Big fine increase takes effect for OSHA, other labor violations

Penalties increase 78 percent under new federal guidelines


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The U.S. Department of Labor is significantly raising civil penalties it can impose through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and various other enforcement agencies it oversees.

The increase is a result of the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act, passed last year by Congress, which directs agencies to adjust their penalties for inflation each year.

Under an interim rule, which took effect Aug. 1, penalties in violation of OSHA standards have increased by 78 percent, after remaining at the same level since 1990.

As of Aug. 1, the maximum penalty for serious violations has risen from $7,000 to $12,471. For willful or repeated violations, an increase from $70,000 to $124,709. The new civil penalty amounts are applicable only to civil penalties assessed after Aug. 1, 2016 whose associated violations occurred after Nov. 2, 2015.

Similar increases are taking effect under the Labor Department’s Employee Benefits Security Administration, Mine Safety and Health Administration, Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs and Wage and Hour Division.

From July 2014 to July 2015, 140 New Hampshire companies were cited for 256 violations, paying a total of $397,486 in penalties. Forty percent of those violations occurred during planned OSHA visits to business sites while 32 percent were a result of employee complaints submitted to the agency.

“We expect these adjusted penalties to serve as a greater deterrent to irresponsible employers, and help level the playing field for the majority of employers who strive to keep their workplaces safe,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor David Michaels in a press release. “Our ultimate goal is to protect the safety and health of workers, and we work to achieve this through a combination of education, assistance and enforcement.”

Granite State small businesses, with 250 employees or fewer at one site and fewer than 500 employees in total, can apply to WorkWISE NH, a federal resource aimed at helping businesses to prevent OSHA violations and fines.

WorkWISE NH performs on-site walk-throughs, with most of its customers operating in the construction, manufacturing or health care industry.

Other notable penalty increase include:

 • Under the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs, failing to file the first report of an injury or filing a false statement or misrepresentation, has risen from $11,000 to $22,587.

 • Under the Wage and Hour Division, willfully hiring an H1B visa immigrant to displace a U.S. worker has increased from $35,000 to $50,758. All penalties affected by the increase can be found here.

A full list of fine increases can be viewed at dol.gov. The Labor Department is accepting comments on the rules change through Monday. Public comments can be made by clicking here.

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