OSHA’s Proposed Penalty Increases Disappear – Enforcement Budget Gets BiggerSep 20, 2022
The significant penalty increases that OSHA announced last fall aren’t happening after all. The increases in question were part of H.R. 5376 — the Build Back Better Act — passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in November 2021 and then stalled in the Senate. For example, if it had passed through the Senate intact, the bill would have raised the maximum penalty to $700,000 (per violation) for willful or repeat infractions. It represented the most significant increase in OSHA fines since 2016.
It isn’t happening. Senate Democrats have spent the past few months rewriting and rebranding this legislation — as the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) — and the IRA was passed by the Senate and signed by the President in August. There is no mention of new OSHA penalties in the “revised” H.R. 5376. For now, OSHA’s current penalty structure remains in place.
The 2023 budget emphasizes enforcement
Also, in August, in a series of 12 appropriations bills funding a wide range of government agencies, Senate Democrats approved a 2023 OSHA budget of $679.8 million. This represents a $68 million (11.1 percent) increase from 2022, but $32.2 less than the House of Representatives had recommended earlier this year. Line item highlights include $272.5 million for enforcement, $27.5 million for the whistleblower protection program, and $27.5 million for standards development.
Hiring more Compliance Safety and Health Officers (CSHOs) is already a stated agency priority for all Regional Offices. We expect that much of this budget increase will be targeted at hiring new staff. The 2023 fiscal year for OSHA begins October 1, 2022.
Expect more inspections
OSHA has promised more enforcement activity in the months ahead and has been provided with a budget to follow through on that promise. We shall see. While employers should always be prepared, the likelihood of an unannounced OSHA inspection will vary by region, industry, and other factors.
If you have questions about your preparedness — or have been caught off guard and received a citation — don’t hesitate to contact Orr & Reno for assistance.
About the Author: James Laboe