OSHA Penalties Are Getting PriceyFeb 22, 2022
OSHA recently published its annual increases in the penalties that could be assessed for violating OSHA regulations. Employers should take note of these increases and understand their options if they are faced with an OSHA citation.
What’s the damage?
Effective January 13, 2022, the most common OSHA violations — Serious, Other-Than-Serious, and Posting Requirements — have gone up 6.2 percent, from $13,653 to $14,502 (maximum) per violation. The maximum penalty for “Willful” or “Repeated” violations is now $145,027, almost $10,000 more than last year. According to the announcement, the increased penalties can be applied to all open inspections that have not yet yielded citations. In fact, one of my clients just received four “Willful” citations at the maximum totaling $580,108. Moreover, OSHA has decided to “pierce the corporate veil” in this recent case by disregarding the corporate entity and issuing the citations directly to the owner — individually!
The Federal Civil Penalties Act of 2015 requires OSHA to adjust its maximum penalty levels for inflation no later than January 15 of each year. The Act required an immediate catch-up in 2016, with annual, indexed “cost of living” adjustments after that. The 2022 increase in maximum penalty amounts is the largest since 2016. Since 2015, OSHA’s maximum penalty amounts have more than doubled.
Pay or contest?
There are many reasons employers can expect more OSHA site inspections and enforcement actions in the months ahead and should be prepared for a visit. Businesses covered in an ongoing National Emphasis Program, Local Emphasis Program, or Site-Specific Targeting Program should be on the lookout. Because it isn’t uncommon for multiple citations to be listed in one OSHA Citation and Notification of Penalty, the potential financial impact on a business could be overwhelming.
If a violation is identified during an inspection, employers should be fully aware of their options before simply paying the penalty. There are several things to consider before complying with or challenging an OSHA violation, and the size of the penalty is only one of them.
OSHA provides employers with an opportunity to argue for a penalty reduction under certain circumstances. If the business otherwise has a good safety record and no history of previous violations, OSHA may reduce the penalty if the hazard is rectified immediately. The size of the business can also be a factor in consideration of a penalty adjustment.
Get legal help
Should you find yourself dealing with an OSHA inspection and citation(s) in the coming months, working with an experienced OSHA attorney can make a big difference in the outcome. An attorney can work with you to formulate an aggressive settlement position that results in the best possible resolution without litigation.
Our goal at Orr & Reno is to minimize the risk of litigation by counseling our clients about any OSHA compliance issue. We’re here to help our clients proactively implement effective safety programs, guide them through OSHA inspections, and, if necessary, challenge OSHA citations through skilled mediation and litigation.
Don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any compliance questions or have received a citation.
About the Author: James Laboe