted to a hospital or clinic for treatment, or lose an eye. Because of the nature of the accidents that prompt reporting to OSHA, the resulting OSHA inspections frequently focus on machine guarding and lockout/tagout. Unfortunately, both of these compliance topics have a “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” aspect to them, and it is our experience that the obligations under these standards are often misunderstood by employers. Therefore, it is important to understand how the Agency interprets them. The time to ensure compliance is now and not after you’ve received a maximum, proposed OSHA penalty.

REMINDER: Employers must post their OSHA 300A forms February 1 through April 30. Electronic filing of OSHA 300A information (if required) must be completed by March 2.

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