In 2015, the federal budget included a surprising provision requiring OSHA and other federal agencies to increase their fines on an annual basis based on fluctuations in the Consumer Price Index (roughly, inflation). The budget also required OSHA to “catch up” its current fine levels to account for increases in the CPI from 1990-2015.
Under that new fine schedule, OSHA fines increased substantially, with maximum fines increasing from $7,000 to $12,600 for a “serious” violation and from $70,000 to a staggering $126,000 for a “repeat” or “willful” violation. For 2020, OSHA has provided guidance indicating that fines for a “serious” violation will increase to $13,494 per violation, and fines for a “repeat” or “willful” violation will increase to $134,937 per violation.
It is worth noting that the budget initially “resetting” the OSHA fine schedule was passed by the Republican-led Congress, signaling that even Republican lawmakers are amenable to the idea of using a larger, more aggressive OSHA to help generate additional revenue. This about-face makes it clear that regardless of the outcome of the presidential elections, the “new,” higher OSHA fines are here to stay.
Going forward, employers should start preparing for OSHA inspections now. The failure to do this will likely result in significant fines the next time OSHA comes knocking. If you are interested in preparing for an OSHA inspection or discussing your OSHA issue with an OSHA attorney, please call or email one of our experienced OSHA attorneys.