For the first time in 25 years, employers hit by federalviolations will see an increase in financial penalties, thanks to a little-noticed provision tucked into a budget bill signed by President Obama on Nov. 2.
The result: Maximum fines for willful or repeat offenders would rise from $70,000 now to about $125,000. The maximum serious violation fine would jump from $7,000 to near $12,500. The rulemaking process will solidify the final numbers. The new fines are expected to kick in sometime in mid 2016.
Annual increases. In addition, future fines levied by OSHA and state work-safety agencies would continue to rise each year along with the rate of inflation.
The large one-time jump in penalties was caused by a “catch up adjustment” included the bill, dating back to the last time OSHA fines were increased in 1990. In those 25 years, the Consumer Price Index has risen 78.2%.
OSHA is one of the few agencies that hasn’t previously been allowed to increase their fines based on the rate of inflation. OSHA says it hopes this change will put it in line with other agencies.
While similar fine-increase provisions have been introduced by Democrats every year in the past decade, those bills never advanced due to opposition from business groups. This week’s provision came as a surprise to many business leaders and Capitol Hill watchers.